Indiana Pacers

Eastern Notes: Ainge, Kuzminskas, George, Scola

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge was able to quickly rebuild the Celtics by maximizing the return for his stars when the team got too old, writes Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders. Ainge sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets for a package of draft picks and traded Rajon Rondo to the Mavericks instead of letting him become a free agent. This summer’s signing of Al Horford accelerated the building process, and Hamilton believes it makes the Celtics legitimate contenders in the East. Boston is also set up well for the future, with only Horford, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas under contract for 2017/18. Even if the Celtics pick up their team option on Marcus Smart, they may have more than $50MM to spend on free agents next July.

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference:

  • Mindaugas Kuzminskas provides enough offense to become a rotation player for the Knicks, according to Trevor Magnotti of Upside and Motor. The 6’9″ Lithuanian forward signed with New York earlier this month after playing in Europe for the past five seasons. Knicks president Phil Jackson said the team wanted to find a mobile small forward who could shoot from distance. That describes Kuzminskas, who gets most of his points on cuts to the basket, but is also a streaky shooter from 3-point range. However, there are questions about his defense, which Magnotti warns might limit his playing time until he proves he can contribute on that end.
  • Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski says Paul George is playing the best basketball of his life two years after the broken leg that had many concerned about his career, writes Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News. The Pacers‘ star, who had 18 points in Friday’s exhibition win over Argentina, said he had to put that scary incident out of his mind to be effective again. “It’s behind me,” George said. “I don’t play the game expecting to get hurt. I know it’s a possibility. But there’s no thought in my mind I’m going to get hurt. I play this game because I love it. I just play hard.”
  • Newly signed Nets power forward Luis Scola will be Argentina’s flag bearer at the Summer Olympics, according to the Associated Press. “I had the chance to play four Olympics, to play 10 years in the NBA, to carry the flag for my country, win an Olympic gold medal,’’ Scola said. “I mean, different things that happened along those days that I couldn’t even dream of those because it would be too wild to dream.”

Pacers Looking At Thomas Robinson?

  • After opting out of his contract with the Nets last month, Thomas Robinson has drawn interest from the Pacers, Suns, and Hawks, league sources tell Amico. Robinson’s player option for 2016/17 was worth the minimum, so if he can land a guaranteed offer, it won’t have been a mistake to turn down that option.

Pacers Sign Aaron Brooks

JULY 21ST: The deal is official, the team announced via Twitter.

JULY 18TH: More than a week after reporting that the Pacers and Aaron Brooks were in “advanced discussions” on a one-year contract, Shams Charania of The Vertical tweets that the two sides have reached an agreement. According to Charania, it’ll be a one-year, $2.5MM deal for Brooks in Indiana.Aaron Brooks vertical

A well-traveled NBA veteran, Brooks will be joining his sixth team, having already spent time with the Rockets, Suns, Kings, Nuggets, and Bulls. Most recently, the 31-year-old played 69 games for Chicago last season, averaging 7.1 PPG and 2.6 APG in a backup role.

In Indiana, Brooks will be a part of a revamped point guard depth chart, with Jeff Teague expected to be the starter. The Pacers acquired Teague in a three-way trade earlier this month that sent George Hill to the Jazz, and they don’t appear anxious to re-sign last season’s backup, Ty Lawson.

[RELATED: Indiana Pacers’ depth chart at]

Despite an active offseason that has seen the club acquire Thaddeus Young and sign Al Jefferson, the Pacers remain under the cap, so they should be able to finalize the signing of Brooks using cap room, rather than any sort of exception.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bird Rebuilds Roster; Lawson Hoping To Bounce Back

Ty Lawson feels “overlooked” in free agency and tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated the team that signs him is going to get a significant bargain. Lawson says he never really felt comfortable with the Rockets or Pacers last season after being traded away from Denver during the summer. Lawson quickly lost his starting spot in Houston and averaged 5.8 points and 3.4 assists over 53 games. The Pacers picked him up after the Rockets waived him, and he saw just 18.1 minutes per night in 13 games with Indiana. Lawson, whose reputation has suffered after four DUI arrests and a stint in rehab, says he managed to stay clean last season and is ready to prove that he is still an elite player. “It would be big to be back to my old self again,” he said. “Also, it’s not for just me, it’s for my parents. They have had a hard time seeing what I’ve been going through. I know they hear the little comments at NBA games. To make them proud again would mean the world to me.” 

  • Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird has done almost a complete roster rebuild in three seasons, writes Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star. Paul George is the only player left from the team that reached the Eastern Conference finals in back-to-back seasons. Bird’s latest move came when he signed ex-Bull Aaron Brooks to serve as a backup to recently acquired point guard Jeff Teague. In addition to the roster turnover, Bird made a coaching chance this summer, firing Frank Vogel and replacing him with Nate McMillan.

Aaron Brooks Should Be Upgrade Off The Bench

Community Shootaround: Eastern Playoff Team Most Likely To Slide?

Last week, one of our Community Shootaround discussions focused on this year’s non-playoff teams in the East, asking which of those clubs had done the most to improve its roster so far this summer. The Knicks and Sixers received the most support, but several lottery teams got positive reviews from Hoops Rumors commenters for their offseason work.

