Wade Baldwin: Second Chance
Much like the game of basketball itself, an NBA player’s career is all about adjustments. For Portland Trailblazers sophomore Wade Baldwin, adjustments have been a way of life through the course of his young basketball career.
After forgoing his Junior and Senior years at Vanderbilt, Baldwin declared for the 2016 NBA Draft and embraced the challenge that would come with being a then 20-year-old NBA player.
“Coming into the NBA (as a first-round draft choice by Memphis) at that point of my life was a culture change for me,” Baldwin said. “There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with being at that level. Initially, I fell into the mindset of feeling a need to do everything, but after a little while, I was able to settle into whatever role my team needed from me.”
With the pressure of being a first-round pick, Baldwin’s rookie year was a season of ups and downs, including his seven point, five rebound, six assist debut. After his successful debut, as Baldwin began to struggle, he spent time going back and forth between the Grizzlies and the Iowa Energy of the G-league during his rookie campaign.
“The firs time I was in the G-League was probably a low-point of my rookie season,” he says. “But the G-League actually did me a lot good. It got me on-court experience and it made the game fun. Rather than sitting and watching, I was playing and impacting the game.”
Baldwin elaborated upon what made adjusting from college to the NBA so tumultuous. “Everything is a lot more structured in college. You and your teammates have the same classes, the same schedule, and basically, you live the same lives. Everyone has such comradery that feels like it comes almost automatically.”
After his turbulent rookie season, Baldwin’s young career hit a low point in October of 2017, when he was waived by the Memphis Grizzlies. He signed by the Portland Trailblazers soon thereafter.
“When I was released by the Grizzlies, it was out of nowhere. I rolled with the punches since that was all I could do and kept chugging along. Luckily, Portland was a team that believed in me. They gave me a chance and I’m trying to make the most of my opportunity here (Portland).”
With his newfound opportunity with the Blazers, Baldwin found mentorship from a teammate and a coach. “When I was in the G-league this year (2017-2018), I would always go to Eric Snow’s house. He’s a longtime NBA player who saw some success. I would hangout with his family on Sundays and watch football. When I got to the Blazers, David Vanterpool (assistant coach), took me under his wing as well.”
Looking back on his two years of adjusting to NBA life, Baldwin reflected on the biggest lesson he’s learned. “Just be cordial. Be a good teammate. Be there for the other guys and everything will place itself in there.”