Pacers set opening night roster — and why they signed, then waived three more players
James Johnson earned the 15th and final spot, Trevelin Queen signed a two-way deal and three familiar names signed for a purpose.
Opening night 2022 is nearing. In fact, it’s just one day away for the 76ers and Celtics, and the Lakers and Warriors. However, you will have to wait another night, until Wednesday, to see the Pacers open the season at home against the Washington Wizards.
Their first three games are at home, followed by a five-game road trip, which begins in Philadelphia on Oct. 24.
Before then, it’s about getting healthy and fine-tuning principles drilled down in camp. For the Pacers, that was decision-making and defense. They’re laying the foundation for what they want this team to become.
Fans are excited because there’s a sense of purpose and direction. There’s many young players to be intrigued by, like Bennedict Mathurin, Chris Duarte, Isaiah Jackson, Andrew Nembhard and Kendall Brown.
For starters, it’s all about health. It has challenged and derailed this team for at least the past four seasons. Here’s how it’s looking to start the season:
Point guard Tyrese Haliburton, who the franchise is all-in on, practiced on Monday after missing the final two preseason game with lower back soreness. It does not seem to be a concerning injury, just something to be alert to.
Aaron Nesmith, however, is dealing with a plantar fascia injury to his left foot that he suffered 10 days ago in New York. It happened in the first half of the game and then he did not return. It’s a shame, too, because Nesmith made a strong impression in their first exhibition game. He led the team with 16 points and four rebounds in 14 minutes off the bench in Charlotte. Nesmith was a limited participant in practice on Monday and this is an injury you don’t want to rush back from. Plantar fascias take time, typically months to recover from and generally, are very painful.
Daniel Theis was ruled out for the preseason and I will be surprised if he plays this week. And that’s fine, we know what Theis is. Meanwhile, there’s several young centers ahead of him who are foundational pieces and need to grow in their roles.
Goga Bitadze is coming off a difficult offseason, physically and mentally. He dealt with multiple injuries, including an ankle sprain that limited his participated in EuroBasket with the Georgia National Team. He’s in the final year of his rookie contract and has not carved out a spot in the rotation.
In Case You Missed It: Trevelin Queen joins Pacers, signing a two-way contract.
Saturday at 5 p.m. ET was the trim-down date for rosters. The Pacers waived Langston Galloway and Deividas Sirvydis after the preseason finale on Friday.
That means veteran James Johnson, who is on a non-guaranteed contract, made the roster to begin the season. “I definitely felt like I had to earn that spot,” he said after Monday’s practice. “Langston is a great guy, Davi was a great guy and a great player. It’s an honor for this spot, but at the end of the day I’m still vulnerable.”
Head coach Rick Carlisle praised Johnson for his experience, versatility playing the 4 and 5, and the way he connects the locker room.
(Get to know James Johnson in this Q&A.)
The Pacers also signed Tevin Brown and Eli Brooks and Jermaine Samuels, then waived them on Saturday. (All three were with them in Las Vegas for Summer League.) I know that may seem confusing or unnecessary, but it’s done for a reason. It allows for the organization to have their rights.
As long as the players don’t sign elsewhere, those three and more — Sirvydis, Justin Anderson, Norvel Pelle, Bennie Boatwright, Gabe York and David Stockton — can play for their G League team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
And the players may receive a bonus up to $50,000 for doing so, sweetening the deal.
In most cases, players competing for a spot in camp signed what’s called an Exhibit 10 contract. For most fans, that probably means nothing.
It’s something the NBA should correct and account for in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. So that when a player is signing strictly for their G League rights, fans know the purpose in mind and aren’t confused when that player is waived soon after.
The Pacers will practice once more before tipping things on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. The game is a gold out, so all fans in attendance at Gainbridge Fieldhouse will received a gold Pacers t-shirt.