Job Secure, Price Feels Good About Future
January 10, 2011
It really was not an issue for A.J. Price, but a young guy stuck on the bench while trying to carve out a niche in the NBA doesn't need anything else to worry about.
The first two weeks of January are a nervous time for players without guaranteed contracts because, until today, they can be freely released with no further compensation. But come Jan. 10, anyone on an NBA roster – other than players on 10-day contracts – become fully guaranteed for the rest of the season.
As the only player on the Pacers roster without a guaranteed deal, Price was in the same category as Brian Skinner (Bucks), Ime Udoka (Spurs), Ronald DuPree (Raptors), Damien Wilkins (Hawks) and Steve Novak (Mavericks) – all released last week so their respective teams could save a few bucks and/or open a roster spot.
"You try not to think about it," Price said. "You want to be secure and understand, hopefully, that you're good but at the same time understand anything can happen. I just try to come in here with the same approach I've been having and hopefully the front office has the same faith in me.
"But I'll feel much better when (Jan. 10) is over."
Inactive most of the season because of the depth at point guard, Price might begin to pick up more playing time. Coach Jim O'Brien said recently he intends to have either Price or rookie Lance Stephenson active for most games moving forward, filling a potential need created by his deployment of a small lineup.
When he has played, Price generally has performed well. He played three in a row in mid-November and totaled 45 minutes, 25 points and nine assists. The rest of the season has offered only scattered appearances totaling 22 minutes.
But the 2009 second-round pick from Connecticut, whose future with the Pacers appeared in jeopardy when he injured his knee in an offseason charity game, has bounced back well and appears very much a part of the team's future.
"A.J. is a very skilled guy," said O'Brien. "I have a lot of confidence in him. We have a numbers game that's a problem right now that's not going to affect his contract. T.J. (Ford) is not going to be here forever and in Darren (Collison), A.J. and Lance, we feel we have three very promising young point guards.
"Him being inactive as much as he is is no reflection on what he brings to the team. … At some point in time, his patience will be rewarded."
For now, the reward is a job, and a paycheck, the rest of the season.