They introduced themselves as three basketball players hungry to succeed with the Indiana Pacers.
Forward Thaddeus Young, center Al Jefferson and forward Jeremy Evans spoke of the opportunity to join a playoff team with three-time All-Star Paul George and expressed their eagerness to deliver on optimistic expectations that have fans buzzing about 2016-17.
“We have a lot of different pieces that can compete with a lot of different teams,” Young said Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “I think we’re a much better team now with the pieces that’s been added this summer.
“We still have a lot of room to grow, a lot of things to work on and we’ve gotten some key veteran guys. You’ve got Jeff Teague, who is a good point guard, he’s an All-Star. We’ve got this guy next to me (Jefferson), I think he’s one of the hardest guys to stop ever in the post. I’ve never seen so many people try to stop a guy from going to his right and he always finds some type of way to make it with his right hand. At the end of the day, we look good on paper but we still have a lot of work to do and have a lot of room to grow as a team and as players playing for the Pacers.”
Young, 28, was acquired from the Brooklyn Nets for the 20th overall pick in the draft. He’s entering his 10th season and averaged 15.1 points and 9 rebounds per game last year.
He described himself as “an energy guy” who can create for himself. The Pacers plan to slot him at power forward, which will keep George content at small forward.
The Pacers officially announced the free-agent signing of Jefferson, 31, on Saturday. The center has averaged 16.7 points and 8.9 rebounds in his 12-year career. He came off the bench in Charlotte last year and that’s his expected role next season although president Larry Bird and head coach Nate McMillan said Jefferson could play a lot with forward-center Myles Turner when the Pacers need to have a bigger lineup.
“We’re hungry and we want to come here and make some changes for ourselves. This team has already been one of the elite teams and they made a good run last year, but I feel like with us coming with everybody on the same page, I think the sky’s the limit.”
Jefferson admitted he’s an “old school” addition in an NBA era of 3-point shooting. He’s a classic post up player inside, which should help the Pacers when in a half-court offense.
“I’ve got to bring some of this ‘old school’ post game back in the NBA. Everybody wants to shoot threes now.”
Evans, 28, has spent six seasons in the NBA as a reserve, but showed his athleticism in winning the 2012 Slam Dunk Contest. He’s averaged 3.5 points and 2.6 rebounds. The Pacers acquired him in an exchange of overseas players and for cash.
“I want to come in and be an energy guy and push these guys, come in and compete in practice,” Evans said. “Work hard and just be an example out on the court. Keep hustling and playing tough.”
Teague, an Indianapolis native, will be introduced in a Monday afternoon press conference. He was acquired in a three-team trade from Atlanta that sent Indianapolis native George Hill to Utah and the Hawks getting a draft pick from the Jazz.
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