Pacers happy with results from summer league

BY foxsports • July 16, 2012

Indianapolis -- Summer league basketball is akin to minor league baseball. It's less about wins and losses than player development and evaluation.

The Indiana Pacers aren't sweating their 2-3 record in the recently concluded Orlando Pro Summer League because they got exactly what they wanted from the week in Florida -- long looks at third-year guard Lance Stephenson as well as rookies Miles Plumlee and Orlando Johnson.

For the most part, they liked what they saw.

Stephenson continued to build the case he is ready for a regular role off the bench, leading the team in scoring (19.8) and assists (4.8), not to mention turnovers (3.5). He shot .526 overall but continued to struggle for consistency behind the 3-point line, shooting 5 of 17 (.294).

"He's ready to get his shot," Coach Frank Vogel said. "The moves we made on our bench are setting him up to be the backup shooting guard and he's going to get the opportunity to go into training camp with that as his role.

"It's time for us to find out, to really find out, about Lance Stephenson. We feel like we've got some guys around him in Gerald Green and D.J. Augustin -- two laser 3-point shooters -- that are just going create space for him to go to work. We're looking forward to seeing him come in and take the next step."

Plumlee showed little of the advertised characteristics that led to his surprise selection at No. 26 overall -- defense, rebounding and a Jeff Foster-like aggression. Instead, he primarily showcased his offensive game, averaging 13.0 points on 46 percent shooting while also pulling 6.6 rebounds 31.6 minutes.

With the acquisition of veteran Ian Mahinmi from Dallas last week, the pressure is off Plumlee to fill the backup center role right way.

"I thought Plumlee had a better week than I expected," Vogel said. "I thought he showed a better touch at shooting the mid-range jump shot than I thought he had. He showed more of a low-post game than I really thought he had. He made some impressive offensive plays. He showed us more than what we thought. His athleticism and finishing at the rim was what we expected. We knew he's a great dunker and finisher and exciting in that regard.

"He rebounded the ball pretty well. We want to see him be a dominant rebounder. He wasn't terrible, he was pretty good. But overall, very excited about the week he had."

Johnson, the second-round pick from Cal-Santa Barbara acquired by the Pacers from Sacramento in a draft-night trade, had no problem creating shots but struggled mightily to knock then down. He shot 20 of 76 (.263) overall and was 4 of 19 (.211) from the 3-point line, averaging 12.4 points and 5.0 rebounds.

"Sitting next to Donnie (Walsh) and Larry (Bird) and Kevin (Pritchard) during all the practices leading up to summer league, the son-of-a-gun didn't miss a shot in five practices," Vogel said. "Every mid-range jump shot, every open three went down. And it was the complete opposite in summer league.

"As a result, when he started missing some shots he started forcing it a little bit, which all young players are going to do. We're not wavering in our confidence at all that he's going to be a heck of a player for us."

Jeff Pendergraph had a hard fall in the first game that led to two developments: an injury that limited the veteran power forward's availability and the late addition of Julian Mavunga to the roster.

The undrafted free agent rookie from Miami (Ohio) impressed the coaching staff with his strong, consistent low-post play. A product of nearby Brownsburg, Ind., Mavunga was a high school teammate of Gordon Hayward who did not commit to basketball full-time until his senior season.

He averaged 6.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in 19 minutes per game, hitting 50 percent of his shots and may well have earned an invitation to training camp in October.

"He had a terrific week, really made the best of his opportunity," Vogel said. "A little bit undersized (6-8, 245) but he just went in and basically kicked everybody's butt that he played against which was fun to see and exciting to have as part of what we did in summer league.

"We're looking forward to having him back and getting some more workouts with us and potentially having him in as a camp guy."

There were fewer victories than hoped but more pleasant surprises than not, which qualifies the Pacers' summer league experience as a success.

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