The Eastern Conference's top team just got more imposing.
On Saturday, the Pacers added size and scoring punch to their roster by signing mercurial free agent center Andrew Bynum for the rest of the season. Team officials did not release additional details about the contract and said Bynum was expected to join the team sometime next week.
"We are obviously happy to have him join our team," Larry Bird said in a statement issued by the team less than 12 hours before Indiana hosted Brooklyn on Saturday night.
"He gives us added size, he is a skilled big man and he has championship experience. With the minutes he gets, he should be a valuable addition."
Adding a guy with Bynum's mercurial reputation to a locker room as selfless as the Pacers is definitely a gamble, though likely a low-risk one since Bird, the Pacers president of basketball operations, has made it clear the Pacers would not pay the NBA's luxury tax and Indiana had an open spot on its roster.
But if Bynum performs as he did in helping the Lakers win back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010, it could create even more lineup mismatches against two-time defending champion Miami in the East.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel said the organization isn't concerned about Bynum's reputation.
"We like to judge people for ourselves, and we know what he can be as a basketball player," Vogel said before Saturday night's game. "We're going to see if he can regain that form, and if he can, you have one of the best centers in the NBA. And now you add him to the mix we already have, and you have two of the best centers in the NBA. The goal here is to insure ourselves against injury in terms of adding depth at the center position, which we needed to do. And there's potential to add an All-Star caliber player."
Pacers 97, Nets 96: Paul George and Roy Hibbert both had 20 points, and the Pacers overcame an early deficit to beat the Brooklyn Nets.
Lance Stephenson, left out of the All-Star game despite leading the NBA in triple-doubles, added 14 points for the Pacers (36-10), who improved the league's best home record to 22-2. David West had 17 points and George Hill scored 10.
Shaun Livingston had a season-high 24 points for the Nets, who couldn't hold an early seven-point lead against the Eastern Conference leaders.
Joe Johnson, an All-Star selection, spent much of the night dueling with Stephenson and scored 16 for Brooklyn, which has lost three straight since starting January with 11 wins in 12 games.
Pelicans 88, Bulls 79: Anthony Davis scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a victory over the Bulls.
Tyreke Evans added 11 points for the Pelicans, who have won four of their past five games.
D.J. Augustin scored 23 points; Taj Gibson added 17, and Joakim Noah had 14 for Chicago.
Davis also blocked six shots and the Pelicans dominated in the paint, outscoring the Bulls 50-34.
New Orleans led 50-39 at the half, and with Davis dominating the middle maintained a double-digit lead for most of the second half until the final minute.