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In a way, it’s kind of nice for Jamison Brewer and James Jones, this time of year. This is their chance to be relative veteran leaders, certain starters, even go-to guys.
Both realize, however, their time in the summer sun is temporary. The games don't count, but they're anything but meaningless to their respective careers.
For Brewer, a restricted free agent, showing the ability to lead a team from the point guard position could determine whether the Pacers either re-sign him or match any offer that comes from another team. For Jones, it’s a chance to demonstrate tangible progress in his transition from low-post player in college to perimeter swingman in the NBA.
Both will start and play heavy minutes with the Pacers’ team in the Reebok Rocky Mountain Revue in Salt Lake City, UT, beginning tonight (7:00) against Dallas.
“This is my season,” said Jones. “That’s the luxury of playing in the summer league, because you do get a chance to be the focal point. You do get a chance to work on some things you wouldn’t be able to work on during the season.”
A second-round pick from Miami (FL) in 2003, Jones opened eyes by averaging 11.8 points and making 7 of 12 from the 3-point line with a split team comprised of Pacers and 76ers in the Revue last year. He played just six games during the regular season, however, and relishes the chance to measure his game.
Though he has the advantage of a full season of practice with Pacers coaches and players, he has less recent game experience than most of the other players on the summer league roster.
"I’m still playing some catch-up,” Jones said. “This is a league that’s a constant grind. We have to constantly get better. Other guys in this league are getting better; other guys on this team are getting better. So for all the improvement I’ve made, I’m sure other guys are getting that much better, too. For me, it just feels like constant work. That’s my attitude toward it.
“I’ve been here. I’ve been through this once, and that counts for something. Mentally, you’re prepared for it. But all the same, some of these guys in here have played more games than I have so from that standpoint they’re more experienced. I always look at myself as someone having to prove a point and being the underdog.”
The 6-8 Jones, primarily a post player in college, is expected to play both small forward and shooting guard in the summer league games.
“He’s had a year of experience under his belt,” said Coach Rick Carlisle. “He didn’t play a lot of minutes during the regular season but he played significant minutes in the exhibitions and I think he has a good feeling for what the league’s about. For him right now, it’s about continuing to build up his body and develop his skill. We feel he’s a guy that has a chance to be an effective player in the two and three spot because he has the ability to shoot the ball out to the 3-point line. That’s the strength of his game and he’s going to have to play to it as well as he can to establish a career for himself.”
The trade for Stephen Jackson would appear to work against Jones, who fits the same physical profile and plays the same positions. But Jones chooses to view it as an opportunity to learn from another talented player.
“They make the decisions and I’m here to play,” he said. “It’s not my job to worry about who’s here and who’s not. Evidently, he’s a guy that’s going to come in here and play. He’s a great player. I look at it as another guy who’s talented who I can go against in practice, get something from and help make me better. I welcome any challenge and I just know that if I continue to work and do the things I do, it’ll pay off.”
A second-round pick in 2001 after his sophomore season at Auburn, Brewer has appeared in 36 regular-season games, including one start, in three seasons with the Pacers. While he has impressed with his energy, defensive aggression and speed, he needs to answer the major questions about his game – namely, his ability to lead a team.
“It’s going to be big-time for him because it’s going to give him a chance not only to start at the point guard position but to actually run the team,” said Associate Head Coach Mike Brown, who’ll run the summer-league team. “He’s going to be responsible for controlling the tempo, for controlling his teammates, for putting them in the right spot at the right time, and he’s going to be responsible for leading the team. He’s going to have a lot of responsibilities this summer that he won’t have during the regular season and all that’s going to do is help in his maturation process.
“He’s athletic, he’s long, he can defend, he’s quick. We just want to know, can he run a team? Can he play the point guard position? Does he understand tempo? Does he understand pace? Can he lead? Those are the types of things you have to do, or at least have some clue about, if you’re going to be an effective point guard in this league.”
With starter Jamaal Tinsley under contract, veteran backup Anthony Johnson reportedly close to signing a deal to return to the Pacers and second-round pick Rashad Wright, Brewer has the usual heavy competition. But after declining to participate in the summer league last year, he opted to grab the opportunity.
“I just feel like no one knows me,” Brewer said. “I’ve been around here just waiting, man. You feel like you’ve been waiting so long to just get out there. I love playing basketball and just being part of a team like the Pacers with the winning tradition has been fun. To be part of that would be pretty nice.
“I’m just trying to get the confidence of the coaches. I’m the type of person that plays with massive confidence. No matter what, I’m ready to face an obstacle. I love proving people wrong and I’ve been doing that all my life.”
Summer League Schedule
Reebok Rocky Mountain Revue
Salt Lake City, UT
(All Indianapolis times)
Date Opponent Time
7/16 vs. Mavericks 7:00
7/17 vs. Utah 7:00
7/20 vs. Charlotte 7:00
7/21 vs. San Antonio 3:00
7/22 vs. Denver 3:00
7/24 vs. Chicago 3:00