The Mad Ants practiced in Indianapolis on Monday and Duarte was in action with the team. Before the Pacers played the Heat on Monday night, Rick Carlisle confirmed that Duarte will play with the Mad Ants this week. Fort Wayne plays against the Wisconsin Herd on Wednesday and again on Friday.
Chris Duarte (left ankle sprain) practiced with @TheMadAnts today and will play with them in Wisconsin this week, per Head Coach Rick Carlisle.— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) December 12, 2022
Duarte hasn’t played since injuring his ankle on November 4 during the first quarter against the Miami Heat, when he required assistance to leave the court. After a slow start to the season, he scored a career-high 30 points against the Brooklyn Nets in the prior game, making his injury that much more of a tough break. During the summer, Duarte showed progress with his patience in manipulating the pick-and-roll with the Dominican Republic’s National Team, but his struggles with shot-making carried over into the regular season, as he converted just 29 percent of his shots from deep through his first seven games. Since then, he knocked down eight of his last 17 attempts, knocking down three in the second half of the first game against Brooklyn, when just before he broke out of his slump he could be seen form shooting while Kevin Durant was at the free throw line.
Assuming all goes well with Fort Wayne, it’s possible that Duarte could be back with the Pacers on Sunday against the New York Knicks. After starting the first three games of the season, Duarte was shifted to the bench in favor Aaron Nesmith against the Sixers. When Nesmith missed time with a foot injury, Duarte rejoined the starting lineup for three games before going down with the sprained ankle that sidelined him for the last five weeks.
In the meantime, Andrew Nembhard has taken over that spot in the rotation, providing stout defense against top assignments and supplemental playmaking alongside Tyrese Haliburton while also shooting 40 percent from three.
As such, once the roster is fully healthy, it remains to be seen whether Duarte will reemerge in the starting lineup, perhaps allowing Nembhard more playmaking opportunities with the second unit, or will slide back to the bench, spacing the floor for Bennedict Mathurin, T.J. McConnell, Isaiah Jackson, and Aaron Nesmith/Oshae Brissett.
Whatever the case, depending upon how the game goes for the Pacers versus the Warriors, the option will also be there to get a glimpse of Duarte in action with the Mad Ants at 7:00 PM on ESPN+ against the Wisconsin Herd.