Notebook: O'Quinn Jumps Out and Other Early Storylines

Asked Wednesday if any players had managed to distinguish themselves after just three training camp practices, Nate McMillan brought up newcomer Kyle O'Quinn.

O'Quinn, 27 and a six-year NBA veteran, averaged 7.1 points and 6.1 rebounds for New York last season. He's expected to fill the role Al Jefferson held last season as the third center behind Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, although if those two wind up playing together more often O'Quinn's opportunities could increase.

McMillan called him "a solid veteran, a physical presence," and one who's "all about business."

McMillan later offered praise for Ike Anigbogu and Edmond Sumner, both second-round draft picks in 2017 who sat out most of last season while rehabbing injuries. Anigbogu played in 11 games for the Pacers and 20 games for their G League affiliate in Fort Wayne last season. Sumner played in just one game for the Pacers – their season finale, a two-minute appearance against Charlotte – and in 14 games for the Mad Ants.

Both are healthy now, but are likely to spend most of the season in Fort Wayne to continue their development.

"Those two guys have had really good summers," McMillan said. "These first three practices, they've had good days. It's good to see them out on the floor."

Passing Grades

For the first time in McMillan's three training camps as the Pacers' head coach, every player passed the conditioning test on the first evening of training camp.

That's a tribute to the offseason work of the current players, but also the absence of a certain beloved backup center no longer with the team, one who wasn't exactly light on his feet.

"You can't pass that test without doing some things in the summer," McMillan said following Wednesday's three-hour workout. "But we do have a ways to go."

Sabonis Lowering Himself

A noticeable change was evident while Domantas Sabonis was shooting free throws at the end of practice Wednesday.

"I'm using more legs," he said. "Trying to be lower."

Sabonis shot .657 from the foul line as a rookie in Oklahoma City, and improved to .750 with the Pacers last season. He hopes the change in form takes him to a higher level.

"You can always improve," he said.

Wilkins Still Has the Itch

Damien Wilkins, who was one of the Pacers' best stories last season, has landed on his feet in retirement. He's now working for the National Basketball Players' Association as a Regional Representative, assigned to communicate with players from the Pacers, Atlanta, Denver, Utah, and Oklahoma City.

Wilkins said his role is to "focus on what the players need and help them with the transition, the same way someone helped me."

Wilkins earned a spot on the Pacers' roster last season at age 37 after a four-year absence in the NBA. He played in 19 games before he was released to make room for Trevor Booker.

Although Wilkins turns 39 in January and has a comfortable job, he hasn't gotten playing out of his head.

"I work out every day," he said. "A large part of me still wants to have that opportunity to play again. That's what we do."

Leaf Filling Out

TJ Leaf was listed at 225 his only season at UCLA, was listed at 225 for the Pacers last season and is listed at 225 in the preseason media directory.

Leaf says he's gained about 20 pounds since he was drafted, but regardless of his actual weight he feels much stronger. He'll need to be to earn more playing time than last season, when he appeared in 53 games for a total of 459 minutes.

"It feels night and day when I'm guarding somebody in the post, or when a shoulder hits me," he said. "I'm able to absorb it and not get knocked out of the way.

"I'm so much more comfortable with the team and coaching staff and what I'm able to do. My confidence, my body, everything is a whole different story than last year."

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