INDIANAPOLIS – It wasn’t just one shining moment for the forward. There were three straight nights that served to justify what he’s worked for.
But February 11th represented what could be for a Pacers player you normally see a lot before the game.
“It’s fun to get out there and finally play a little bit get some playing time some court time instead of just practicing and working out,” said Jeff Pendergraph following his game against the Nets.
His stat line would say the same. In 17 minutes filling in for the injured David West, Pendergraph scored 14 points and grabbed ten rebounds, making plays with an aggressive style while adding in a dunk or two.
“It’s good to see all the hard work I’m doing paying off too,” said Pendergraph. “Everything translated over nicely. Had a nice smooth game.”
Enough that the effort continued with a little while longer. Two nights later against the Bobcats as he got ten points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes as the Pacers went to the All-Star break as winners.
In the second half opener, Pendergraph was on the court 23 minutes and had nine points and seven boards in yet another victory.
“Most teams in this league he would be putting in rotational minutes,” admitted head coach Frank Vogel of Pendergraph.
Yet those trio of games represent three-of-the-four contests which he has played more than ten minutes this season. With David West and Paul George playing well and the team not afraid to use three-guard lineups, playing time has been scarce for the forward as he’s averaging 7.3 minutes a game.
It’s not that Pendergraph is upset about it. Instead the forward has sought patience and has found a way to continue to improve on his game with results until his playing time increases.
“I talk to our sports psychologist about stuff like that and when I do get an opportunity to play just put myself in the game when I’m not playing,” said Pendergraph of his strategy to get better. “So I’m sitting on the bench, putting myself in the game every time so when I do get it’s not a surprise, there’s nothing new to me.
“It feels familiar so I’m more relaxed and comfortable.”
Using the metal aspect of the game has helped the forward who saw 10.3 minutes of playing time a game with the Trailblazers in the 2009-2010 season. But a severe knee injury kept him out of the league the following season and when he came to the Pacers in 2011, he saw just 5.3 minutes per game.
Since he’s been with the team, in fact, he’s best known for his pre-game fire up sessions with the team. Following introductions, the Pacers will circle Pendergraph who will scream “Let’s Go” and other motivational phrases as the team breaks the huddle.
“Once I started doing it here guys loved it and now its stuck,” said Pendergraph-and slowly he has done the same on the court in practice.
In the post-game news conference following the Nets game Vogel lauded Pendergraph as one of the team’s best practice players and a number of players backed up that claim.
“He’s been doing that all year,” said forward Paul George when comparing Pendergraph’s practice play to his game against the Nets. “As they said dating all the way back in September when we were here just for pickup game. He was the summer MVP, he’s playing at that level right now.”
David West noted the forward’s ability to have passion yet still keep things on an even level to allow for steady improvement.
“Especially in moments where he’s working for an opportunity to get on the floor. He just stays consistent in terms of working hard, rooting for guys, making sure our energy is right for the games and obviously pushing guys in practice,” said West.
Still the desire to play is something Pendergraph can’t deny especially after his strong performances in mid-Febraury. He maintains that the philosophy that started with upon joining the Pacers remains strong now.
“Keep working hard keep working on the same things that I’ve been working on, don’t let it go to my head,” said Pendergraph. “I can always get better and just approach it like that watch film learn from the mistakes i did make and just try to get better so I can do better the next game.”
Vogel admits that he would like to give the forward the chance to do so, but appreciates his attitude in the meantime.
“He’s been as good as I’ve ever been around,” said Vogel. “He’s a team first guy, extremely hard worker, positive energy all the time.
“A guy you really root for.”