We heard before the season that the Pacers were planning to actually use the D-League, which was formed in 2001, for the first time. Now they’re making good on that promise. 2012 draft picks Miles Plumlee (taken 26th) and Orlando Johnson (36th) will play with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in both their games this weekend, on Friday against the Erie BayHawks and on Sunday against the Maine Red Claws. They will play alongside former Pacer Stephen Graham, who played for the team for parts of the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
This is a big step for a franchise that has for philosophical (and presumably financial) reasons avoided investing its time or resources into the NBA’s version of a minor league. One issue that has been discussed is that the team’s players, if sent down, would not be learning the same system under which their employer plays. So there is limited value in just having them run around in a different system playing against sub-NBA-level players.
But guys like Plumlee and Johnson need on-court reps playing for professional instructors more than they need to be studying a playbook or learning what Association life is like by carrying bags on the tarmac. There is a time and a place for both, at least, and there seems to be no harm in sending these guys off on their own for a few days to a place where they might just learn something. Or, at worst, practice playing the game the right way.
Mad Ants head coach Duane Ticknor called this a “watershed moment” for the two teams. The D-League won’t help the Pacers turn Orlando Johnson into LeBron James, but seeing as how guys like Avery Bradley and Jeremy Lin have spent some time there improving their games, it is about time Indiana at least gave it a shot when they have players languishing on the bench unable to earn any playing time.
Welcome to the new millenium, Pacers.