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INDIANAPOLIS – It’s a number Kyle O’Quinn is tired of after 6 seasons in the NBA.
From 3 years in Orlando, to 3 more in New York, O’Quinn has barely even gotten a whiff of post-season basketball.
O’Quinn’s 6 years has seen the teams he’s been on average just 26.6 wins per season. He’s never won more than 32 games in his half dozen NBA seasons.
So you can see why O’Quinn was so impressed by the Pacers overachieving to a 48-34 record last season, quickly turning the page on a serious rebuild.
“I think I owed it to myself to be part of a culture and something that is being built,” O’Quinn, 28, said after inking a 1-year, $4.5 million deal with the Pacers in July. “After the run (the Pacers) had last year, I think it’s pretty established. An opportunity to play again with Vic, after he’s grown from seeing him as a rookie, growing to an All-Star, which he always knew he would be. Doug McDermott, I played with him last year. That was something that I knew I wanted, being part of a rich culture of basketball. I think I owed it to myself at this point in my career.
“To see guys go out there and play with that energy, with that enthusiasm, it was pretty impressive. To take the Cavs to 7 games says a lot about the foundation that was built early on. Early on in that season, somebody made the decision that we weren’t going to lay down this year and that’s what they did.”
Despite having zero ties to the Midwest, O’Quinn wanted to experience the atmosphere he’s grown fond of after playing as a road team against the Pacers for the last 6 years.
“You feel it every time you step out on the floor,” O’Quinn, who stands 6-10 and weighs 250 pounds, says of playing in Indiana. “When you come and play here, from the time shootaround starts, there’s 60 minutes on the clock, the doors have opened and you see the people running down and shooting, you feel the energy there.
“It’s always been a tough place to play. It’s a basketball city and state. I just want to be part of it.”
O’Quinn’s NBA career has seen him mostly play as a reserve, with a career-high of 7.1 points and 6.1 rebounds coming last season in New York.
In Indiana, the Pacers view O’Quinn has their 5th big man, and a much-needed veteran voice, a la the departed Al Jefferson.
“We talk about our culture here and Kyle fits it perfectly,” Kevin Pritchard says. “Not only is he a good, solid player, he’s an outstanding person who will help us on the floor and in the locker room. When I met with (in July) I was very impressed with his professionalism and thrilled with his desire to be a part of what we are building here.”
Some toughness and shot blocking are other areas that O’Quinn will bring to a frontcourt needing a little more bully ball, especially when a game calls for that throughout the course of the season.
With Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis and Thad Young returning, the Pacers will probably decide between T.J. Leaf and O’Quinn in figuring out how they want to round out the minutes at the 4 and 5 spots on a given night.
When on the floor, O’Quinn shrinks the spacing, but the analytics of his efficiency caught the eye of the Pacers.
Asked for a description of his game, the former second-round pick has a hard time offering too much specific detail.
“I have a game where you have to see it, it’s hard to explain,” the engaging O’Quinn says. “I have a game where I help guys out. I’m a pure teammate. I like to get down and dirty.”
That is exactly what the Pacers needed to complement a highly-skilled frontcourt.