Pacers Roundup: Chris Duarte voted to All-Rookie Team, Oshae Brissett makes commitment and Ime Udoka on having to wait
The latest news on the Pacers — Chris Duarte made an All-Rookie Team, Oshae Brissett to play with Team Canada, Celtics' Ime Udoka on being passed over and Lloyd Pierce made a very special trip.
I always laugh when someone asks me, “So what do you do in the offseason?”
While yes, four nights a week aren’t tied up attending or covering games, it’s actually busier. Because it’s less reliant on the team’s schedule — practices, shootarounds and games — and more about staying on top of everything going on while also reporting new stories.
There’s the draft combine, draft, free agency, summer league. Those are official events with dates set. Everything else just … happens. (Like Lance Stephenson having surgery.) And in the past two offseasons, the Pacers have conducted a coaching search.
The priorities for the team this summer is health, having a firm grasp of their direction, drafting well and deciding on several players who are in demand. More on all that in upcoming stories.
The Pacers are scheduled to have another pre-draft workout this week. It would be their fifth.
Rather than publishing each newsworthy item as its own story, here’s a roundup that should be easier to consume. (Subscribers, feel free to leave your preference and any other thoughts in the comments.)
🥈 Chris Duarte earns postseason honors
One year ago, the Pacers were preparing for their lottery pick. They had the 13th pick and used it on Chris Duarte out of the University of Oregon.
Duarte, who turns 25 next week, didn’t have a lot of tread on his tires because he started playing basketball as a teenager. He came to the United States, worked his way to playing for the Ducks and then became a lottery pick.
Despite missing missing 27 games during his rookie season, Duarte was voted to the All-Rookie Second team. He started in 39 of 55 games and was voted to the Rising Stars game at All-Star Weekend, but was unable to participate due to injury. He later sat out the final dozen games of the season with a sore big left toe injury.
Duarte is the 13th different player in franchise history voted to an All-Rookie Team, the first since Myles Turner in 2015. He received 52 second-place votes and edged out Jonathan Kuminga of the Warriors by five votes for the final spot.
First Team: Scottie Barnes (Toronto), Cade Cunningham (Detroit), Evan Mobley (Cleveland), Franz Wagner (Orlando), Jalen Green (Houston).
Second Team: Duarte, Herb Jones (New Orleans), Josh Giddy (Oklahoma City), Bones Hyland (Denver), Aye Dosunmu (Chicago).
Durate is back in town from a special trip to Mexico and working at the team facility.
🇨🇦 Oshae Brissett makes three-year commitment
Pacers forward Oshae Brissett is one of 14 players who made a three-year pledge to be part of the Canadian National Team.
Following the script that the U.S. men’s national team set a few decades ago, the commitment is important in building the program and maintaining continuity. So the roster, which includes 14 core players, are part of the program through the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
The team is coached by Raptors’ Nick Nurse and former Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren is an assistant. “The true value of chemistry, camaraderie and continuity cannot be overlooked when building any team,” Nurse said in a statement. “By assembling committed core groups of players and staff to represent Canada over the next several years, we firmly believe will position this program for sustained success, both now and in the future.”
Brissett, who is 23 and from Toronto, got his start in the NBA with his hometown Raptors. Late in the season, he joined the Mad Ants for their 2020-21 bubble season and then finished the year with the Pacers.
And that worked out well for both sides. After outperforming his 10-day contract, Brissett was signed to a three-year deal. Last season, he played a team-high 67 games, and averaged 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
His contract for the upcoming 2022-23 season is non-guaranteed, but he expects to be back. “I love it here. I want to be here," he said during exit interviews.
*Of note, Pacers center Goga Bitadze is planning to play with the Georgia National Team for games in July and August.
Team Canada will plan in the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers in July, beginning July 1 in Hamilton, Ontario. They will play the Dominican Republic, US Virgin Islands and Bahamas.
Here's the full list of players on board.
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🗣 Ime Udoka passed up by the Pacers and others
I thought it was interesting to read what Celtics’ Ime Udoka had to say to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports last week after beating the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. This was his first year as an NBA head coach.
"Detroit, Indiana, Cleveland," Udoka said. “I can go down the list. That was tough because I believe I was ready. But I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of an organization that’s pushing for winning and championships. You can be in a lot of different situations. There are only 30 teams and I get that, but to not be in a rebuild and being in an expectation pressure-filled situation, I wouldn’t trade that in any day.
“The one thing I would say is the disappointment of coming in second a few years really hurt. But if you told me I’d have to wait for Boston and get [bypassed] by some of the ones that I got beat out on, it's a no-brainer for me. I’m happy to be in Boston."
Udoka, 44, finally got a head-coaching opportunity that he had been trying to get for years. Ultimately, it was Brad Stevens stepping down as coach, moving to the front office and then hiring him that did it. He’s added a new voice and perspective to the mix for the Celtics. He’s held them accountable, made defense a focus and impressed with his ability to make in-game adjustments.
However, my understanding is that he was not a finalist for the Pacers job. The key names I heard at the end: Chris Finch, Dan Craig, Dave Joerger and Mike D'Antoni.
Udoka was part of their wide-ranging search in 2020 that included at least 15 candidates. He has a background as a player in the NBA and spending significant time working on Gregg Popovich’s staff in San Antonio. Ultimately, team president Kevin Pritchard chose Bjorkgren — which was stunning at the time to coaches and agents alike.
Bjorkgren lasted eight months, then was replaced almost a year ago by Rick Carlisle.
🌍 Lloyd Pierce travels overseas
Lead assistant Lloyd Pierce certainly has some stories to tell after an adventurous trip halfway across the world. He went to Kigali, Rwanda for the Basketball Africa League finals that were held during the last week in May.
Another stop included a visit to Johannesburg and Capetown in South Africa. Even better, his mom and sister were able to join him.
🎙 Lastly, have you listened to my latest podcast? It’s with Jhared Simpson, who got his start in the Pacers' video room, coached in the G League and is now on the Fever bench.