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Copeland Feeling Blessed

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

July 16, 2013

When talking about his new opportunity on Monday, “blessed” was the word that kept coming back for Chris Copeland. The Pacers’ most recent free agent signee has a story that’s worth hours-long storytelling and discussion.

Copeland, who averaged 8.7 points and 2.1 rebounds in his rookie season with the New York Knicks last year, didn’t arrive in the NBA in a typical fashion. He went undrafted in 2006 out of the University of Colorado. He then played a year in the Developmental League before making stops in Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. Copeland and his agent, John Spencer, worked long and hard over the past few years to find a place for him in the league.

Together since day one – Copeland was Spencer’s first client – the two set out a goal, which they’ve finally accomplished. After bouncing around, Copeland has landed his first guaranteed multi-year deal.

After one season with the Knicks, Copeland, a 6-foot-8, 225-pound sharpshooter, is joining the Pacers on the other side of the rivalry. In his words, the Pacers were “aggressive” in their pursuit.

“It was nice,” Copeland said of his recruitment. “They definitely showed great interest. It was definitely something that I couldn’t pass up.”

While overseas and away from the dream, Copeland debated about waving the white flag and moving to a more stable job.

“I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t think about it,” he confessed, “I had a great circle of people behind me. I’ve always believed in my abilities, even when times it didn’t look like it’d work out.”

Copeland’s biggest fan, his mother, Terry, along with a village of others, helped keep his spirits high and his mind right.

“No one is more important than my mom,” he said. “That’s my heart right there. … She always says, ‘when things got rough, you’re working on your story.’”

His story has become fascinating. From a journeyman overseas to a coveted role player with millions finally guaranteed. During free agency, Copeland heard from a number of teams, including Washington, Los Angeles (Lakers), New Orleans, Cleveland, Memphis and of course, New York.

“It makes me more appreciative,” he said of his offbeat path to the NBA. “I also think I just learned a lot from being over there in those situations about the game – the coaching and the teammates that I had over there helped school me in a lot of areas and help me become the player that I am today and hopefully I have a lot more climbing to do.

“He’s a great addition to our team because he’s a guy that can come in off the bench and create his own shot or get into the paint,” Pacers president Larry Bird said in a statement. “He’s a good guy and a great competitor and we’re happy to have him join us.”

As a threat from long range (42.1 percent last season) and versatile player, Copeland is likely to immediately crack the rotation. “Hybrid,” he said, is the best way to describe his game. Depending on the opponent, he can battle a lean power forward or drag his man out of the lane with his deep stroke.

“It’s a really good team,” Copeland said of the Pacers. “I think they have a lot of promise and I think what I do will be something that I can help add to the puzzle here.”

In the next few months before training camp, Copeland will be working out with longtime Pistons forward Ben Wallace, going to Argentina for Basketball without Borders, helping with camps in Europe and playing in Pro-Ams whenever he is available.

As his journey continues, the 29-year-old will forever be grateful for his experiences and tribulations that he faced on his unconventional path to the NBA.

“It’s hard not to reflect everyday and see where you’re at,” he said. “You’re going to hear it all year – blessed. I really look up everyday and thank God for being here.”

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