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How the Indiana Pacers can get to Kevin Pritchard’s suggested $20 million in cap space

Kevin Pritchard shared a lot of insight into the Indiana Pacers offseason plans after the NBA Draft last night.

The Pacers selected UCLA point guard Aaron Holiday and Missouri State forward Alize Johnson but Pritchard’s comments about the rest of the roster were much more interesting.

A couple of times Pritchard mentioned that the Pacers will have about $20 million in cap space on July 1 when free agency begins.

“Where we really get better is July 1,” said the Pacers President of Basketball Operations. “That’s what this is set up to, when we traded Paul and brought in Victor and Domas, part of that whole equation was being able to set up $20 million in cap space on July 1. I’m not saying we’re going to sign a guy. I think there could be uneven trades. A lot of of things could happen with that [space].”

Pritchard said that they had their sights on a specific player selected much earlier in the draft and had a few possible deals with teams by taking on a contract to move up, but that the deals were too “cost prohibitive.” Lots of teams like the Nuggets, Wizards and Timberwolves were rumored to be looking to unload a contract and move back in the first round but were unsuccessful in finding takers.

“I wanted flexibility to add a real player this summer July 1,” said Pritchard. He mentioned them wanting to stay disciplined and avoid taking on a bad contract now as they are about to get to their $20 million in cap space.

For the Pacers to get that $20 million number, there are a couple of ways that it could happen.

The salary cap is $101.2 million, so the Pacers would need to be near $81 million in total salary and cap holds to have a real $20 million in space. Let’s start with looking at who on the roster the Pacers are likely to keep and see how much we have left.

“Everything is so fluid but at the end of the day, we said our top six, seven guys we wanted to have back and then make additions,” Pritchard said after the draft.

The top six or seven guys are in all likelihood the following: Victor Oladipo ($21 million), Myles Turner ($3.4 million), Domas Sabonis ($2.6 million), Darren Collison ($10 million), Bojan Bogdanovic ($10.5 million), Cory Joseph ($7.9 million) and Thaddeus Young ($13.7 million).

Young is the likely “or seven” guy as he has a player option that he has not yet decided on. Pritchard confirmed that Cory Joseph has opted in officially and they’ve received the paperwork.

“We’ve had a few conversations with his agent, but at the end of the day it’s his decision,” Pritchard said of Young. “We’d like to have him back. We’d like to keep this core.”

Young seems a little unhappy with what the Pacers are willing to offer long term in a deal as he tweeted out a few things yesterday.

Based on these tweets, Thad seems to want to return to Indiana but he may be looking for a longer deal elsewhere if the Pacers aren’t willing to give him more security in a contract as he just turned 30 yesterday.

“I think he’s exploring what he can get, but we have no indication either way,” said Pritchard.

If he opts in, those seven players add up to $69.1 million.

Aaron Holiday ($1.9 million) and TJ Leaf ($2.4 million) are locks to be included on the Pacers roster.

Monta Ellis’s dead cap from his stretched out $2.2 million can added as well.

That’s 9 roster spots for a total of $75.6 million. For the Pacers to get $20 million in space, this total can only get up to $81 million.

That leaves the following players: Al Jefferson ($10 million only $4 million guaranteed), Lance Stephenson ($4.3 million team option), Joe Young ($1.6 million unguaranteed), Ike Anigbogu ($1.5 million), Alex Poythress ($1.3 million). There are also free agents Trevor Booker ($1.5 million cap hold) and Glenn Robinson III ($1.5 million cap hold).

Joe Young is almost guaranteed to be waived after the drafting of Holiday. Jefferson would have to be waived to stay under that mark but $4 million gets added to that total.

That puts the sum at $79.6 million.

The big question mark remaining would be fan favorite Lance Stephenson. His $4.3 million team option would not allow the Pacers to get to $20 million in space in this scenario. It’s possible that Pritchard was rounding up but including either Anigbogu and Poythress (or similarly cost against the cap that would come from their empty roster spot cap holds) that would push the total closer to $16 million in space if the holds were rescinded on Robinson and Booker.

Another way that the Pacers could get to that $20 million while keeping Thad Young is if they could come to an agreement on a deal in the range of 3 years, $30 million, which would save the Pacers $3.7 million in space this year and push them back up $20 million overall while keeping Stephenson. But the closer we get to Young’s decision date, it seems that either that’s not enough for Young or that the Pacers aren’t even willing to offer that. And the longer this takes, the more likely it seems that he could opt out with no long-term deal in place. His agent is likely gauging interest among other teams and seeing if he can find a better deal than whatever the Pacers are offering that Young is currently disappointed with.

