Indianapolis • It’s not really a surprise to Trevor Booker that he’s changed teams this season. Though he had never done it before, he figured from the outset that the eighth year of his career might well be the one when he got traded.
He did get traded. But then he got bought out. Now with the Indiana Pacers (37-27), Booker is getting ready to play for his third team this season after stints with the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.
As Booker wrapped up shootaround Wednesday morning ahead of a game against another of his former teams, the Jazz, he said he was still trying to learn the plays, the calls and everything else he has to know with 18 games remaining in the regular season.
“It’s definitely a lot of learning this season,” he said. “To be on three teams in one year is something different for me, but I’m definitely embracing it, and my teammates are making it easy.”
Averaging 6.1 ppg. and 4.7 rpg. this season, Booker has long been known in the league as a tough guy. New teammate Al Jefferson told reporters that Booker once gave him a gash that needed stitches — prompting Booker to joke if he had been a Pacer all season, Jefferson would’ve needed more.
But that role of physical bench forward is one almost every team needs. And while it will take a while for Booker to full get into the rotation, coach Nate McMillan said his likely playoff-bound team can use his skill set.
“We like his physicality, his versatility to really be able to guard one through five,” McMillan said. “Certainly brings rebounding to the floor which is something we’ve stressed this whole season as an area we need to improve on. And he’s a veteran — he’s a guy who can give minutes.”
Against the Jazz, Booker is expected to give 10 or so of those minutes. He said teammates have helped smooth his transition, particularly first-round draft pick T.J. Leaf.
The Pacers are attempting to stay in position for a top-4 seed and home court advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs. So there are stakes as Indiana attempts to clinch a season sweep over the Jazz, who are scrapping for a playoff berth in a crowded Western field.
Booker always relishes a chance to take on Utah, where he spent two seasons under coach Quin Snyder. In his last visit at Vivint Smart Home Arena, he was T’d up for jawing with Snyder and Joe Ingles — but there’s no malice there.
“It’s always fun to play against your former teammates and former coach — it brings a little extra hype,” he said. “Quin is my guy. We still stay in touch. I think that’s something we’ll always do. He was a great coach for me, he taught me a lot about the game and, you know, it’s all love.”