Poythress Ready for His Opportunity

Dec. 16, 2017 - Alex Poythress was called up to the Indiana Pacers from Fort Wayne, so head coach Nate McMillan and Poythress himself discussed the opportunity in front of him.

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Poythress Ready for His Opportunity

Dec. 16, 2017 - Alex Poythress was called up to the Indiana Pacers from Fort Wayne, so head coach Nate McMillan and Poythress himself discussed the opportunity in front of him.
Dec 16, 2017  |  02:14

Poythress Called Down to Go Up to the Pacers

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer

Whether Alex Poythress just got called up or called down is a matter of interpretation, not to mention geography. But he's happy to be with the Pacers for a while.

Poythress got a "promotion" to the NBA from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the G-League Saturday, as the Pacers exercised his two-way contract. That meant making the two-hour drive down I-69 to Indianapolis, where he joined Saturday's practice at St. Vincent Center and caught the team's flight to Brooklyn for Sunday's game.

First-round draft pick TJ Leaf was sent to Fort Wayne, as were second-round picks Ike Anigbogu and Edmond Sumner.

Poythress, a 6-foot-7 forward, has played six games for the Mad Ants this season, averaging 20 points and nine rebounds. He'll likely have a short stay with the Pacers, perhaps just the next two games, but coach Nate McMillan plans to give him playing time.

"We'll try to give him those five, 10, 15 minutes we were trying to give TJ," McMillan said. "We felt he's been working and developing, and want to give him an opportunity to play."

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Poythress, a five-star recruit out of high school, tore the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee during a practice for the University of Kentucky in December of 2014, and went undrafted. He played six games for Philadelphia at the end of last season, averaging 10.7 points. He scored 15 against the Pacers, hitting 5-of-7 3-pointers, and then 18 against New York in the season's final game.

He's played sparingly in seven games for the Pacers this season, averaging 0.9 points.

"I feel like I'm an NBA player," he said. "Nobody can tell me otherwise. I just come in and put the work in each and every day."

He's torn between the benefits of getting significant playing time with Fort Wayne and living the NBA dream with the Pacers, but not playing much.

"You always want to get playing time and you always want to learn from the vets," he said. "It's about improving and learning and expanding your game. You do that by soaking up (information) like a sponge and you do that by game minutes.

"Down there you have to be a little more aggressive looking to score. Up here you have to play your role because they have scorers. You have to find that balance. I know I'm not going to get 20 shots; they have Vic (Oladipo) and Myles (Turner) for that."

Leaf has played in 25 games with the Pacers, averaging 3.3 points while hitting 48 percent of his 3-pointers. He scored 17 points in the second game of the season against Portland, but has played in just nine games over the last month, for an average of 5.8 minutes.

Sumner, who also is on a two-way contract, has been rehabbing since he tore his ACL while playing for Xavier last January. He has progressed to the point of being able to practice with the team, and could play soon in Fort Wayne.

The two-way contracts enable NBA teams to add up to two players to their roster at lower salaries than the NBA minimum. Those players can not play more than 45 games with the NBA team.

Sabonis' family visiting

Domantas Sabonis has played his previous two games under the watchful eye of his legendary father, Arvydas, and mother and siblings, who are visiting from Lithuania. They will be here until Dec. 28.

Sabonis played well off the bench in both games, contributing eight points and six rebounds against Oklahoma City and 11 points and seven rebounds against Detroit.

Sabonis said his father watches every game on the internet in Lithuania, but doesn't offer him much personal advice. His father's assessment of the two previous games, both losses, ran toward the obvious.

"He just sees what coaches see, that we haven't been playing our type of basketball," Domantas said. "We're not sharing the ball as much as we used to. That's what we see on film and what we're trying to get back to."

Arvydas tries to avoid media attention. His family watched Wednesdays game from the stands, but were provided access to a suite for the game on Friday.

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