"Cloud Lifted" as Pacers, Sabonis Agree to Extension

Oct. 22, 2019 - Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis, general manager Chad Buchanan, and head coach Nate McMillan discuss Sabonis agreeing to a long-term extension with Indiana.

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"Cloud Lifted" as Pacers, Sabonis Agree to Extension

Oct. 22, 2019 - Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis, general manager Chad Buchanan, and head coach Nate McMillan discuss Sabonis agreeing to a long-term extension with Indiana.
Oct 22, 2019  |  02:00

Sabonis Solidifies Pacers' Nucleus

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer

Victor Oladipo expects him to spring for dinner next time. Jeremy Lamb wants a new car.

"The list goes on," Domantas Sabonis said Tuesday, smiling the smile of a man whose ship had come in.

Sabonis didn't mind being the butt of teammates' jokes after agreeing to a contract Monday afternoon, a few hours before the NBA deadline for rookie extensions. But his pleasure went beyond the thought of future paychecks. His signature set up the possibility of locking in a nucleus of players who give the Pacers realistic hope for continued growth.

"The main five, six guys are intact," Sabonis said. "Now it's on us. The organization believes in us and it's on us to make it work."

Sabonis' deal will take effect next season and cover four seasons. Myles Turner and Malcolm Brogdon are in the first year of four-year contracts. T.J. Warren and Jeremy Lamb have two more seasons after this one. Victor Oladipo's deal expires in 2021.

That's only part of the story, however. Sabonis and Turner are 23, Brogdon and Warren are 26, and Oladipo and Lamb are 27. It's a rare circumstance in today's NBA for a team to have locked in so many proven and still-improving players. Ideally, that will reduce off-court drama and enable future teams to establish chemistry and stability, much like the Pacer teams that reached the Eastern Conference Finals five times in a seven-year period in the 1990s.

"It's good for the player and the coach to know that the commitment is here going forward," said Nate McMillan, who signed a contract extension last year. "They can focus on basketball and not worry about extensions and contracts. The organization has committed and they have to in turn show their commitment."

The negotiations over Sabonis' contract appeared to stall late last week amid internet reports that the sides were far apart on a salary figure, and that the Pacers were exploring trades. Sabonis added intrigue to the mix after practice on Saturday when he said, in a serious tone, "I know exactly how the Pacers feel about me now."

All bygones were bygones by Tuesday, the eve of the Pacers' season-opener with Detroit.

"Just negotiations," Sabonis said, still smiling. "That's how they go. That's how the business works. I was letting my agents do mostly everything."

Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan considered the negotiation fairly typical.

"It takes a little time to work through it," he said. "We have a great relationship with Domas' agent, so there was a lot of good will from the very beginning. You have ups and downs throughout the negotiations and some of it comes out publicly and some of it doesn't.

"It was never our intention to trade Domas. That was an absolute last resort. I know that came out as a possibility but that was never even a remote possibility for us."

Nor for Sabonis, who will become a full-time starter this season. He said he made it clear to the Pacers' front office he wanted to stay with the team and gave every outward indication of that. He had been his normally upbeat self in practice the past few days and it seemed telling that he attended a team function, the fundraising Masquerade, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday.

Sabonis theoretically could have played out the final season of his rookie contract and attracted a better offer as a restricted free agent next summer. By doing that, however, he would have risked an injury along with the possibility of a lower salary cap that limited free agent offers.

Ultimately, he got what he wanted: to stay put as a Pacer.

"It's the guys, it's the culture, it's the staff," he said. "I feel happy here. I like the system. I think it suits me well. I think I can help the team. It's fun to be here."

Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.


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