If Young opts out and goes elsewhere, that’s $13.7 million in cap space that the Pacers gain, the Pacers would have about $20 million in space even without waiving Jefferson or anyone else if he opts out. So it’s possible that Pritchard’s $20 million was projecting if Young opted out, but it didn’t sound like it in context.

Pritchard wanting to keep the “top six or seven” players is an interesting number as it seems to cut the line right at Stephenson, who is probably number eight. It’s still highly possible that he’ll be back, but it doesn’t seem as guaranteed as you would think.

Stephenson is a good rotational player for Indiana at a cheap price, so if Pritchard decides to cut ties with the energetic, crowd-pleasing guard, he’ll have to have something lined up that he wants to use that space for. Simply cutting him and then coming up with nothing better to replace him with wouldn’t be a good look to the fanbase that just lost probably the second most popular player on the team.

One of those guys that Pritchard targets could be Marcus Smart, the Celtics restricted free agent, who has been rumored as a target for the Pacers since during the season.

Whatever happens, it should be an interesting few weeks as Pritchard scours the trade and free agent markets with a minimum of $10-16 million in cap space and a maximum of over $30 million.

“They wildly overachieved and they deserve to see if they can build on that,” said Pritchard. “It’s my job to add a few more players, a few more pieces that could help them get past the first round or make the playoffs.”

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Myles Turner is putting in the work on his body with pictures to prove it

If you follow Myles Turner on Instagram, you’ve seen his workout, hot yoga, and kickboxing routines for weeks on his story posts.

Today, Turner took to Twitter to show how the transformation of his body is going.

The caption here that Turner knows he’s still got a lot of work to do is probably the most encouraging part of his efforts.

He was inspired by a teammate’s half-joking, half-serious “soft” comment last season and started playing more physical and looks to be adding strength to make that type of play even easier for him next season.

At this point last season, it was Victor Oladipo posting pictures like this, so don’t underestimate the power of transforming your body (though it’d probably be smart to not set expectations too high either). It looks like Turner is taking the cue from the team’s best player.

If big changes are coming for the Pacers roster, it’ll happen before free agency

As the NBA draft approaches, there’s still a multitude of decisions on the horizon that will decide how similar the roster of the 2018-19 Indiana Pacers ends up being to last year’s chemistry-laden group.

The Pacers have to make decisions on the following key players and contracts this offseason (all numbers via Spotrac):

  • Darren Collison: $10 million for next season becomes fully guaranteed on 7/1, if the Pacers decide to waive him before that date, it’s only partially guaranteed for $2 million
  • Bojan Bogdanovic: $10.5 million for next season becomes fully guaranteed on 6/29, if the Pacers decide to waive him before that date, it’s only partially guaranteed for $1.5 million
  • Lance Stephenson: Team option of $4.36 million, decision date of 6/29
  • Glenn Robinson III: Unrestricted free agent
  • Al Jefferson: Only $4 million of the final year of his contract is guaranteed, doesn’t become fully guaranteed until during next season (though I’ve seen conflicting reports that his guaranteed date could be 7/2)

Add those to the two player options with Thaddeus Young, as of the latest rumors, may be considering opting out and testing the FA market while Cory Joseph was reported to be opting in for next season very early in May.

So three starters and one of the first players of the bench for last season’s squad all could  no longer be with the team next season. (There are also more players on the end of the bench like Joe Young, Ike Anigbogu and Alex Poythress that have decision dates for the team as their contracts become fully guaranteed this offseason as well, but all of those contracts are only around $1.5 million and a little inconsequential to the team’s overall outlook for next year).

It’s hard to imagine the Pacers simply cutting starters like Collison and Bogdanovic, who both probably just had their best NBA seasons, loose with no guarantee of an adequate replacement just to create cap space. Simply waiving them for the additional space would seem unwise for an Indiana franchise that has never had tremendous success in attracting free agents.

However, their pair of contracts are valuable trade assets for teams that are looking to create enough space to sign a free agent to a possible max contract, and this is the area, if Collison and Bogdanovic are no longer with Indiana next season, how it could possibly happen.

