Following his first season in Indiana, Chris Copeland is a man on a mission. He stuck around Indy (unlike most of his teammates), works out at Bankers Life Fieldhouse daily, and has shed 20 pounds.
“I’ve dropped major weight trying to make myself a different player for next year,” Copeland said last month. “I’m excited. I haven’t worked this hard in a long time so I’m excited about next year and that’s what I’m focused on.”
A different player in what way, you might be wondering. So was I.
“Speed,” he quickly answered. “I want to be lighter, more agile. I think that’ll help on defense.”
His defense was a secondary factor for him being kept to the bench. The primary factor, which he couldn’t have foreseen when he signed with the Pacers last July, was the addition of veteran Luis Scola. That dropped Copeland to third on the depth chart at power forward with David West as the starter.
“My job is to stay ready and when my number is called, to go out and play,” Copeland said back in April. “If (coach Vogel) wants me to play, I’ll play. If I don’t, I’ll cheer my teammates on. It’s not about me … and whatever coach says, I believe in. I trust coach.”
While he is extremely humble and says all the right things, he was understandably frustrated that he rarely was able to make the walk to the scorer’s table and throw off his warm-ups to head into the game. He played in just 41 games and averaged 6.5 minutes per game, less than half of his average mark in New York, 15.4, the year before. Like any true competitor, he wanted to play and contribute.
So this offseason he’s locked in, dropping weight and working on his defense. He thought the negativity regarding his defense was overblown and that it wasn’t as bad as perceived.
“I need to become a better defender,” he understands though, “and I think adding speed will help make me better offensively and defensively.”
Ever since Copeland signed with the Pacers, he’s been all-in. Instead of a standard apartment downtown like many of his teammates, he went after a house “because I don’t plan on going anywhere for a while.” So far this summer, he’s went back to New York and traveled a few places. However, he’s spent the majority of his time in Indianapolis – and working out.
A couple weeks ago, he played in the first Knox Indy Pro Am session of the summer. Despite having trouble finding the place, he arrived just before halftime and dropped 24 points in 23 minutes. Not bad. He recently played in the Indiana Showcase Summer League and is constantly playing pickup ball with local guys who play overseas.
Almost a year (August 2nd) removed from a minor left knee scope, Copeland said it’s “no problem at all. My legs have never felt better.”
Pacers President Larry Bird has made his feelings known this offseason that he would like coach Frank Vogel to utilize his bench differently. More specifically, he wants the hot hand to left in and the rotations not to be so strict.
Many times offseason goals are set my those making the decisions, especially the coach. But Copeland said this one was all him. It’s a personal challenge — and more so an effort to do something that’ll make him more effective on the floor and hopefully lead to more playing time.
“I started to trim up during the last month (of the season) and I started feeling better even though I didn’t play a lot so people couldn’t really see it,” he said. “During workouts and whatnot, I felt good and I decided to be a little more extreme, see what that feels like. And I feel good. I like the way my body is starting to look and I think there’s going to be a point where I might want to add more the right way throughout the summer.”
Now he recently weighed in at 220 pounds.
“This is about right,” Copeland said. “I might slim up a little bit more but I’m going to test this throughout the summer and I feel very light. I don’t know if that’s going to hurt me in the post so I’m trying to figure out what’s a good weight but I have some time to figure it out.”