One of the most surprising transactions of this past offseason was the Indiana Pacers’ move to acquire reserve center Ian Mahinmi in a sign-and-trade deal with the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for guards Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones.
The fifth year center, who spent the previous two seasons in Dallas, acknowledged he knew his time with the Mavericks had come to an end before free agency began. Although Mahinmi was moving on, he remains happy his former club received value in return in the deal based on how the organization treated him with respect over the past two years.
“I was going to come to Indiana regardless,” Mahinmi said to HOOPSWORLD on his free agency plans. “So I’m just happy we were able to make [the trade] work that way. I think it worked good for both teams and I’m thankful for everything Dallas did for me the last two years. I’m happy we worked a good deal for both sides.”
As part of the deal, Mahinmi signed a four-year $16 million contract with the Pacers.
The move was shocking to most initially because Collison spent the majority of last season in the Pacers’ starting lineup and Indiana was in the midst of re-signing center Roy Hibbert to a max deal worth $58 million over the next four seasons.
Mahinmi was drafted by the Spurs in the first round back in 2005 and played his first two seasons in San Antonio alongside Tim Duncan. During his two year stint with the Mavericks, Mahinmi credited his time spent learning the nuisances of the game with current New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler and veteran forward Dirk Nowitzki as pivotal in his development.
“Tyson was a tremendous help for me,” Mahinmi said. “I always wanted a guy I could look up to. So he was great to me. I had other guys like Tim Duncan and Dirk [Nowitzki]. I had great mentors my whole career so it’s good. Now I feel like me and Roy have a good thing going on. We talk to each other and try to get better on an everyday basis.”
The Pacers were considered by most to be one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference heading into the 2012-13 campaign after last season’s success, but have limped out of the gate starting just 3-5 placing the team tenth in the East. If the playoffs started today the Pacers would be on the outside looking in.
Despite the slow start Mahinmi firmly believes the Pacers are still a special group and says he is starting to see some similarities in locker room chemistry between this Indiana unit and the 2011 Mavericks team who won the championship.
“There is definitely something special [here],” Mahinmi said confidently. “This is not an upcoming team; it is already a team that is here and making a lot of noise with great veterans and great leaders. So I’m finding some of the same stuff as far as the locker room chemistry. Guys are getting along and when it comes down to business guys are ready to go. Obviously it’s still early for me and still early in the season, but it’s a good sign.”
Mahinmi is averaging 4.5 points, 4 rebounds and 1 block per game through the team’s first eight games. His production to start the season isn’t a far cry from his final season in Dallas despite a reduction of minutes now playing behind Hibbert.
Mahinmi is still getting comfortable with the team’s sets and overall framework.
“I’m getting there,” Mahinmi said on his level of comfort. “We have a lot of new pieces on the second unit so we just try to find the chemistry and find a way to glue together. It’s still a learning process and I feel like we’re improving every practice.”
“I don’t really like to talk about personal goals,” Mahinmi added. “I’m more a team guy. I’m trying to get better as a basketball player in every aspect of the game, offense and defense. Hopefully by doing that then our team can get better and reach our goals. Personal goals are good for myself, but it is all about the team.”