Since both players’ contracts become guaranteed before free agency begins (or on the same day in Collison’s case), a trade would have to happen before free agency for those teams wanting more cap space to be interested. Draft night would seem like the most obvious time for this to happen as picks could sweeten the pot for the Pacers as teams look to unload contracts. Indiana would seem unlikely to simply take on bad contracts with picks and would actually want players that can contribute next year to their emerging team that surprised the league last season.

If all is quiet and no rumors come out from the Pacers shopping these guys on draft night, they’ve probably decided they’ll be keeping as much of last year’s team together as possible for one more run.

With the recent report for ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski regarding Thad Young considering opting out and testing the free agent market, it would seem to be his agent putting pressure on the Pacers to offer a better long-term deal to keep Young around. He may prefer to be in Indiana if possible, but perhaps Pritchard doesn’t want to commit right now beyond that one season left on Thad’s contract, or Thad was hoping for far more money than the Pacers are willing to offer on a longer deal.

Since so many of the Pacers deals come off the books next season, it could be that Pritchard may want to see how this whole group does for one more season before committing to anyone beyond this upcoming year. The Pacers will have a ton of available space next year and Pritchard may want to keep as much of that as possible, especially if he likes next season’s crop of free agents.

With Lance Stephenson, I don’t know if it’s as guaranteed for the fan favorite to be back as you may think. Pritchard isn’t the one that gave Stephenson the contract as it was the final transaction of the Larry Bird era. And while Stephenson did a lot of good for the bench unit, finished many games with the starters and was always good for an energy burst, he also soaked up a lot of possessions that may have been better served going to other players on the roster on many occasions. I still think he’ll be back, but it wouldn’t shock me to see Pritchard decline his team option in order to look for more shooting and someone that doesn’t need the ball in their hands as much. This could even be giving a bigger role to Glenn Robinson III, if the Pacers still believe in his potential and want him back.

For Al Jefferson, it all depends on if the Pacers need the space to sign someone else during free agency. His locker room leadership was a reason Pritchard called him “perhaps the most important player on the team,” but paying $10 million to a guy that doesn’t play is a luxury that Indiana can’t afford if it costs them adding someone for the rotation. They’d save $6 million if they waived him.

Currently, it seems more likely that changes to the roster will be minimal. If Young opts out, that may be the biggest change as the Pacers could look elsewhere for a “true shooting 4” if a deal can’t be reach between the two. If Pritchard doesn’t trade away the first-round pick for a veteran player to possibly supplant Collison or Bogdanovic in the starting lineup, it’s hard to see the Pacers letting them go with no replacement signing already waiting in the wings.

If a lot of changes are coming for the Indiana Pacers next season, many of them will come within these next two weeks of June.

Victor Oladipo sings duet with Charles Barkley, talks Pacers on NBA on TNT

Victor Oladipo appeared on the NBA on TNT show as an analyst in place of Kenny Smith last night during the pre-game, halftime and post-game shows.

Oladipo discussed his breakout season with Indiana, the Pacers series with the Cavs, the Rockets/Warriors looming showdown (Dipo says Warriors in 7) and, in perhaps the most entertaining part of the night, sang a duet with Charles Barkley. The song choice was Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”

Continue reading Victor Oladipo sings duet with Charles Barkley, talks Pacers on NBA on TNT

Thad Young and the Pacers share desire for a return to Indiana

Thaddeus Young just had the defensive series of his life against Kevin Love and the Cavaliers, being the primary reason for Love’s struggles for the vast majority of that 7-game series. Will he try use this to cash in on free agency or return to the Pacers for at least one more season?

Young, one of the Indiana Pacers captains for the 2017-18 season, has a player option of just under $14 million for 2018-19.

“I know I have to make that decision by the end of June,” said Young of his player option in an interview with Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype, “but I haven’t made a final decision on what exactly I’m going to do yet.”

While he hasn’t made a commitment one way or another regarding that option, all signs from Young and the Pacers front office point towards a mutual feeling of wanting #21 back in the blue and gold for next season whether he opts in or not.

Continue reading Thad Young and the Pacers share desire for a return to Indiana

It doesn’t matter what Paul George does. The Pacers won the trade.

Whether or not Paul George stays in Oklahoma City, the Indiana Pacers already won the last summer’s blockbuster trade.

George could stay as a member of the Thunder as their GM Sam Presti felt “really encouraged” by his dialogue with him (doesn’t that sound familiar, Indiana?). Or, he could do what everyone expects and leave for the Lakers or some other team in free agency. We’ve already heard the rumblings that he’s “gone” as ESPN radio host Ryen Russillo said recently, but it doesn’t matter which way he ends up going. The Pacers are better off now than they would have been by keeping George, even a version of himself that wanted to stay.

