Ep. 73: Damien Wilkins

Damien Wilkins was released by the Pacers one week ago, just before his contract became guaranteed for the rest of the season. What he did, earning a roster spot, and the impact he was able to have with the Pacers in a little more than four months was special.

Here’s a sample from starting center Myles Turner on Wilkins no longer being on the team:

[sigh] “… That one hit me home a little bit. For him, it wasn’t like a surprise or a low blow, so I respect that from the organization, but as far as me and him – he just talked to me all year. He’s seen this game a lot over the past years. He just wants me to be the best version of myself I can be. A lot of that is just the mental aspect of it and that’s one thing he helped with me a lot.”

Wilkins turned 38 years old last Thursday, and more than half of the team made it to a surprise celebration.

His story is a good one, returning to the NBA for the first time since 2013 after stops in Beijing, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the G League. That last game in 2013, he got the start while with Philadelphia — and coincidentally it came at Bankers Life Fieldhouse against the Pacers.

Last Friday (Jan. 12), I sat down with Damien and his fiancé, Jasmine, for more than an hour to reflect on his time in Indy and his unique career path.

“It’s been crazy, man. But I wouldn’t write the story any different. If I had a chance to write it, I wouldn’t write it any different. And I feel like the past four years, being away from it, this year has made all of that worth it.

“The story is far from ending.”

In what may have been in final game with the Pacers, on January 6, 2018 against the Chicago Bulls, Wilkins started at the last minute and finished with a season-high 11 points and two rebounds in 22 minutes.

“This has been one of the best half years of my career. It has absolutely been amazing.”

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I welcome your questions and comments @ScottAgness on Twitter or via email.

Topics Discussed:

  • Teammates surprising him at birthday party
  • The awkwardness of knowing he was going to be waived — but none of his teammates did
  • His impact on the locker room, and specifically on Myles Turner
  • His Ray Allen story, and getting to the gym three hours early
  • The strengths of playing for a coach who played in the NBA
  • His experience playing overseas: in Beijing, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico
  • Why he sits next to the coaches during games, and whether coaching or working in a front office is in his future
  • What it meant to be a Pacer and play in Indianapolis [51:50]
  • What’s next for him

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