Pacers spend off day visiting and hearing from residents at the Putnamville Correctional Facility
Almost the entire team made the hour-long trip for a private, extravagant event. Myles Turner called it a "life-altering experience."
GREENCASTLE, Ind. — The Pacers had Thursday off, but the majority of the team chose to get involved in a special event with residents at the Putnamville Correctional Facility. A handful of players were expected and yet almost the entire team made the trip via charter bus about 48 miles south west of downtown Indianapolis.
It was an event about a year and a half in the making and even team owner Steve Simon was present. The Pacers teamed up with Play for Justice, an initiate to lift up narratives of hope and redemption in justice reform, along with Represent Justice, a nonprofit organization wanting to reshape the way justice system is perceived.
The team arrived at 2:30 p.m. and first went into the courtyard to hear a special message. Most reporters were then sent in a different direction so we did not get to see or hear what went on for the next two hours.
They did get a look around the place and then had a discussion with residents outside with masks on. Those select residents of the correctional facility sat between members of the team so they were altogether. A 30-foot white wall, however, separated them from many of us on the other side. There were sound issues, but they got through it.
Meanwhile, inside they were setting up for a basketball game. There were two basketball courts, one with a Pacers logo in the middle. There was the smell of fresh popcorn; blue and pink cotton candy was being made; bottled water was handed out.
It was a mega production. It included Boomer, the Power Pack and even a couple familiar faces played in the game between residents: former Pacer Eddie Gill and Mad Ants general manager Chris Taylor. There was even a custom bathroom trailer like you’d see at a golf tournament.
Malcolm Brogdon (assisted by Caris LeVert) coached the White Team and Myles Turner (assisted by Torrey Craig) led the Blue Team.
The White Team, which won in a dominant fashion 46-24, was carried by a player they called “Beastmode.” Every player had on brand new black Jordan Brand shoes, along with a custom jersey with his name on the back. This special player had “Qualls.” He was a stud. (See him talking to LeVert in a photo below.)
“We first want to humbly thank you for an amazing experience today,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said to the residents sitting on bleachers to watch the game. “This has been so eye-opening, so heart-warming and so welcoming. It's a one-in-a-lifetime thing probably for a lot of us and it's going to change our lives, I can guarantee you that.”
Previous NBA teams have participated in a Play for Justice event including the Lakers, Kings, Bucks and Cavaliers. Even though local media wasn’t allowed, there was a big production filming the event — boom mic, fancy cameras and more — so you’ll surely be able to watch highlights later on.
Shortly after leaving, a couple players shared their thoughts on Twitter.
Keifer Sykes, a newcomer to the team:
And you can see photos from the trip below.