No one is making jokes about the Pacers anymore (shout-out to the OKC Police Department, ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, who has deleted a tweet from early in the season that included a video from The Jump where she said it was ludicrous to say the Pacers were better off without George, and countless others. The Pacers silenced the critics and proved everyone wrong.

“If you don’t respect the Indiana Pacers now,” Victor Oladipo told reporters after the series against Cleveland, “then I have no respect for you.”

Oladipo’s first season in Indiana was better than George’s final one (both by individual and team success) and he’s two years younger. Oladipo will likely make an All-NBA team and an All-Defensive team this season and the city of Indianapolis has embraced him more than it ever did George.

Continue reading It doesn’t matter what Paul George does. The Pacers won the trade.

ESPN: Cory Joseph to exercise player option to return to Indiana Pacers

Cory Joseph will exercise his player option and be back with the Indiana Pacers for the 2018-19 season per Adrian Wojnarowski.

Joseph will make a shade under $8 million next season in the final year of his contract.

Yesterday, in the end-of-the-season press conference, Kevin Pritchard said that Joseph indicated he would like to be back next year and that his and Thad Young’s player options would be the first things that would start their decision process for building the roster for next year.

Joseph, who averaged 7.9 points, 3./ rebounds, 3.2 assists and one steal per game in a career-high 27 minutes per game, was an integral part of the Pacers success this season as both a backup point guard and while starting in place of Darren Collison while he was out after the All-Star break.

He inspired the coolest moment of the season with his steal and basket that inspired everyone on the floor and a few players from the bench to sprint over and help him up.

The next decision the Pacers will be waiting is Thad Young and his $13 million player option.

Indiana and Basketball: A Love Renewed

What has been the most exciting and fulfilling Pacers’ season in years has finally come to an end. What started with confusion, anger, and frustration towards a former player ended with young stars looking towards the future. Somehow losing the franchise’s arguably most talented player in history was a blessing in disguise.

A group primarily made of players who had been given up on or looked over their entire careers, just took one of the greatest players of all-time to the brink of elimination. But more than that, this group brought something back to the people of Indiana that had seemingly escaped this basketball-frenzy state. A sense of “togetherness” that captured the attention of Hoosiers from Elkhart to Evansville. A togetherness that is rare as in professional sports as the caliber of player that eliminated the Pacers in the first round.

What is this togetherness that has echoed the Pacers locker room since late last summer? It’s indescribable, but Hoosiers can sense it from a mile away. It’s a “we above me” mindset, it’s putting the team first and letting individual accolades come as they may. It’s about striving for something that seems out of reach, too good to be true, and not letting the challenge overtake the journey. It’s Victor Oladipo talking about this franchise as if it’s part of his immediate family. It’s Myles Turner’s resilience when the critics (me included) hounded him about his inconsistency. It’s the resolve of the entire team that seemed to always comeback from a double-digit deficit and at minimum make the game interesting. It’s Lance Stephenson’s… well I don’t know, but Lance was Born Ready and born to play basketball in Indiana. He loves the game like only a Hoosier can. It’s the moment when seemingly all 15 Pacer players rushed to help pick up Cory Joseph after driving to the hoop. Actually, let me correct that, it’s when Pacers fans across the state saw that moment and recognized it from memories past.

Cory Joseph
Photo by Pacers Sports and Entertainment

Maybe you recognized it from playing pick-up at your local park during a hot summer day in the Hoosier state. Maybe you recognized it from an Indiana high school sectional final during a brisk February night. Maybe you recognized it from your child’s YMCA league. But wherever you recognized it from, you knew one thing to be true, it was Indiana through and through.

For the past few years Pacer fans have had to do something that we are just not comfortable with. Balancing between supporting our hometown team that plays the sport that grew up here, while knowing that our star player, deep down, had no interest in being the hero we wanted and him to be. I did it, we all did it. We justified his attitude, made excuses for his comments to the press, and went above and beyond to make him feel wanted, and it wasn’t enough. We all remember that Woj notification last summer, “Paul George plans to leave Pacers”. The weeks of angst that followed and eventually the OKC trade that critics everywhere criticized until local police twitter accounts became pundits.

