Damien Wilkins proud of his time and impact with the Pacers

Damien Wilkins knew his fate by 2:00 pm on Saturday, five hours before the Pacers faced the Chicago Bulls at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

What he didn’t know was that he would start in his final game with the team.

Bojan Bogdanovic was a late scratch due to a sprained left ankle and head coach Nate McMillan wanted Lance Stephenson to resume playing with the second unit again after he had started in place of an injured Victor Oladipo the past four games.

So Wilkins not only played in his final game with the Pacers, but he also started. It was his first start since 2013 — with the Philadelphia 76ers, in Indianapolis of all places.

Wilkins met with President Kevin Pritchard and General Manager Chad Buchanan after practice on Sunday. Then, after more than an hour, he met with reporters before taking the elevator down to the first floor of the St. Vincent Center and walking to his car.

“I knew yesterday what was happening so it was long day yesterday, as you can imagine, to find out that news before I get to the gym. … It turned out to be a great night for our team and for me personally, it was amazing. I didn’t want the game to end. I just wanted to keep playing. I wish we could still be playing that game right now.

“It’s the business of it. It’s the beast of it. I’m proud of myself, though. I told KP [Pacers President Kevin Pritchard], coach, and those guys that. Coming from where I came from, so many people told me that this wasn’t going to happen for me and it did. I proved a lot of people wrong and proved myself right. In just the short time that I’ve been here — it’s been the absolute best. I can’t even really put it into words.

“It’s been an unbelievable feeling to have the impact that my teammates tell me that I have on them in that locker room, to be able to go there and be effective on the floor in the time that I’ve gotten the minutes to play, it’s been an unbelievable journey.

“I don’t say that to say the journey is over with, because it’s going to hard for me to say that one day, but the reality is that it’s getting close. I definitely wanted to finish this year out playing — and that’s not over with yet so I’m encouraged.”

(Watch Wilkins’ full comments below. It’s worth your time.)

Wilkins, who signed a one-year deal worth $1,471,382, was waived by the Pacers Sunday after practice. He was only guaranteed $25,000 in training camp, earned a roster spot for opening day, and made it 39 games.

He did not take a moment to address his teammates but said Saturday was an emotional night for him, knowing that he was going to be released, and for the team, having lost their previous five games.

“I just wanted to relish in the moment. I didn’t even want to revisit it emotionally or mentally, or verbally for that matter.

“… Honestly, that was the easiest game that I’ve ever played because at that point you kind of knew your fate, right? It was no pressure. Like I said, I just didn’t want it to end. It was so poetic to find out that I was starting and no one even knew that I knew.”

Wilkins plans to call every single guy tonight.

[Damien Wilkins and his fiancé are expecting a baby boy in May.]

By waiving him, the Pacers now have flexibility with one roster spot open. They could sign a second two-way player, sign a free agent, acquire a player via trade, or sign someone to a 10-day contract. If the Pacers don’t have anyone that they want to immediately bring in, a 10-day contract is a possibility for Wilkins. And something team officials mentioned to him.

In the meantime, Wilkins plans to remain in Indy for the next few weeks.

“I’m going to be here. I haven’t … I don’t know. I’ll probably sneak in the gym and be here at night when no one’s here. I’m in no rush to get home to Atlanta, except to watch the [Georgia] Bulldogs tomorrow.”

Wilkins played the most minutes of the season in two of the past three games, recording a season-high 27 minutes one week ago in a loss to Minnesota.

And then back to Saturday night, starting in place of Bogdanovic, he played 22 minutes. It was his most effective time on the floor this year. He reached double figures for the only time this year, scoring 11 points, and he had two rebounds, one assist, one block, and no turnovers.

“Hopefully [another last night’s performance]. Anyone who needs someone to make some corner threes – if you guys know of any, send them my way,” he said, playfully and sincerely.

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