>> With no draft picks to unveil, the chief interest from summer league play will be the progress of last year’s top pick, Solomon Hill, who heads to Orlando with a sprained right ankle and day-to-day status.
Assistant coach Dan Burke, who will guide the team in Orlando, said Hill needs to focus on defense. “Sometimes, a lot of these summer leagues when you get a vet, they think, ‘All right, this is my chance to shoot it every time I touch it.’ We don’t want him doing that,” Burke said. “What we want him to do is be a Doberman on defense, be a leader and get good shots.”
Even with the pending addition of C.J. Miles, the bench is thin at the wing spots and Hill has the opportunity to step into the rotation if he proves ready. “You never know what can happen,” he said. “Cope (Chris Copeland) didn’t play as many minutes as he thought but when he went in, he produced. It was the same with Rasual (Butler).”
Hill has worked with shooting coach Hal Wissel on improving his 3-point shot.
>> Two of the more interesting veterans during camp won’t join the team in Orlando. Shooting guard Roger Mason Jr., a veteran of 11 seasons and seven teams, was unable to practice due to back spasms and thus was sent home for treatment. It’s uncertain if he will be invited back for training camp. Another veteran free agent, Lavoy Allen, will avoid the injury risk, although the Pacers are interested in re-signing him.
Though Allen played sparingly after being acquired with Evan Turner from Philadelphia in the Danny Granger trade, he said he wasn’t frustrated. “I knew coming in there wouldn’t be many opportunities. When we first got traded they were the No. 1 team; if it’s not broke, why fix it?” he said. “So I knew there wouldn’t be many opportunities and I stayed ready. That’s what you’ve got to do as a professional, stay ready no matter what.”
>> Until Hill returns, Burke said the Pacers’ starting lineup in Orlando will feature Donald Sloan and Frank Gaines (IPFW) at guards, DeQuan Jones (Miami) and Kevin Jones (West Virginia) at the forwards and Willie Reed (Saint Louis) at center, with Dee Bost (Mississippi State), Jake Odum (Indiana State), James Nunnally (UC-Santa Barbara) and Tyler Stone (Southeast Missouri) playing key roles off the bench.
>> Burke has been particularly impressed by Kevin Jones, a 6-8, 251-pound power forward who split last season between the D-League and the San Miguel Beermen in the Philippines. “Most of our bigs, they’re all skilled basketball players. They’re not just a bunch of guys that run straight ahead and jump over you,” Burke said. “Kevin, he’s got ability to use his body, create angles, he runs the floor, shoots the mid-range jumper, he’s a great rebounder and second-jumper to get the tapouts. He’s the one that’s really jumped out for me.”
>> Conner Henry, the D-League’s coach of the year for leading Fort Wayne to the championship in his first season on the bench, worked with the Pacers’ staff during the RFA camp in preparation for coaching the D-League Elite team in the Las Vegas summer league. Burke said the chance to work with Henry was one of the perks of the more relaxed offseason environment.
“Part of coaching is always learning. The minute I think I know it all, I might as well get out of it. If you have that attitude you’re not going to grow, so we bring in different guys and you can learn a lot from anybody,” he said. “We have our video crew helping us out and even pick up things from them. They’re back there in the trenches all the time. They’re kind of like mushrooms, in the dark covered with manure a lot. For them to get out, they say, ‘Hey, that drill was pretty good,’ so I’m learning something from them.”
>> Before dismissing the summer leaguers as inconsequential, remember Butler and Sloan took big steps toward roster spots this time last year, and the same was true of Ben Hansbrough in 2012. “I think there’s an opportunity for one or two sports for somebody,” Burke said. “There always is. And part of this deal is these guys are going to be seen by international scouts and other teams so they have a chance to make our roster or a (training camp) roster somewhere else or make some money overseas. It’s a big two weeks for them.”
>> Pat Knight was a regular at the RFA camp, watching from the practice-court bleachers. Though officially described as a guest of the franchise, don’t be surprised if the former Texas Tech and Lamar head coach, not to mention former IU player and son of Bob, joins the Pacers’ scouting staff.