CANTON Keith McLeod's 2006-07 NBA season was going nowhere fast.
Injuries, inconsistent playing time and a trade plagued the former McKinley High School star as he headed toward free agency.
But a résumé-building final seven games salvaged McLeod's season and maybe will earn him a few more dollars.
"That was huge," said the 27-year-old McLeod, who was dealt from Golden State to Indiana in January. "At the end I got an opportunity and I showed a little bit of what I could do."
An injury to Pacers starting point guard Jamaal Tinsley opened the door. In McLeod's final seven games - six of them starts - he averaged 11.0 points in 28.0 minutes, shooting 50 percent (27-of-54) from the field, 46.7 percent (7-of-15) from the 3-point line and 94.1 percent (16-of-17) from the foul line.
"You've got to have respect for a guy who keeps himself ready for an opportunity," said then-Indiana Coach Rick Carlisle.
"He has a terrific feel for the game, and we're finding out he can make outside shots with consistency."
WORKING ON HIS SHOT
McLeod's ability to knock down jumpers has always been his biggest question mark.
"At practice or when I'm working out by myself, I'm making shots," said McLeod, an unrestricted free agent. "But when you get on the floor (in a game), you need that confidence, that up-and-down run to get into a groove. The biggest thing with me is repetition out on the floor."
He was limited to 48 games overall, 26 in Golden State and 22 in Indiana, averaging 4.8 points in 15.0 minutes a night.
But his late-season performance wasn't lost on the Pacers, who let go of Carlisle after the season and replaced him with veteran Coach Jim O'Brien.
"Keith had a very strong finish to last season at Indiana," McLeod's agent, Mark Termini, said. "They've expressed interest in signing him, but we're very early in the process."
McLeod described his exit meeting with Pacers President Larry Bird as "good."
"Bird just said I was the kind of guy they liked - didn't get in trouble, worked hard, did the things that needed to get done out on the floor," McLeod said.
Utah is another destination that would make sense for McLeod. The Jazz recently lost veteran guard Derek Fisher. Utah is familiar with McLeod, who played two seasons in Salt Lake City and seemed to be a favorite of Coach Jerry Sloan.
Termini wouldn't comment on what other teams have expressed interest in McLeod. The agent's close-to-the-vest negotiating style seems to extend to his client as well.
"He'll just keep it at, 'There's been a lot of interest, a lot of talk,' " said McLeod, smiling, about inquisitions to Termini on the interest level he's getting in the open market.
McLeod doesn't worry about his future. He just keeps working.
Starting July 11, he'll spend 10 days in Las Vegas with trainer Joe Abunassar, who has helped NBA players Kevin Garnett, Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, Baron Davis and Drew Gooden, among others.
McLeod, a quick, slashing point guard, wants to add some strength to his 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame to help with the grind of the NBA schedule.
While he always looks improve his game, McLeod's main selling points never change.
"I'm going to bring energy, defense, a little toughness, a little feistiness," McLeod said. "That's just me. That's how I clawed my way through the league."
He also brings 200 games of NBA experience - including 88 starts -and the ability to adapt to just about any style.
From the hard-nosed Sloan to the fun-and-gun of Don Nelson in Golden State, McLeod has seen it all.
"I just want to be somewhere where I'm going to be able to play," he said, "somewhere that the situation fits me."