Through the first nine games this season, I wondered when head coach Frank Vogel was going to give sharpshooter Chris Copeland his chance to shine.
In Saturday’s loss to the Chicago Bulls, Vogel answered my question; Copeland checked into the game looking to give the Pacers’ struggling offense a spark off the bench. He did exactly that.
After playing his rookie season in New York for the Knicks, Copeland signed a two-year, $6 million contract with Indiana. It was part of a series of offseason moves by Larry Bird, the Pacers’ President of Basketball Operations, to upgrade a woeful bench from a season ago. Had Indiana entered the playoffs with more depth, they may have upset the Miami Heat. The Pacers did challenge Miami in seven games, but fell short of reaching the NBA Finals.
What if, what if. What could have been is no longer. Instead of settling, Bird turned to free agency in acquiring Copeland, Luis Scola, C.J. Watson and Donald Sloan.
The signing of Chris Copeland was most intriguing, however, considering Indiana knocked off his New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Despite any hard feelings, Copeland liked the idea of a new contract with the chance of competing for a championship.
Now wearing the blue and gold, Copeland deserves to see more playing time. In limited minutes this season, the 6-10 forward is shooting an impressive 54% from beyond the arc. That calculates out to be 10 percentage points higher than both George Hill and Lance Stephenson, whom combined average 31 minutes per game.
Copeland played very well in his first significant minutes off the bench Saturday. He scored 13 points on 4-5 shooting (3-4 from 3-point range) in 16 quality minutes. Indiana was +14 while Copeland was in the game.
Word of mouth is Chris Copeland can be somewhat of a liability on defense. With those numbers, especially off the bench, Copeland could be a huge weapon offensively. Defense would not be an issue. Indiana hasn’t seen that kind of bench production in years.
Combining Copeland with Scola, Watson, Orlando Johnson and Solomon Hill, depth may soon become the Pacers’ forte. If injured veteran Danny Granger returns sometime in the foreseeable future, the sky is the limit.
Although Scola may have been the biggest free agent acquisition for Larry Bird and his Indiana Pacers, Copeland has something to say about that.