The Pacers' 2022 Summer League squad got things rolling today with its first scheduled practice of the week. The team will continue to practice the new few days at Ascension St. Vincent Center before flying out to Las Vegas to battle against other NBA Summer League teams.
This year, Pacers Assistant Coach Ronald Nored is at the helm. The former Butler star and Brownsburg High School head coach told media members that the squad is focused on growth. Although, a few wins would certainly add to the experience.
"Learning is our biggest priority here," he said. "We have a lot of young guys. Even our guys that are back. They are learning. This is a learning environment."
"We would love to go 5-0. But if these guys come to training camp and understand defensive rotations, they understand our offensive system, (and) they understand how we play defense, that's the priority."
The Blue & Gold's highly touted draft picks, Bennedict Mathurin, Andrew Nembhard, and Kendall Brown are all getting their first sample of NBA experience. After practice, Mathurin told media members he was "really excited" about the opportunity.
"(It's) great," he said. "It's my first NBA practice as an NBA player. "There are a lot of things I still need to improve (upon). And it's been great just going to practices and stuff."
Mathurin added that he could not wait to get back on the court for day two, illustrating the competitive drive the Pacers saw when selecting him sixth overall.
A few familiar faces are back as well. Chris Duarte, Isaiah Jackson, Duane Washington Jr., and Terry Taylor are using the Summer League to elevate their games to the next level for year two.
"There is always something to learn," said Duarte. "You can never stop learning. This is another opportunity for me to keep learning, keep getting experience, and keep working on my game."
Duarte also offered his takeaways on his one-time rival, Mathurin.
"He's a great player," the Oregon product said. "(He has) a lot of potential…I know he's going to do good in Summer League. He's going to keep getting better."
"Chris Duarte is a great player," Mathurin praised. "I'm really grateful to have him by my side. He was telling me things I could've done better."
Overall, everyone is in good spirits after day one. For the second-year players, it marks the beginning of a new year. It is a chance to learn from past mistakes and look forward to the new season. But for the rookies, it is a chance to don the Blue & Gold jersey and realize their dream is becoming a reality.
"It does feel real," said Mathurin. "I got my jersey on, with my number. It's just a blessing to be here, to be honest. But basketball is also my job. So, I'm here to compete. I'm here to stay."