By CHRIS GOFF
The Indiana Pacers are in exploratory talks with Chris Copeland, his agent informed IndySportsLegends.com.
As of early Wednesday morning, the Pacers had not submitted an offer to Copeland, a restricted free agent who spent last season with the New York Knicks. An ESPN reporter had tweeted late Tuesday that an “offer was on the table.” However, Copeland’s agent, John Spencer, told ISL that the two sides remain merely engaged in discussion.
The Pacers have no cap space to spend on free agents and are limited to using their midlevel exception of $5.15 million and a bi-annual exception worth up to $2.02 million. On Monday, the team reportedly reached a verbal agreement with free agent point guard C.J. Watson, though terms of the agreement were not leaked.
A 29-year-old reserve, Copeland averaged 8.7 points per game in 56 contests as a rookie. Known for his long hair and silky jump shot, the 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward scored 13 points in New York’s 85-75 win over the Pacers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Copeland followed that up with nine points in the series finale as Indiana advanced.
The Pacers’ .347 3-point field-goal percentage ranked them 22nd out of the 30 teams in the NBA. President of basketball operations Larry Bird likely sees Copeland, a 42.1 percent marksman from long range, as a potential solution to the deficit of outside shooting.
Copeland’s case is different from those of most restricted free agents. Because Copeland has only one season of NBA experience, and because the Knicks only have the mini-midlevel exception available to use on non-Bird free agents, a quirk in the CBA allows Indiana to sign Copeland to an offer sheet that New York cannot legally match. If the Pacers ink Copeland to an offer sheet which pays him more than $3.18 million next year, or if the offer sheet is for more than three seasons, Indiana is guaranteed to obtain his services.
Born in Orange, N.J., Copeland said earlier this summer that his desire was to remain in New York. Multiple teams in addition to the Pacers are said to be interested in acquiring the energetic sharpshooter.