Close to a year later, no one is cracking jokes. The Pacers demanded everyone’s respect in their round one playoff series, they demanded your attention. Not because of their star power or their flashiness, but because of their togetherness. Their abilities and potential as a unit. The energy that connected Pacers fans with an energy and passion that had been dormant for too long. A rejuvenated spirit that only basketball can seem to bring to the state of Indiana. A sense of togetherness that goes beyond Oladipo and Turner, that moves through the young kids watching on TV or listening on the radio, that brings chills and goosebumps to those in the seats of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Yes, this Indiana team has started a new era of Pacers basketball, but more importantly, this group has brought basketball back to where it needs to be: front and center in the hearts and minds of Hoosiers everywhere.

Together, they have put the NBA on notice.

The Indiana Pacers are back, and so is basketball in Indiana.

Victor Oladipo contacted his off-season trainer just minutes after losing Game 7

“I don’t know how to take time off,” Victor Oladipo told a reporter after Game 7.

No kidding. About 16 minutes after the Pacers season ended with the Game 7 defeat to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Oladipo texted his trainer about getting started on his workouts.

“When do we start?” Oladipo texted the trainer. “I’m ready to take it to another level.”

His trainer posted the message on Instagram.

His off-season workouts last season were a huge part of his success this year. He started eating right, famously quitting his favorite food joint Popeyes, and got into the best shape of his life. The Indiana Pacers couldn’t be happier with the player that Oladipo has become this season and he’s never satisfied, always looking to improve.

“Honestly, I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of how good I can be,” he said after today’s game.

 

Can the Indiana Pacers rise above expectations one more time and dethrone LeBron James?

The Indiana Pacers were supposed to win 30 games this year. Every media outlet said so. Even Kevin Pritchard, the person who built this roster, admitted that their expectations were similarly low on the televised broadcast of Game 1 in this series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

They’ve been shocking everyone since the beginning of the season. Can they do it one more time in a road Game 7 against the best player in the world in LeBron James?

“We’re looking forward to it,” said Victor Oladipo of the deciding game after the Pacers blowout win in Game 6. “There’s nothing wrong with a little challenge. Obviously, it’s a big challenge ahead but we’re looking forward to the game.”

Oladipo has relished the challenges all season and has done it with impressive positivity. He’s become a franchise cornerstone, making his first All-Star team and setting career highs in basically every meaningful statistic, while claiming Indianapolis as his city and the fanbase has happily enjoyed the ride and embraced him completely.

Continue reading Can the Indiana Pacers rise above expectations one more time and dethrone LeBron James?

The Pacers resiliency is about to get its ultimate test

The Indiana Pacers have put pride in their resiliency since the beginning of the season.

They’ve set an NBA record for most comebacks from down 15+ points in a season but can they comeback from a 3-2 deficit against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers after a heartbreaking Game 5 loss?

They have reasons to be encouraged. The Cavaliers have won their three games so far by a combined 9 points. The Pacers have still outscored Cleveland over the entire series by 11.

Indiana has stayed remarkably close in these last two contests despite James lighting the Pacers defense on fire while their own best player Victor Oladipo has built an entire neighborhood out of the bricks he’s shot up at the rim.

Maybe all it adds up to a bunch of what ifs if the Pacers end up losing the series, but right now it’s a sign that the Pacers aren’t going to go down easily.

“The series ain’t over,” Oladipo said last night. “You got to win four games the series to be over, right?”

They’ve never given in all season. No reason to think they will now with this surprisingly fun season on the line.

“We do a good job with our backs against the wall,” said Darren Collison after today’s practice.

This group of Pacers have never been in this situation before in the playoffs together, however.

Oladipo has never been the focus of the defense to this extent and his numbers for points and shooting percentage have steadily decreased since his Game 1 playoff introduction leading to his 2-for-15 night in Game 5.

“I ain’t never gonna stop shooting,” Oladipo said earlier this year when a reporter asked about a shooting slump.

His confidence and positivity have always reigned supreme, but the Pacers need their star to be a star (or at least shooting somewhat near his averages) to have a shot at winning the last two games.

Domas Sabonis, in his first real postseason experience, struggled in his first three games mightily but has led the Pacers in scoring the past two games as he’s taken advantage of the 4-on-3 situations that doubling Oladipo has given him.

Myles Turner has been consistent throughout the series with his shooting and kept the Pacers close in Games 2 and 4 but has not been nearly as adept as Sabonis in the past two games at knowing how to slip screens and take advantage of those situations. Too often he hasn’t been ready for the defense on the catch out of the Oladipo trap (though many of Victor’s passes out of these traps have been with little zip and slightly off target) and if the Cavs take away his shot, he hasn’t been able to make the right pass often enough.

