INDIANAPOLIS — Malcolm Brogdon always admired how the Indiana Pacers played from his first three years in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks.
“They’re an epitome of a tough team, of a team that actually exceeds expectations every year,” Brogdon said. “People sort of put them in one category, and they end up being far better. They end up winning far more games.”
As one of several key new additions to the Pacers this season, Brogdon wants to add toughness and leadership, beginning Wednesday when Indiana opens its season at Bankers Life Fieldhouse against the Detroit Pistons (7 p.m., Fox Sports Indiana).
Acquired in a July trade with the Bucks for two second-round picks and a future first-round pick, Brogdon will get a chance to show he can handle being a starting point guard in the NBA full time after being a combo guard with the Bucks.
“It’s definitely a role change, but it’s a role change that I’ve played before,” Brodgon said. “I played it a little bit in Milwaukee. I’m more comfortable with that than how I’ve previously played.”
Pacers coach Nate McMillian is more than comfortable with Brogdon having the ball in his hands and running the offense.
“He’s a throwback in the sense of how he plays the game, how he thinks the game at that point guard positon,” said McMillian, a former NBA point guard from 1984-96 with the Seattle Super Sonics. “He understands that position and how it should be played. The extension of that point guard and the connection that point guard and coach has, or should have, we already know that with him. You can — not sit back — but you can allow this guy to run the team.”
Brogdon spent the offseason studying point guards like Pistons Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas on film to understand the balance between scoring at the position and being a playmaker.
“This is really for me a mindset change,” Brogdon said. “I’m versatile. I have the skill set, for me, sort of shifting from a scoring-dominant mentality to a passing mentality to a finding my teammates but also attacking and being aggressive.”
Brogdon gradually improved as a scorer in Milwaukee, going from averaging 10.2 to 13 to 15.6 points in his first three seasons. Defense has been Brogdon’s calling card since college. He was the ACC’s co-defender of the year at Virginia in 2014-15, and the 6-foot-5, 229-pounder is looking forward to the challenge of defending the position night in, night out at the NBA level.
“People say, ‘He’s not going to be able to guard quick guys. He’s not going to be able to guard the small point guards,’ ” Brogdon said. “I just want people to wait and see and just stop all the talk, just wait and see.”
While the Pacers play the waiting game with all-star guard Victor Oladipo, who is back playing five-on-five and appears ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation from a torn knee tendon, Brogdon will have to help shoulder some of the offensive load. The Pacers also added former Phoenix Suns combo forward T.J. Warren in a draft day trade and signed shooting guard Jeremy Lamb as a free agent to help early in the season until Olapido returns to the court.
Brogdon is looking forward to establishing chemistry with Olapido in the backcourt when the former Indiana University standout returns. Brogdon thinks the duo can become the best defensive backcourt in the NBA and one of the best offensive backcourts.
“We both, me and Vic, have a mutual respect for each other, he being an all-star and me being a guy that hopes to be there someday but also is coming here to help him win,” Brogdon said. “So I think we’re on the same page.”
Off the court, Brogdon took delight in watching his alma mater win an NCAA title last April and wasn’t surprised his former coach, Tony Bennett, donated his raise back to the university.
“It was an amazing gesture, but that’s who Coach Bennett is,” Brogdon said. “The nation and the world is seeing what he’s really about.”
Brogdon is looking forward to helping the community as he continues to get established as a player with the Pacers.
“I’m definitely going to dive in the community here,” Brogdon said. “I think there’s a lot of need in the Midwest as a whole but also in cities like Milwaukee, cities like Indianapolis, whether it’s the minority populations, whether it’s the clean water issues, and I think there’s all types of stuff that’s going to appeal to me.”