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Rakeem Christmas Impressing Pacers Coaches In Summer Workouts

rakeem summer

Rakeem Christmas and Paul George

INDIANAPOLIS – Years ago, the day after the Pacers season ended, many players would be on the first flight out to their hometown or favorite vacation spot.

Roy Hibbert was actually one of the first one to change the culture, as far as staying in town to workout at the team facility. Then Lance Stephenson. And it led to enhanced confidence and play the following season.

This summer, the Pacers have had an outstanding number of guys through the facility on a daily basis. And that’s not a good thing … that’s great. It means they are driven, focused, and invested.

This week, the Pacers announced their intention to build a $50 million practice facility — the St. Vincent Center — to be completed in early 2017. Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird spoke highly of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but also touched on how the team has outgrown its one-court practice floor.

“The [new] practice facility is a state-of-the-art facility that’s just mind-boggling,” Bird said. “It probably reminds of the first time I walked into this building. Every time I come here, I’m so excited just to be from Indiana because it’s such a beautiful building. I’ve been around all of them (in the NBA) and there’s still none that match this one.

“The one problem that we do have is that we’ve outgrown the practice facility downstairs. Even though it’s very usable, I know there’s been a few times over the years where we had to go off the premise to practice. Being the spoiled brat that I am, I don’t like to do that.”

The new practice court, which will be built east of the Fieldhouse across Delaware Street, will have two basketball courts, top-of-the-line physical therapy equipment and a spacial weight room about four times the size of their current one.

“It’ll be used often,” Bird said of the new facility. “It seems like every year we have more and more players stay behind for workouts throughout the summer, which is a good sign. It shows you that you’re doing something right. Also like to keep your young guys around for a few years until they understand what’s going on.

“This year, we’ve had at least four to eight guys in everyday. So having this training facility and getting out of the Fever’s way will be a great opportunity for us to expand and it also helps us recruit free agents.”

That day, seven guys made their way to the gym for workouts. Paul George, C.J. Miles, Shayne WhittingtonGlenn Robinson III … and rookies Myles Turner, Joe Young, and St. Croix’s Rakeem Christmas. Toney Douglas has also been around a lot over the last month since he signed, and George Hill was frequently in until mid-July. Hill is down in San Antonio and working out with Ian Mahinmi, along with some of his former Spurs teammates, like Tim Duncan.

(Miles and Whittington have probably been in most often.)

The Pacers like and prefer for their players to remain in town over the offseason, of course, at least for the majority of the time. Guys are going to go home, go on vacation, and take some time off.

That’s what the offseason is for. But the more the guys are together and the training staff gets to take care and monitor the players, the better.

Another great example of why the team needs their own practice facility can be seen by the number of people who attended the summer workouts. The Indiana Fever were hosting a great event, Inspiring Women’s Night, before a game on the main court — and the event took up the entire practice floor. If Hill, George, or Miles wanted to get a workout in, there’s nowhere for them to go.

This is usually the time — about a month before training camp — where some teams meet up in a warm location, like Los Angeles. The Pacers did that in the past.

However, led by the face of the team, Paul George, more than half of the team is in Indianapolis. That bodes well for this group, especially all of the fresh faces.

[Paul George laughs off ESPN’s far too early East prediction]

One team source noted how unusual this large of group was, and that George had done a great job of being a good example and encouraging these workouts.

In addition to sliding back into his starting role, George will have to take on some of the leadership responsibilities. That’s a challenge he accepts. … And it appears he has already put into motion.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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