clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Pacers sign James Johnson, ink Kendall Brown to two-way deal

Indiana continues to finalize training camp roster.

2022 NBA Summer League - Phoenix Suns v Indiana Pacers Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Former Baylor forward Kendall Brown has signed a two-way contract with the Indiana Pacers, the team announced Friday.

Brown, the 48th pick in the NBA draft, appeared in all five Summer League games for the Pacers in Las Vegas, averaging 9.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists while shooting 52 percent on twos and going 2-of-6 from three.

“We hunted from 32 to 48,” Kevin Pritchard said while appearing on The Sideline Guys podcast, with regard to how aggressive the front office was in trying to move up from No. 58 in order to select Brown on draft night. “I bet we made 50-60 offers.”

As a two-way player, Brown will likely spend at least some time with the Mad Ants next season, where perhaps he can work through some of his reticence as a shooter while continuing to flash the athleticism, particularly in transition, that projects him as a potential match for the Pacers in the long-term.

In Las Vegas, he drew some hard closeouts that he isn’t likely to see without proof of product at the next level, but he also showed himself to be an instinctive cutter and was at times used as the screener and in fake hand-off situations. Plus, he is one of only a few players on the roster who is taller than 6-foot-6 and isn’t likely to log any minutes at center.

In addition to Brown, the Pacers also announced the signings of David Stockton, whose returning player rights were acquired by the Mad Ants in a trade with the Memphis Hustle last month, as well as Bennie Boatwright and Gabe York, both of whom played for the Mad Ants last season. That said, given that the team had already previously reached Exhibit-10 agreements with Tevin Brown, Eli Brooks, Jermaine Samuels, and Fanbo Zeng, roster turnover should probably be expected in the coming weeks.

More notable among the veteran free agent signings, however, is the inclusion of 35-year-old veteran James Johnson. Johnson spent most of last season in Brooklyn, averaging 5.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 61 games before being waived prior to the end of the regular season. From a basketball standpoint, Johnson’s bad games can be very bad as far as driving into defenders to avoid shooting and ... well ... shooting. But, he’s largely self-aware, and on his good days, he brings rebounding and can create plays from the second side as a hand-off operator, while also toggling between defending bigs and some wings.

If nothing else, for a young roster, perhaps Johnson can play a vital role off the court in the same way that Al Jefferson once did, even while not playing much on the court.

“A couple of years ago, our MVP was Al Jefferson,” Pritchard said following the end of the tumultuous 2020-21 season. “I don’t know if we have an Al Jefferson. So I’ve tasked our NBA staff, I’ve told them we need somebody who sits on the bench and is good enough to play but holds everybody accountable. When you have a locker room that holds each other accountable, that isn’t afraid of tough love, willing to give it and accept it (that’s good). This past team might have been too nice. We need somebody who will step up. I challenged a couple of players, but, you know, we might not have it.”

Accounting for Johnson, the Pacers have 13 players under guaranteed contract for next season and 20 players lined up for training camp, with Oshae Brissett’s deal non-guaranteed, Brown occupying one of two available two-way slots, and York, Boatwright, Stockton and Deividas Sirvydis joining on training camp deals.