No Indiana Pacers player wore No. 2 the first 18 years the franchise existed.
Now many have, including newly signed free agent Rodney Stuckey, who will be the ninth to try it on for size when the team opens its regular season in October.
Even if Stuckey’s traditional No. 3 weren’t being used by starting point guard George Hill, chances are the former Detroit Piston combo guard likely would have opted for something else.
“I’m going to wear No. 2 because it’s a fresh start. Second time around,” said the soft-spoken Stuckey, a seven-year NBA veteran who met with local media for the first time Monday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
“In high school I was No. 32, and when I went to college I moved to ‘3.’ And obviously when I was in Detroit I went back to No. 3. A number’s a number to me.”
The NBA is a numbers business, whether it’s scoring averages, victory totals or contract negotiations.
Indiana became acquainted with that last week when it lost free-agent guard Lance Stephenson to the Charlotte Hornets for a three-year deal worth $27 million.
It’s believed Stuckey, along with 6-6 swingman C.J. Miles, signed to a four-year deal by Indiana on July 11, will help soothe the sting of losing Stephenson while at the same time making the Pacers deeper.
Stuckey is coming off a season in which he averaged 13.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists for Detroit. His career-high is the 16.6 scoring norm in 2009-10. He averaged a career-best 3.8 boards that same season and 5.2 assists the following season.
If there is an intangible, it’s hunger.
As a Pistons rookie in 2007-08, Stuckey helped the franchise record a 59-23 record and ultimately advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, where it lost in six games to Boston.
The following season, Detroit finished 39-43 and was swept by Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs. It hasn’t caught a whiff of the postseason since.
These past five NBA seasons have been lean times for Stuckey with the Pistons well below also-ran status — 140-254 (.355) from 2009-14. Moreover, he played for six different head coaches in his seven seasons.
“I hate losing. It’s never fun when you’re losing, especially when you have to go through it for 82 games. I think if you win, everyone looks good. You’ve just got to take every situation and have fun with it and live in the moment,” Stuckey said.
“I’m excited. I needed this fresh start. I think it’s all going to be for good, and I’m just ready to get started with these guys and compete.”
Stuckey is spending his offseason working out in his hometown of Seattle.
Provided a key to the high school he led to a Class 4A state championship in 2004 (Kentwood), Stuckey is working out twice a day to prepare for this new beginning in Indiana.
He admits this means a continuous cycle of perimeter jump shots. After all, he converted only 27 percent of his 3-point attempts with Detroit last season and has finished five of his seven seasons under 30 percent.
He’s deadly at the free-throw stripe with an .828 career average with a best of .866 in 2010-11.
Exactly how the Miles-Stuckey dynamic works is up to Pacers coach Frank Vogel and his assistants. Both players can put the ball in the basket, hound defensively and distribute.
Stuckey doesn’t have a preference. He misses winning and looks forward to doing so again regardless of what role he plays.
“Whatever they want me to do. If it’s to come off the bench or to start, I’m open to do whatever. I’m not going to have a problem fitting in with these guys. I’m very humble. I’m laid-back. I’m very respectful, and I think we’re all going to get along with each other very well,” he said.
“I still have room to grow (as a player). Hopefully, with this year I’ll be able to show that. Winning. Playoffs. That’s what I want to do. That’s what I’m all about. I want to experience that again. It’s not fun having the whole summer to do nothing.”