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Copeland Getting Acclimated in Indy

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

August 22, 2013

Four days after they re-signed David West this summer, the Pacers officially signed restricted free agent Chris Copeland, who spent the previous season (his first in the NBA) with New York. A few weeks later, Copeland underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to remove a loose body.

In his first interview following the surgery, Copeland discussed his decision for surgery, moving to Indianapolis, and his anticipation for the coming season.

Copeland is a unique individual. He’s very mature, grounded, and levelheaded. After playing his first five professional seasons overseas, the 29-year-old is thankful that the Pacers – who knocked Copeland’s Knicks out of the playoffs last season – were so interested in his services.

On July 14, Copeland signed a two-year deal worth $6.1 million. Less than a couple weeks later, he was in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program. Interestingly enough, that’s when the Pacers’ trade with Phoenix for Luis Scola went down – and Scola was working alongside Copeland.

“I didn’t know,” Copeland said of the trade. “It was great because none of us knew at that point. We were there during the process. He found out while we were there and he didn’t tell me. I ended up speaking to him while I was still out there and he was extremely excited. We were cool and got to know each other while we were out there so I was excited about it. I was like, ‘Wow, I can ride with this guy.’”

And that’s about the extent Copeland, one of five new additions to the team, was familiar with anyone on the Pacers. By spending extended time in Indy and taking part in the team’s player-organized gathering this week in Los Angeles, he has gotten to know more of the players.

“It’s just a learning experience on getting to know guys,” he said. “It’s going to be fun this year. It’s a great group from what I met so far. Just quality guys and it’s going to be easy getting to know each other.”

On August 2, with a couple months before training camp opened and not much on his plate, Copeland decided to have the procedure done on his left knee to get rid of an irritating “loose body.” He played through the discomfort last season, but didn’t want to do that again.

“It was something I dealt with but it wasn’t a major issue,” he explained. “Right now, it’s the summer time so we just thought it would be good to get it done now so I could go into the season with a fresh start and feeling pain free.”

During the free agency process, Copeland said the Pacers were aware of the issue, but it caused no hesitation on the team’s part.

“Yeah, (they knew) but it’s not a major – as you can see, I’m walking already,” he said. “It’s not a major thing. I had something removed and now my knee feels so much better. It was more of a nuisance than an actual injury.”

That last sentence explains it best. It wasn’t slowing him down or keeping him off the floor, but rather a minor, nagging pain.

While he’s spent time at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (including serving as a judge at last week’s Area 55 final auditions), the 6-8, 225-pound forward hasn’t returned to the basketball floor just yet because the medical staff wants his scars to fully heal. His leg is feeling good and he’s lifting weights and doing leg presses.

Having the surgery has afforded him the opportunity to spend additional time in Indianapolis, at The Fieldhouse, and around team personnel. That’s invaluable for a new player joining a core roster that came within one win of the NBA Finals.

“That’s the best for me,” Copeland said. “It’s a good situation for me to get involved in things like Area 55 final auditions, be around here and really get a feel for the team, feel for the area, and a feel for the people. It’s just a great situation. We talked about (how) it’d be a great time to stop for a second and get grounded here.”

He’s also going through the process of finding a place to live, with the assistance of the Pacers staff.

“I plan on buying because I don’t plan on going anywhere for a while,” he said confidently.

So what excites Copeland about moving to Indy and playing for the Pacers?

“The fans, I think, is the most exciting part about being here,” he said. “The people are really passionate about their basketball here. This is the Hoosier state. I think the people know what’s going on. They really understand basketball and it’s fun to be a part of people that are excited about your team and me coming in here.”

The Pacers will hold media day on September 27, with the first practice happening on the next day. Copeland will wear the number 22 with the Pacers.

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