Bennedict Mathurin earns conference Rookie of the Month honors in his first month
Mathurin is the fifth Pacer to be Rookie of the Month and the first since Myles Turner in 2016. No. 31 pick Andrew Nembhard was a nominee.
As the Pacers’ seven-game road trip continues with the first three games behind them, they’re now in Salt Lake City ahead of their first meeting with the Utah Jazz this season.
On Thursday afternoon, they held practice at the University of Utah and head coach Rick Carlisle gathered the team around to deliver some special news.
Rookie Bennedict Mathurin — their rookie — was named Eastern Conference rookie of the Month for the first month of games.
The recipient often finds out from their agent, but Mathurin was able to hear it first from his coach and in the presence of his teammates who helped make it possible.
Mathurin, the No. 6 pick in the draft last June, is averaging 19.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per game while shooting 40% from beyond the arc. And he's doing it playing 28 minutes off the bench.
He has also scored at least 20 points in 11 of 21 games this season — including in five of the past six games — in helping the Pacers to a 12-9 start, which is good for fourth in the conference.
Mathurin becomes the fifth Pacer in franchise history to be named Rookie of the Month, joining Clark Kellogg, Chuck Person (2x), Jamaal Tinsley (2x) and Myles Turner.
“This is the kind of thing that happens with an unselfish team and guys that give of themselves,” Carlisle told the team. “This is a great for the franchise, this is great for you. More attention means other teams are going to be giving you more attention and you got to keep getting better. And we got to keep getting better as a team, and we got to have a good bounce back from last night.”
OKC's Jalen Williams, the 12th pick, was named Rookie of the Month in the Western Conference.
No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero of the Orlando Magic was Mathurin's toughest competition for the honor. He's averaging 22.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game, but he missed seven games — including two in Indy — with a sprained left ankle.
The Magic are 5-17.
Even more special for the Pacers: Andrew Nembhard was one of four other nominees — along with Banchero, Detroit's Jaden Ivey and Atlanta's AJ Griffin. Mathurin and Nembhard being part of this group should make the Pacers’ front office proud.
They’ve done a good job in the last year-plus of offloading veteran players — Victor Oladipo, Caris LaVert, Torrey Craig, Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb, Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon — and getting both players and picks in return.
Tyrese Haliburton, the face of the franchise, is atop that group.
Remember, the Pacers own two additional first-round picks in the 2023 draft, the picks belonging to the Celtics and Cavaliers. Both do have lottery protections, but they are currently positioned as two of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference so that won’t be in play if the results hold.
Two other awards of note for the first month of the season:
Haliburton and Myles Turner were both nominees for Eastern Conference Player of the Month, which was awarded to Boston's Jayson Tatum.
Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla was Coach of the Month, leading his team to a league-best 18-4 start. Carlisle was one of three other nominees.
Jalen Smith exited Wednesday’s game in Sacramento with 3:56 to play in the third quarter. He was having a productive quarter, scoring 18 of his 22 points. But he took an elbow to the chin from Malik Monk and went back to the locker room.
Because he didn’t shoot the free throws as a result of the flagrant foul that was called, he could not return to the game.
Now less than 24 hours later, it’s a good sign that he’s not on the injury report after what the team labeled a facial contusion after their 137-114 loss to the Kings.
He was at practice on Thursday.
There is, however, one new addition to the injury report. Haliburton is questionable to play against the Jazz due to a sore left groin. He finished with nine points, 10 assists and was 1 for 6 from the arc in Wednesday’s game, the team’s worst performance of the season.
Haliburton was at practice, as you can see in the video above, but he was in sweats and not practice gear.
Chris Duarte is with the team, but he remains out with a left ankle sprain.
Also, it was good to see Pacers assistant coach Jenny Boucek back with the team. She rejoined them in Sacramento, where she previously coached, after missing three games due to personal reasons.
The Jazz will be without Indy product Mike Conley Jr., Rudy Gay and Johnny Juzang due to injuries.