Today, it’s time to look at the other eight teams in the East. The Cavaliers, Raptors, Heat, Hawks, Celtics, Hornets, Pacers, and Pistons all earned spots in the postseason. How many of those teams will be back in 2017, and how many will drop out?

The Heat had the most notable departure of any of those eight playoff teams, when Dwyane Wade left Miami to sign with his hometown Bulls. But Miami wasn’t the only club to lose a notable player. The Hawks saw Al Horford depart, and the Raptors parted ways with breakout rim-protector Bismack Biyombo.

The Hornets and Pistons, meanwhile, managed to re-sign their own key free agents, including Nicolas Batum and Andre Drummond, and added some complementary pieces. But Charlotte, at least, will have to deal with some notable departures as well, including Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin, and Courtney Lee.

Finally, the Cavaliers, Celtics, and Pacers have all received solid reviews for their summer decisions — in Cleveland’s case, it’s simply enough to bring back most of the team that beat the 73-win Warriors for the championship. For Boston and Indiana, the changes are more notable — the C’s added Horford and No. 3 pick Jaylen Brown, while the Pacers brought in Jefferson, Thaddeus Young, and Jeff Teague, among others.

What do you think? Which of the Eastern playoff teams is most likely to slide down the standings in 2016/17? How many of these eight clubs do you expect to finish in the lottery next year? Is Miami the most obvious candidate to take a step or two backwards, or is there another team more in danger of underachieving?

Take to the comments section below to share your thoughts and opinions on the Cavs, Raptors, Heat, Hawks, Celtics, Hornets, Pacers, and Pistons. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Al Jefferson Contract Details

  • The third year of Al Jefferson‘s three-year contract with the Pacers is only partially guaranteed. The team currently owes him $4MM for the 2018/19 season, but if he stays on the roster, he’d earn his full $10MM salary.


Teague on Magic's Radar Next Summer?

Life in the NBA hasn’t been what Jahlil Okafor expected, but he tells Bob Cooney of The Philadelphia Inquirer that he wants to change that, and he hopes to do it with the Sixers. Okafor’s rookie season was plagued by off-court incidents and injuries that limited him to 53 games. He has spent the offseason listening to trade rumors, along with talk that his style of play doesn’t fit the modern NBA game. “[The trade talk] is definitely all stupid with a lot of speculation,” Okafor said. “I see where people will write what I’m feeling and I haven’t even spoken to them. A lot of stuff is made up and it’s annoying. But for the most part, it’s fine. For me, at a certain point, I got upset when another story came out that said we were upset with the team and that just wasn’t the case. But I’m just looking forward to the season now.” Okafor is still rehabbing from surgery in February to repair a torn meniscus, but he hopes to be cleared for five-on-five play soon.

There’s more news out of the Eastern Conference:
  • After getting his first taste of the NBA during summer league, Ben Simmons plans to work on “everything” before training camp, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The No. 1 pick played six summer league games, averaging 10.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists. But there were concerns about his turnover rate — 3.8 per game — and a habit of standing around when he didn’t have the ball. “It’s just everyday education,” said Sixers summer league coach Lloyd Pierce. “It’s just learning the NBA, basic timing, position, execution. I can throw out every basketball term in the book. He’s just got to learn the game.”
  • The Magic should take another shot at Hawks power forward Paul Millsap next summer, writes Brian Schmitz of The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando talked to Millsap in 2015 before he decided to re-sign with Atlanta, and with a player option for 2017/18, he might be a free agent again in 12 months. Millsap tops a list of potential 2017 free agent targets Schmitz listed for the Magic. Others mentioned are Gordon Hayward, J.J. Redick, Jeff Teague and Kyle Lowry.
  • Whispers about James Young‘s commitment to the game continue to haunt him as he battles for a roster spot with the Celtics, according to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Young came into the league with people doubting his work ethic, and now there are concerns that he hasn’t developed as much as he should. “I’ve seen that for 35 years in the NBA,” said president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who wasn’t specifically talking about Young. “They don’t understand the urgency. They feel like they’ve made it, and they don’t understand that staying in the NBA should be their objective and not just making it here.”

Pacers To Be Title Contenders Again?

The Pacers seem ready to re-emerge as an elite team in the Eastern Conference, claims Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders. Indiana made several key additions this summer, swapping George Hill for Jeff Teague in a three-team deal, trading the 20th pick in the draft to Brooklyn for Thaddeus Young and signing free agent center Al Jefferson. The Pacers also have the security of a healthy Paul George, who showed during the season that he was fully recovered from a broken leg in 2014. In addition, Hamilton notes, Indiana has the flexibility for another major move or two this summer. The franchise is about $12MM under the cap and may have a $2.8MM room exception available. Looking ahead, the Pacers could have up to $50MM in cap room next summer if Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles opt out.

Latest Contract Details

  • The Pacersdeal with 2016 second-rounder Georges Niang is for three years and is worth $2.6MM, with his rookie season being fully guaranteed, with the second season partially guaranteed for $100K, Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports relays.

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