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NBA Fastbreak: Pacers and Malcolm Brogdon continue to impress

Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon brings the ball upcourt during a game against the Hornets earlier this season.
Guard Malcolm Brogdon has continued to impress this season after leaving Milwaukee for Indiana.
(Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

Thirty-five times teams had the chance to draft Malcolm Brogdon and each time teams made other choices.

You’d think this wouldn’t bother him, four years and a new $85-million contract later, but here he is in the visiting locker room in Atlanta, bringing it up after his new team, the Indiana Pacers, won again.

“I was told I wasn’t athletic enough. I was told I was a tweener,” Brogdon said. " I wasn’t a real shooting guard. I wasn’t a real point guard. I wouldn’t be able to guard anybody. I was told everything under the sun.

“My mission, every day I play in the NBA, is to prove people wrong and show them how good I am.”

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Given the chance to be the Pacers’ unquestioned leader while All-Star guard Victor Oladipo continues his recovery from a ruptured quadriceps tendon, Brogdon has helped the Pacers begin the season 17-9, putting them squarely in middle of the pack of Eastern Conference contenders chasing the Milwaukee Bucks.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan said getting Brogdon away from Bucks star and reigning most valuable player Giannis Antetokounmpo and into a situation where he could be a primary ballhandler was a big reason the Pacers were able to land him this offseason.

“I think he’s trying to grow his game because that was taken away from him,” McMillan said. “He feels he’s a point and he wants to run his own team and I think part of that was the reason he signed with us, to get to the point where he could run a team and lead a team. That combination of both he and Victor going into the future was attractive to him.”

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Oladipo’s return from injury isn’t imminent, even though he’s practicing without restrictions.

Without him, Brogdon has been terrific, averaging a career-best 19.5 points, 7.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game.

When Oladipo gets back, probably sometime in January, the Pacers will have to make changes. As Brogdon said, there might even be some bumps along the way. But once the Indiana backcourt gets locked in, the possibilities for the Pacers multiply.

“It’s definitely a challenge. But I think it’s going to be a challenge that makes us better,” Brogdon said. “Bringing him back on is only going to take us to another level or two.”

Hating or Waiting?

While the Lakers keep racking up wins, including an impressive comeback one Friday in Miami, scouts around the league are still a little skeptical.

The biggest worry is about the Lakers’ long-term sustainability.

Though nothing seemed to go right for Vince Carter during his workout with the Toronto Raptors before the 1998 draft, he forged an incredible career.
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“How long can they keep this up?” one rival scout asked. “Do they not believe in load management?”

People point to LeBron James’ minutes, which are only a tick down from where they were last season, and to a usage rate that’s as high as it has been since he was 25.

For now, any talk about the Lakers’ stars resting has solely been talk.

Tip-ins

James Harden’s scoring binge isn’t showing any signs of slowing down after back-to-back 50-point games this week pushed the Houston Rockets star’s scoring average up near 40 points per game. There are tons of crazy stats, but here’s a good one: Of the 92 50-point performances in the last 10 seasons, Harden has had 23 of them. Twelve of those 50-point games have come since Jan. 1, 2019. … After losing Kemba Walker in free agency, the Charlotte Hornets are where they were a year ago, in the mix for one of the final playoff spots in the East. The biggest reason for the lack of drop-off? Second-year guard Devonte’ Graham, who is averaging 19.9 points and 7.6 assists after spending most of last season shuttling between the NBA and the G League. … Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox could be back this week after missing the last month with an ankle injury. Sacramento has gone 8-8 without him.


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