Kyle O’Quinn signs with Pacers, expects to be positive influence in the locker room

Kyle O'Quinn, Pacers

LAS VEGAS — Kyle O’Quinn put ink to paper Monday morning at the St. Vincent Center in Indianapolis. He made his one-year deal with the Pacers, worth $4.5 million, official and then told reporters how he looked forward to joining a winning culture.

O’Quinn, a 28-year-old center, can expect to be the Pacers’ fifth big. That was the role of Al Jefferson in each of the last two seasons, but the Pacers elected to go younger and cheaper with that position for the 2018-19 season. Despite being on the hook for $4 million in guarantees for Jefferson, who will soon play in China.

Jefferson, who was voted by the guys in the locker room as the Pacers Teammate of the Year in 2017, did most of his work without breaking a sweat. He was a willing mentor, leader, and helpful veteran that every locker room needs. O’Quinn is coming to compete, but he’s also there to be a positive influence.

“We talked to him and interviewed him about our roster. We felt he could play that role that we got from Al,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan told Monday afternoon. “He’s still a guy that can play and he’s going to be our fifth big. He’ll get the opportunity to play, but we do have some bigs that we are developing and we want to make sure that we get those guys some minutes.”

The Pacers’ primary bigs are starters Thad Young and Myles Turner, plus budding star Domantas Sabonis. T.J. Leaf will be entering his second season and the team knows that he needs the game reps. O’Quinn, who played four years of college ball at Norfolk State, could step in against traditional bigs, using his 6-foot-10, 250-pound size, if a teammate is in foul trouble, or if they just want a change of pace.

The Pacers went 48-34 last season, the Knicks were 29-53.

“We talk about our culture here and Kyle fits it perfectly,” Pacers President Kevin Pritchard said. “Not only is he a good, solid player, he’s an outstanding person who will help us on the floor and in the locker room. When I met with him last week I was very impressed with his professionalism and thrilled with his desire to be a part of what we are building here.”

O’Quinn played two seasons in Orlando with Victor Oladipo (2013-15), and 55 games this past season with Doug McDermott in New York. The Jamaica, New York native averaged 7.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game off the bench for the Knicks last season.

[Photo: PS&E]

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