A.J. Price's second stint with the Pacers is over, but his contributions won't soon be forgotten.
Indiana officially waived Price on Friday, after their second injury hardship relief exception expired. A rash of injuries created a unique opportunity for Price, 28, to return to the franchise where he spent his first three NBA seasons. The hardship relief exception allows a team to add a 16th player to the roster for 10 days if at least four players are sidelined for significant time.
Price, the 52nd overall draft pick in 2009, was brought back to Indiana to provide much-needed depth in the backcourt. Neither starting point guard George Hill (bruised knee) nor backup C.J. Watson (bruised foot) have played in the regular season, leaving third-stringer Donald Sloan as the only true point guard on Indiana's roster until Price's addition.
PHOTO GALLERY: A.J. Price's Season-to-Date »
To say Price exceeded expectations would be a massive understatement. Despite joining the team five games into the season, he was able to immediately contribute. Price averaged 10.5 points and 2.7 assists over 10 games. Head coach Frank Vogel put a lot of trust in the veteran, playing him nearly 20 minutes per contest. Price responded by shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from 3-point range, both better clips than he'd shot in any of his five previous NBA seasons.
More importantly, the team won with Price on the floor. When he arrived, Indiana was just 1-4. Despite missing anywhere from five to seven players due to injury on any given night, the Pacers went 5-5 with Price in uniform, including a three impressive road wins in Miami, Chicago, and Dallas.
Price played a big part in the team's overall performance. When Indiana beat Utah on Nov. 10 to snap a six-game losing streak, Price scored 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting. When the Blue-and-Gold won in Chicago five days later, Price had 21 points. Even in his last game with the Pacers, Price was a major factor, contributing 11 points and five assists in Wednesday's loss in San Antonio.
Unfortunately, Price's time in Indiana has come to an end. The Pacers would no doubt love to keep him around, but they simply don't have an open roster spot and it doesn't make much sense to keep four point guards once Hill and Watson return to the lineup.
That day is coming soon, as the team is slowly getting healthy. David West is hoping to make his season debut tonight against Orlando. Watson could return as early as next week and Hill is expected back in mid-December. In the interim, combo guard Rodney Stuckey will likely have to share some point guard duties in Price's absence.
As for Price, he proved that he is a bona fide NBA point guard. When the Pacers called him, he was just days away from signing a contract to play in China. Now, he will undoubtedly have options. He could get a shot on another NBA team or he could opt to head overseas, but you have to think his list of suitors has gotten longer.
Price may have only been a member of the 2014-15 Pacers for a few weeks in November, but his contributions were vital. He helped keep the boat afloat in the hardest of times, and for that he has the organization's gratitude. If the Pacers sneak into the playoffs in April by a game or two, they might very well have A.J. Price to thank.