Much like in the regular season, the Pacers offense looks better with Sabonis, but the defense is superior with Turner. Turner is the Pacers only rim protector and he was a huge reason the Pacers got off to an early 10-point lead in the first quarter in Game 5 (Pacers were +8 in his minutes in the first quarter). How Nate McMillan balances his two young promising bigs minutes will be key to potential success in Game 6 and perhaps beyond.

While McMillan received some love for Coach of the Year, his performance this series has been uneven. The end of game five ended with the Pacers having one timeout and a foul to give on the table, which left him “disappointed” in himself.

The Pacers were slow to adjust to the Cavaliers trapping in the series and still look unsure of what to do far too often like in the third quarter of Game 5 as the Cavaliers stormed back. McMillan was upset by hero ball in the fourth game but the Pacers late-game offense has been unimaginative all year, simply letting Oladipo do superstar stuff. The Pacers haven’t been able to rely on that this series down the stretch and at times the Pacers have looked lost down the stretch of games.

He’s played some nearly all-bench lineups at times while LeBron was on the court, which is just asking for the Cavs to make a run. These last games of the series will be the true test for McMillan and his stuff. If he’s a true coach of the year candidate, it should show in the team’s adjustments.

The Pacers feel like they’ve been beating themselves during their losses and that may be true, especially with the amount of unforced turnovers. They’ve yet to play at their best for all 48 minutes.

The Pacers blew a golden opportunity but the series isn’t over

The table couldn’t have been set any better for the Indiana Pacers to take a commanding 3-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday night.

George Hill was out of the game with back spasms, moving Jose Calderon, who didn’t play at all in Game 3, into the starting lineup. Kevin Love started the game with two quick fouls in the first quarter, forcing Tristan Thompson, who has been out of the Cavs rotation all series, into action.

But as the Pacers still couldn’t figure out their slow start problem and Cleveland built another double-digit lead in the first half for the third consecutive game, Indiana couldn’t complete the second-half comeback for the second time in four games.

Continue reading The Pacers blew a golden opportunity but the series isn’t over

The Pacers might shock the world but they aren’t shocking themselves

The Indiana Pacers are like the fictional African nation of Wakanda from Black Panther. Everyone else in the world thinks they are one thing, just a place you don’t need to worry about, live practice for a first-round contender, but now they’re shocking the basketball world with revelations of their elite technology and weapons that give them a chance against anyone as they go into the fourth game of the series with a 2-1 lead over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Indiana has been staying in obscurity all season, lurking in the shadows, appearing only once on national television.

Except the Pacers have been showing this all year. They weren’t trying to keep this a secret like Wakanda. They beat Cleveland three times this season. They swept the Golden State Warriors. It’s just no one was paying attention or perhaps not taking them seriously enough as a threat to care.

Continue reading The Pacers might shock the world but they aren’t shocking themselves

The Indiana Pacers introduce themselves to a national audience

For many NBA fans, yesterday’s blowout win for the Indiana Pacers over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first game of the series was an introduction to the team.

They were on national television exactly one time this season.

NBA fans, this is Indiana. Game 1 is what they’ve been doing to teams all year.

“We’ve been playing like this all year,” said Victor Oladipo, who finished with 32 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and a block. “We’ve been playing hard on both ends all year. It just hasn’t been magnified. It’s the playoffs now … and everybody sees it, so it’s kind of shocking to everybody I guess you would say.”

Continue reading The Indiana Pacers introduce themselves to a national audience

Oladipo’s positivity pushes the Pacers to surprising season

The Indiana Pacers have a chance to finish with 49 wins tomorrow night. It’s hard to find any outlet that predicted they win more than 35 games and no one was picking them to make the playoffs let alone finish the regular season as a top-5 seed.

It’s no coincidence that the best ways to describe the season and the team are all with positive adjectives:

  1. Fun
  2. Resilient
  3. Together
  4. Surprising

The positivity shines through from the Pacers leader and All Star Victor Oladipo and it’s affected the entire team.

“He’s one of the most positive teammates I’ve ever had,” Thaddeus Young recently said. “I think a lot of the stuff we’re able to do this year is from his positivity.”

