When the Indiana Pacers signed Chris Copeland away from the New York Knicks this past offseason, it was thought that he would be used as a 3-point weapon. Instead, Copeland has become a permanent fixture on the bench and we are left wondering why the Pacers really signed him.
Out of the 25 games the Pacers have played so far this season, Copeland has appeared in 11 of them with an average of 6.5 minutes played. Most of those minutes came in garbage time. except for the two games that he played more than 10 minutes in. Perhaps the Luis Scola trade has something to do with Copeland’s absence from the rotation, or perhaps he was signed to keep him away from other Eastern Conference foes.
It’s not unheard of for teams to sign a player just to keep him away from other teams. The Knicks were a worthy opponent who could have held on to Copeland if no one had offered him a contract. Copeland came up big for the Knicks in the postseason against the Pacers last year, which made everyone wonder why Knicks head coach Mike Woodson left him on the bench.
However, there was a bigger foe that the Pacers would want to keep Copeland from joining: the Miami Heat. There were no rumors that Miami was looking to sign Copeland, but with the loss of Mike Miller, they needed to add another stretch-four who could hit threes. The Pacers knew the only way the Heat could beat them this year was with 3-point shooting, so signing and stashing Copeland could have been a move to keep one more sharpshooter off the Heat.
$6.135 million is a lot to make sure a player remains off the other top teams in the East, but the theory can’t be ruled out. The Pacers knew going in that Copeland was only viable as a 3-point shooter and wasn’t good for anything else. Maybe Copeland doesn’t fit the Pacers’ game plan anymore, or maybe he never did.