Scot Pollard was one of the first Indiana Pacers veterans to report to Conseco Fieldhouse this month. He came in 10 pounds lighter, too.
Personal circumstances demanded the early and agile arrival, but the reserve center/forward hopes it's the first step toward regaining the playing time and pride that was lost last season.
"Hopefully it's a fresh start," Pollard said. "We'll see if things change a little bit."
Pollard is eager for that. After starting the first two games last season, he wound up playing in just 61 and averaging 1.7 points. It was his least-productive season since he was a rookie in Detroit in 1997-98 and hardly what he had in mind after five solid seasons as a backup in Sacramento.
Hoping for an enhanced opportunity, he instead felt out of place in the Eastern Conference, out of synch in a slower-paced offense and out of favor playing behind Jeff Foster and Jermaine O'Neal.
He acknowledged that in his season exit interview with team president Larry Bird, and wouldn't have been surprised to be traded. The Pacers' decision to take yet another center, David Harrison, with their first-round draft pick in June cast further doubt on his status.
Pollard would have had mixed feelings about a trade. He has two years left on his contract, but the collective-bargaining agreement expires next summer. Should a lockout occur, this could be his best opportunity to prove himself worthy of the $5.8 million he will earn in the upcoming season.
On the other hand, he considers Indianapolis an elite NBA city. He is more comfortable here than in Sacramento, where he felt a spotlight followed him everywhere he went, and considers it a good place for his family.
"Half of me is going, 'I love living here and don't want to leave,' and the other half is going, 'I've got to get on the damn court,'" he said.
That will be a challenge. Foster and O'Neal return, and coach Rick Carlisle isn't likely to depart drastically from the approach that won 61 games last season. Shaquille O'Neal's trade to Miami in the Eastern Conference brings a small degree of hope, since Pollard -- the Pacers' heaviest veteran -- got most of his opportunities last season against the bigger centers.
Pollard wants to be more than just a niche player, however, trotted out against bigger bodies. That's why he is trying to flow with the favorable winds of fate heading into training camp.
He had to return to Indianapolis early from his offseason home in Lawrence, Kan., because his oldest daughter was starting first grade. He wasn't trying to lose weight, but 10 pounds came off during a family vacation cruise for reasons he doesn't understand, dropping him to the 265 pounds he carried in college at Kansas University.
Pollard has a natural nonconformist bent, but not to the extreme of refusing opportunity. He has been on the fieldhouse practice court most of the month for what has amounted to an extended session of show-and-tell with the coaches. Last season they were as new to the team as he was and everyone got acquainted on the fly. Now he believes he has shown them things they didn't know he had.
A midrange jump shot, primarily.
"That's been a pleasant surprise," associate head coach Mike Brown said. "We think he can step out and hit that 15-foot shot on a regular basis."
Pollard hopes to get the chance. Until then, all he can do is keep working on making an impression.
"Not that I'm trying to wow 'em, but I'm thinking, 'I'm here, why sell out?'" he said.