Continue reading Oladipo’s positivity pushes the Pacers to surprising season

Victor Oladipo says he’ll eat Popeyes again when the Pacers win the championship

After the Indiana Pacers dominated against the Golden State Warriors, Victor Oladipo was asked about his old favorite fried chicken joint, Popeyes.

“I ain’t had that in so long,” Oladipo told the reporter. “Don’t mention that.”

Oladipo said he hadn’t had it in around a year, but that he may have it for a special occasion over the summer.

It would be shocking if the Pacers won the NBA title to just about everybody outside of that locker room, but they’ve been shocking the world all season.

Side note: Oladipo’s claim that he last ate Popeyes about a year ago appears to be false as he seems to have eaten it over the All-Star break according to this Sports Illustrated article:

Over the next 96 hours, he would host one party at a club with Cardi B, another with Snoop Dogg and Floyd Mayweather. He’d sing with Jamie Foxx, dunk with Black Panther and toast Michael Jordan’s birthday at a $100 million mansion in Bel-Air. He’d play Jenga in a sneaker store stock room with someone who goes by The Shiggy Show, an apt moniker for the weekend, and he’d dance alone in front of 1,000 people at a practice. He’d eat sushi from Katsuya and chicken from Popeyes. He’d ride in enough Mercedes Sprinters to fill a presidential motorcade, protected by three security guards and primped by two stylists. They would present him with approximately 40 ensembles, a dozen of which he would wear. He’d wake up early to toss 12-pound medicine balls and do plyometric pushups in the J.W. Marriott fitness center, and at 9 a.m. Sunday, he’d watch online the weekly sermon delivered by Pastor John K. Jenkins at First Baptist Church of Glenarden back home in Maryland.

The Indiana Pacers blowout the defending champs

INDIANAPOLIS–The Indiana Pacers blew out the defending champion Golden State Warriors by 20 points and swept the season series 2-0.

Now, read that again. Pinch yourself. This is not a dream. It’s just another day in what’s been a terrific season.

Yes, the Warriors didn’t have Steph Curry tonight and this game won’t affect their playoff seeding. This game meant basically nothing to the Warriors. No one cares. This was an impressive effort.

“I thought it was a big test tonight,” said Head Coach Nate McMillan. “I was really looking forward to playing them with their roster tonight, just to see where we were.”

Continue reading The Indiana Pacers blowout the defending champs

The Wizards like the possibility of facing the Pacers in the playoffs

The Washington Wizards are throwing bulletin board material at the Indiana Pacers if they do happen to stay matched up as the fourth and fifth seeds in the first round of the playoffs.

“I think we match up good,” center Marcin Gortat said of the possibility of facing the Pacers according to the Washington Post. “We had a much better effort [Saturday] than we did last time at home.”

Continue reading The Wizards like the possibility of facing the Pacers in the playoffs

Myles Turner motivated by teammate calling him “soft”

Myles Turner has been on an absolute tear lately, playing with more confidence and aggression on offense and on the boards that he has in his career.

After leading the Indiana Pacers in scoring with 21 points and adding 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks in a win against the Lakers, Turner revealed what motivated him to start playing more physical.

“One of my teammates called me soft,” said Turner to reporters after the game. “I don’t play that sh*t. And two, it’s just something that I know I have to do.”

Victor Oladipo, who was sitting next to him in the locker room, seemed surprised asking Myles who called him soft. Turner responded “not you.”

Turner said the date of the event when he decided to start being more physical was January 31st. The Pacers played the Memphis Grizzlies that night and Turner went to the foul line 12 times as he repeatedly drew fouls in the post.

He’s certainly been more physical lately and has been making many tough offensive rebounds and dunks since the All-Star break. Whoever that teammate was, he isn’t calling him soft now.

“Myles is a dominant player when he’s clicking on all cylinders,” Thad Young, who is (or at least seems to be) unlikely to be the one that called him soft, told Jeremiah Johnson after the game, “and he makes us go.”

Updated: Mark Montieth of Pacers.com reports that Lance Stephenson was not the player that called Turner soft. The mystery continues.

“I’m not going to rat anybody out,” Turner told Montieth while confirming that it wasn’t Stephenson.

Montieth reports that Turner isn’t mad at anyone for it and that it was said in a joking way but with “serious intent.”

“It’s a mental adjustment that he had to make,” Darren Collison told reporters after practice. “It had nothing to do with his physical skills. He’s going to be a very good player for a long time. Once he changed that mentality, he’s going to be just fine.”

