Duane Washington Jr. rides in 500 Festival Parade, explains how the young guys are motivated: 'We’re wasting no time'
More than 200,000 people filled the downtown to see the annual parade before the Indianapolis 500. The Pacers guard is from Michigan and didn't know anything about IndyCar and the race until recently.
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis 500 experience is brand new to Pacers rookie Duane Washington Jr. He’s from Michigan and attended Ohio State University, but only last week did he start learning about IndyCar and The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
The green flag will wave for the 106th running of the Indy 500 on Sunday around 12:45 p.m. ET. But before then, over 200,000 fans gathered in downtown Indianapolis for the return of the annual 500 Festival Parade — another race weekend tradition.
All 33 drivers rode in it, along with other local celebrities and those associated with the track. There were also performers — from teenagers to professionals.
Washington Jr. visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time back on May 17. He was there with teammates Tyrese Haliburton, Oshae Brissett and Isaiah Jackson, along with assistant coach Lloyd Pierce. And they got to wave the green flag during a practice session.
Then on Saturday, Washington Jr. was involved again, representing the Pacers in the parade. (He replaced Tyrese Haliburton, who was originally scheduled.)
“I heard the parade is one of a kind,” Washington Jr. told Fieldhouse Files shortly before it got underway on a gorgeous day. “I heard it hasn’t been going on the past couple years due to the pandemic and everyone is super excited to get out here this year and show the love for the city and show the love for the Indy 500.
“I’m excited to see what it’s about and this is going to be the first of many for me.”
Kelsey Mitchell and NaLyssa Smith from the Fever were there, plus Boomer, Freddy Fever and the Pacemates.
Washington Jr. is only a rookie for another month. This time one year ago, he was preparing for the NBA Draft. He ultimately was not selected, but had a free-agent deal with the Pacers lined up. It was a two-way contract.
He then was a workhorse and needed in his rookie season due to team injuries. The nephew of Derek Fisher, Washington Jr. made the most of the time. He appeared in 48 games — averaging over 20 minutes per game — and contributed 9.9 points per game on 37.7% shooting.
In the final week of the regular season, on April 7, he inked his first standard NBA contract. His $1.6 million contract for the 2022-23 season becomes fully guaranteed on July 10.
He’s just 22 years old, has an uplifting spirit and is a self-starter. It’s all good vibes from Washington Jr.
He’s spent much of the first six weeks this offseason right here in Indy and working out at the team facility. He’s even been courtside for many Fever games as well, including Friday’s win over the LA Sparks.
Before he got in place for his ride in the parade, I talked with him about this opportunity, representing the team and how the offseason is going with so many guys remaining in town.