For A Weekly Dose of Pacers Positivity, I will bring a short column that highlights something about this team that gives me hope. The season is long. We need to focus on the positives whether in the midst of a winning streak or the depths of a rough patch. This week, I wanted to think about work.
The Pacers are losing, and in this losing streak, I wanted to refocus on a collective team trait that gives me hope: work ethic. Warning: In the few words below, you will not find statistics. Instead, you will see what I think about when first quarter deficits grow, the team is lost on both ends of the floor, and I learn a certain player’s knee is still sore.
Four anecdotes from this season that give me hope:
- Oladipo’s summer workouts. Victor Oladipo transformed his body in Miami, shedding 20 pounds while gaining strength, which seems paradoxical. Listening to his interviewwith HOT 97, I was impressed with his routine: two morning workouts, 1000 jumpshot makes (“at least”), and then 5v5. What!? He has mentioned that playing with Westbrook changed his mind about how he needed to prepare himself. It’s showed. The Pacers are different team when he is on the floor.
- Joe Young’s sleeping bag. I love Joe Young. He is in his third year, is getting a bit more playing time, and has maintained his drive to succeed in the NBA. He literally leaves it all on the court–he sleeps there sometimes, waking up to make a few hundred shots. But he has always been strong offensively. I’ve been more impressed by his willingness to become a peskier defender, something he has to become in order to earn his next contract. I like to think of his game early in the season against the Bulls at home. During that game, he changed the intensity in his first possession, drawing an offensive foul on Kris Dunn. He knows he has to do more than score(good for him getting that first 20-point scoring game of his career recently)–his dedication to the defensive side of the ball is showing.
- Myles Turner and late nights. When Myles has tough games, he knows it, and he wants to do something to remedy that feeling that comes afterward as soon as he can. After his bomb of a performance against Minnesota, he spent hours by himself shooting. Darren Collison joined him later in the evening to check on his teammate. Turner puts a lot of pressure on himself, and he should. He is a lottery pick who is expected to be a consistent starter and face of the franchise. When he isn’t, I’m glad he doesn’t brush it off. I’m glad it bothers him and he works.
- Alex Poythress making it. After bouncing around the G-League and earning short contract stints with the Pacers and 76ers, Poythress has signed his first guaranteed NBA contract, with a second-year team option. I’m always happy when four-year college players with talent who have battled injuries and persisted through lower levels of play make it to the NBA officially. I see Poythress as a Thad-like power forward: undersized, but with a good nose for the ball and the ability to hit threes at a decent rate. The Pacers have drafted well, but they have not necessarily shown they have developed fringe players well–Poythress’s growth shows a good step in that direction.
So, the next time you attend or tune into a game and things begin to go poorly, think of one of these stories. Likewise, if something is going well, know it’s because of the work this team puts in, day and night.