After previous near-misses, Chris Copeland lands in New Orleans
As far back as three summers ago, when Chris Copeland was a restricted free agent following his stellar rookie NBA season with New York, the forward believed he was destined for the Crescent City. The Pelicans were one of several teams interested in Copeland, after he shot a scorching 42.1 percent on three-pointers.
“There were times when I woke up in the morning and was like, ‘I’m going to New Orleans,’ ” Copeland remembered. “It was that close.”
Ultimately though, the Indiana Pacers added the 6-foot-9, 239-pounder via a two-year contract. In 2015, he became a free agent again, but signed with Milwaukee. Finally, Copeland has now landed in Louisiana, extended a training camp invite by the Pelicans in August.
“I’ve thought I was coming here a few times before this,” the University of Colorado product said this week. “For whatever reason, it didn’t pan out. I’m just glad it actually came full circle and I get the opportunity to try again this year. It’s a great city. I tell people time and time again, it has some of the best food in the world, and the atmosphere here is special.”
Although New Orleans is a brand-new team for the 32-year-old, he actually knows two other first-time Pelicans players extremely well, having played with Solomon Hill and Lance Stephenson in Indiana. Copeland calls two-year Pacers teammate Hill “like a brother of mine.”
“Solomon is a quiet guy, a quiet assassin,” Copeland said, when asked how he’d describe the personalities of Hill and Stephenson. “Solo is a quiet leader. He comes out and works his butt off. He’s incredibly in-your-face as a defender. He can make plays on both ends of the floor.
“Then you have Lance, who is probably the total opposite – he’s a fun-loving guy, a little bit more of an entertainer. But both of them are extremely hard-working and in-your-face guys. They always compete at the highest level and put their best foot forward. It was great for me to play with those guys in Indiana and am looking forward to playing with them here.”
Copeland’s game in the NBA has centered on his perimeter gunning, as a player opponents try to chase off the three-point line. In each of the past three seasons, he’s taken the majority of his field-goal attempts from beyond the arc, including launching 36 treys in 2015-16 out of just 51 total shots. For his career, he has a nearly 50-50 split, with 422 threes attempted and 436 twos. If the career 36.5 percent three-point shooter can secure a roster spot with New Orleans, he could be an ideal fit. The Pelicans became much more reliant on spacing in 2015-16 (tied for 15th in trey attempts per game, up from 23rd in ’14-15) and have three-time All-Star forward Anthony Davis as the focal point of their offense.
“He’s a special talent all-around,” Copeland said of the NBA’s seventh-leading scorer last season. “As a shooter, to play with a guy like that, hopefully I can make his job easy, and I’m sure he’ll make mine easy. I think there can be great synergy there. It’s exciting for me.
“The conversation (I had with the Pelicans while signing) is that what I do does fit well here. At the end of the day, hopefully I can add that piece to the puzzle and help us get over the hump.”