Glenn Robinson III coming into his own

ORLANDO, Fla. — Everything gets easier with experience and Glenn Robinson III has shown that to be the case for him two games into Summer League. This is his third year playing and last time around he was with the Atlanta Hawks.

GRIII walked and talked like a Summer League veteran.

GRIII walked and talked like a Summer League veteran.

“It gets easier, you start to learn the game and things start to slow down. Coming out here my rookie year, it seemed like the pace was so much faster,” Robinson III said Sunday.

He has scored 16 points each in the first two games, the latest a 80-70 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. After winning every quarter in their first game, they failed to take even one in Game No. 2. They shot 41.7 percent and were just 3-for-14 from range.

“We missed too many foul shots and we missed too many open jump shots, too, today,” said Summer League coach Popeye Jones. “I think that had a lot to do with our legs. We just seemed flat right from the get-go on both ends of the floor.”

Most of the highlights in this one centered around Robinson III. He was 6-of-10 from inside the arc but just 1-for-6 beyond it.

“I thought today he missed some shots early and he wasn’t as aggressive,” Jones said. “We’ll keep harping on him to stay aggressive. We all know that’s what tends to happen to young players, that they miss a couple of jump shots and then they get hesitate to shoot the ball.”

This summer, team officials have said that they want more playmakers and guys with higher basketball IQs on the roster. Georges Niang clearly checks both boxes and Robinson III is also in the mix. Those two clearly had a connection Sunday, finding one other throughout the game like they read each other’s thoughts.

“He’s a smart, smart guy. Smart player,” GRIII said of the rookie. “His basketball IQ is really high. I think that we really kind of think alike with those back cuts. I like playing with him. When he gets it, he swings it and he’s good at getting to the second action.”

That second action often resulted in an off-ball player cutting to the rim and then converting a layup, like Niang, who scored six points.

[VIDEOS: Jones, Robinson III, and Shayne Whittington after Game 2]

With Solomon Hill leaving in free agency, there are minutes at the wing spot available — but whomever takes those minutes must be good at both ends, not just on the offensive side of things. Especially with Al Jefferson being brought into the fold.

“He knew coming in here that he was going to always have the toughest wing matchup,” Jones said of Robinson III, who has averaged 29 minutes per game. “So far, he’s doing OK. I thought yesterday he kind of got overextended on some closeouts and got blown by. Coach (Dan) Burke showed him some film from the game yesterday and I thought he did a better job today.”

In his first year with the Pacers last season, Robinson III was in the rotation for the first few months of the season but then those minutes went to Hill, who on July 2nd agreed to join New Orleans on a deal worth north of $48 million. GRIII appeared in 45 games and averaged 3.8 points and 1.5 rebounds per game. He shot 43 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from deep.

Teammate Shayne Whittington, who turned in 12 points and seven rebounds in their loss to Charlotte, has seen noticeable differences in Robinson III’s game over the last year.

“He was 21 years old back then, he was still an old pup,” Whittington said. “He’s only 22 at the moment and he’s going to be a heck of a player. He’s definitely coming into his own now.”

It’s all coming together, almost looking effortless in these two Summer League games. He by far looks to be playing the loosest out there, and I don’t mean loose as in out of control.

Robinson III is assigned the toughest matchup in these games and has done well, but not great … yet.

“I’ve always been a type of guy who can play both sides of the court. That’s been a big key and what the coaches are looking at and expect out of me,” he said of his defensive play. “I think even more important is that I’m just being aggressive, staying aggressive offensively and defensively — even though some of my shots haven’t been going in.”

Pacers executives Kevin Pritchard, Larry Bird, and Peter Dinwiddie ... plus Mad Ants GM Brian Levy and Pro Scout Vance Catlin.

Pacers executives Kevin Pritchard, Larry Bird, and Peter Dinwiddie … plus Mad Ants GM Brian Levy and Pro Scout Vance Catlin.

His contract for next season is not fully guaranteed. The team liked him going back to the 2014 when he was drafted in the second round by Minnesota. Last summer, the Pacers signed him to a three-year deal with only a year-plus guaranteed. If he’s still on the roster by August 1, and that is expected, he’s guaranteed the full $1.1 million for the 2016-17 season.

“We expect him to be very good on the defensive end and he can score the ball,” Larry Bird said after signing him. “We look forward to seeing him improve throughout the year.”

Robinson III also aspires to be like teammate Paul George, in how he has become one of the best two-way players in the game. He has the athleticism, he has the knowledge and the work ethic, now it’s time to see the product from all of that.

“I like to say I’m going to be a complete player as much as possible but this is the first time I’m learning things and going through things. I think that’s a big reason why Summer League is big for me just because (at) Michigan they stuck me at the four and was like, ‘Go battle down there and knock down open shots.’

“But now, being at wing, I can be more aggressive and play my game, get some (isolation) plays and work within the system. I think I’m really growing as a player and having to learn really quick so I think that’s good for me.”

Joe Young Struggles Through Game 2

Mighty Joe Young, meanwhile, was unusually slow and not himself Sunday. Remember that hard fall after a left-handed slam? Well he’s still hurting from it.

Trainers have diagnosed it as a bruise in the muscle of his tailbone.

When the coaching staff left it up to him whether or not he played on Sunday, of course he played.

“I guess now thinking about it, we probably should have held him out,” coach Jones shared, “but Joe’s a competitor and he wanted to play, and he said, ‘Hey, I’m ready to go.’

Young started and played 22 minutes. But after being the Summer League’s top scorer after Day 1, he finished with a quiet six points, three rebounds, and three assists — and the Pacers were a team-worth minus-16 with him on the floor. That’s unusual.

“You could see he didn’t have a lot of movement not only offensively, but we know he’s not great defensively but he was really not good defensively,” Jones continued. “Seemed like he was peeping for screens on middle pick-and-rolls and playing from behind a lot.”

Roster Plan Not Yet Finalized

Most times before heading down to Orlando, the Pacers have shared their intention to sit players sure to make the roster after two or three games. They did that last year with first-round pick Myles Turner and Young, their second-round pick.

Popeye Jones says the coaching staff has not yet finalized how they’ll distribute minutes but he does want to make sure everyone gets time to show what they can do.

“I told the guys before we started that it is going to be tough to play all 14 every night. Whenever your number is called, be ready, whether it’s 10 seconds or whether it’s five minutes, ten minutes. There’s an old saying, ‘Work Your Minutes.'”

Through two games, 12 of the 14 guys brought down here have played. The two who haven’t: Joel James and Jamari Traylor. (James’ college coach, UNC’s Roy Williams, sat on the baseline near their bench for Sunday’s game.)

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