Copeland talks return to New York
Last fall, Chris Copeland was just hoping to make an NBA roster. He was in New York, with the Knicks for training camp. He made the roster — his first with an NBA team — and played with them for most of the year under a non-guaranteed contract.
Copeland saw the floor for 56 games, starting 13, and he averaged 8.7 points, 2.1 rebounds per game in 15.4 minutes of work. His best weapon is his 3-point shooting. The 6-foot-8 forward connected on 42.1 percent of his attempts from outside last season.
A restricted free agent in the offseason, the Pacers offered him a two-year deal worth $6.1 million. The Knicks couldn’t match due to the finances of the deal, and so he became a member of the Pacers. When he signed his name on that contract in July, it was the 29-year-old’s first guaranteed deal in the NBA.
Through 10 games, Coplenad’s played a very minor role in half of the Pacers’ games. He’s averaging 4.4 points and 5.4 minutes per game. He’s 7-of-14 from the field, 6-of-11 from outside.
The Pacers (9-1) face the New York Knicks on Wednesday, marking Copeland’s first trip back to the Big Apple. He left on very good terms and says he stays in touch with many of the guys. Below are some of Copeland’s exchanges with the media following Monday’s practice:
What will it be like going back to where it all got started for you?
“I’m very excited to see a lot of familiar faces and a lot of great people. I’m looking forward to seeing those guys when I go back.”
Who in New York will you talk to while you’re there?
“Everybody. I had great relationships with everybody, from top to bottom. All the guys I’ve played with to management. Obviously, there’s new faces that I don’t know, but everybody that I was with last year.”
Who was instrumental in your growth?
“So many people, man. ‘Melo [Anthony], J.R. [Smith], Tyson [Chandler] was huge, Iman [Shumpert], Raymond [Felton]; I hate to say names because seriously, there wasn’t a guy on that team that didn’t help me as a rookie, including Iman, who was a half rookie with me last year. These guys are really so big to me, as far as giving me advice behind the scenes, what to expect, how to play, and how to handle playing in that situation. I love all those guys.”
How do you think it’ll feel to go back there on a different team?
“It’s going to be weird, honestly, but I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a great atmosphere. I know how New York fans come out. It’s going to be I’m sure a packed house. It’s going to be a hard fought game. They’re a very talented team but I’m glad to be on the better team this year.”
What are the most critical factors in playing the Knicks?
“Trying to limit their key guys. That’s a given. We all know who those people are. If we do that, we’ll be fine. It’s all about defense first for us. If we move the ball offensively, we have so many weapons that we’ll get the job done.”
Do you ultimately put the last loss aside and get back to playing high-level defense, which has made you guys so successful in those nine games (all wins)?
“Absolutely. That’s what it’s about. This is a defense first team and I think that’s the heart and soul of our culture here. At times last game, we didn’t play like we normally can and normally do. Watching the film and seeing our mistakes is something we can build on and I think we will on Wednesday.”
Have your feelings changed at all about your role?
“I’m a competitor first. I would love to play basketball. I want to get out there on the floor but it’s definitely team first as well. I’m here to help, whatever they need. If it’s just waving the towel and cheering my guys on, trying to give encouragement when they come off or if they need to me to get out there and play, whatever [coach Vogel] asks of me, I’ve tried to do so.”
We see you put in a lot of extra work. What are some of the items you’ve tried to stress either before or after practice?
“Well I’ve been hitting the weights hard, doing side uptempo workouts with Shawn Windle to help with conditioning as well as strengthening. That’ll help my agility on the floor defensively, and clearly offensively I’m working on as much as I can, inside and out.”
Has getting time in recent games upped your confidence level?
“Yeah, I definitely think it helped a little bit but it’s all about continuing to do it again when it counts and that’ll be Wednesday and the games after. Hopefully I can actually help us win come Wednesday and going forward.”
How long have you been getting reps at the ’3′?
“We did it for one practice like a little while back and then pretty much the practice before last. I’ve played some ’3′ before last year, I played some ’3′ in years past here and there. I’ve played a little bit of everything so I can figure it out whatever [coach Vogel] needs.
“I played both in Chicago, the ’3′ and the ’4′. He kinda tries to use me to keep the defense on their heels and keep them guessing I think. When I’m out there, I’m just trying to be a threat.”