Pacers' young big men Rakeem Christmas and Shayne Whittington returned to the Fieldhouse on Monday after spending the bulk of the season in Fort Wayne playing for the D-League Mad Ants.
With little room in the Pacers' front court playing rotation and plenty of room for development, the Pacers took advantage of the Mad Ants to give Christmas and Whittington much needed reps. Since the Pacers also took control of the Mad Ants this season, they were able to make the situation more meaningful by having coach Steven Gansey use a similar system so their players would be working toward contributing with the big club.
Things didn't always go smoothly for the Pacers' initial foray into utilizing their own D-League team. After a strong start, the Mad Ants fade toward the end of the season and failed to make the playoffs. Similarly, Christmas started strong, making the D-League All-Star game before struggling over the last few weeks of the season.
Christmas did put up 13 points and 13 rebounds in Fort Wayne's final game, a 117-101 win over Erie. For the season, Christmas averaged 14 points and 7 rebounds in 48 games. Whittington played 40 games, averaging 12 points and 8 rebounds.
Whittington made more trips to the Fieldhouse during the season and from what I hear, part of that reason was Christmas struggling at times with his D-League assignment and not earning the reward. Fortunately, he took the high road on the way out and hopefully the experience will pay off as an investment in a productive NBA career along with fellow rookies, Myles Turner and Joe Young.