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After some self-evaluation, Myles Turner is silencing his critics

The narrative surrounding Myles Turner’s third season has largely been one of disappointment: Turner’s offensive game hasn’t progressed since last season. He has no post moves. He settles for fadeaway jump shots too often. He can’t rebound. He’s not strong enough yet.

Since the All-Star break though, especially in the last four games for the Indiana Pacers, Turner’s making that dubious narrative disappear quickly. What changed? Some self-evaluation and a change in his mentality.

“I’ve had some self evaluation,” Myles Turner told Tyler Smith of Indy Sports Legends . “After the All-Star break I made it a goal to be more physical on the glass. I’ve got to make myself more versatile. I can’t just settle for jump shots. I’ve always had a post-game, but it’s the mental aspect of it.”

The results of this self-evaluation have been tremendous. Here’s a look at Turner’s statistics broken down before and after the All-Star break.

  • In 42 games prior to the break: 13.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, shooting splits of 48.8/35.6/76.4  
  • In 10 games after the break: 15.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, shooting splits of 57/48.3/76.7

“My team needs me,” Turner told the Indy Star. “That’s what it is. The All-Star break was good for me, to kind of take a look at myself, where we are in the standings. I know I need to step up my play.”

Those 10 games even include a few duds due to foul trouble or a lack of involvement in the offense shown by an actual drop in his usage rate since the All-Star break from over 21.2% before to just 19.2% after. After a pair of games in a 3-game stretch where he took three or fewer shot attempts, Turner made some adjustments.

“For us to be the team that we want to be,” Turner said after the Jazz game where he scored 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting. “I have to shoot more than five times in a game. I pick and chose my spots very well tonight.”

One of the frustrating things about his development to this point in his career is that he goes through maddening stretches without opportunities in the offense and never seems to get the ball enough when he’s hot, so it’s good to see Turner start to look at this proactively and make adjustments on his own.

He’s mentioned picking his spots correctly after a few of the last four games and with these numbers you can’t argue with that. He’s looked more and more like the player that many expected to see in his third season over the last four while averaging 21.3 points and 8 rebounds while shooting a sizzling 61.8% from the field and 52.9% from deep.

“I think so, man,” Turner told Jeremiah Johnson after the win against the Sixers when asked if this was the most confident he’s ever been. “I’m picking and choosing my spots very well. My teammates are doing a great job of creating open spaces for me and I’m taking full advantage of it.”

The biggest changes that we’ve seen since the break have been in the paint via consistent success in the post and more assertive rebounding on the offensive and defensive glass.

That improvement down low won’t get a better display than his game-winning post bucket against the Celtics with the game on the line.

Al Jefferson has talked this season how he wants Myles to take it as disrespect when a team switches on the pick and roll. Earlier in the season, it seemed like Turner just dreaded anytime that was the opponent strategy because it took away his bread and butter pick and pop shot.

“Last year, he wouldn’t have even thought about a post; he would have gone with a turnaround jumper or fadeaway,” Jefferson recently told Mark Montieth of Pacers.com. “You’ve got a 6-4, 6-5, 6-6 guard or wing on you and you’re taking those type of shots, that’s when it becomes a problem for me. He understands that. He’s getting his feet in the paint and getting good shots.”

When Oladipo came back in early January after a brief stretch where he missed four games, Turner’s first response to how he helps him succeed on offense was that teams are more reluctant to switch. He just wasn’t comfortable consistently going after those smaller players on the block. He showed flashes in the post, but too often he’d settle for the fading attempt away from contact.

“Just like on the playground when you were growing up, when you’ve got a small on you, your first thought is to go into the paint,” Jefferson told Montieth. “Myles wasn’t comfortable to do that. I think he got tired of that. I was in his ear telling him, ‘Man, you should be upset. You should be mad when teams feel they can switch and put guards on you and you’re taking fadeaways in the post. You’re making it harder than it really is. You’ve got to do something about it.'”

Now, it seems like he’s taking Jefferson’s teachings to heart and treating those switching defenders to some physical play and the biggest thing according to Jefferson is that he’s being more patient when he gets the ball down there.

“That’s something that wouldn’t have happened a year ago,” said Turner after his game-winning post shot against the Celtics. “I would have rushed right there. I took my time. I read the defense and made a strong move.”

His teammates know how important it is that he keeps developing that post game as well.

“When Myles can score down there and is effective down there, and then you have to guard him at the 3 too?” said Oladipo told Pat Boylan after the game against the Celtics. “He’s so young too, it’s crazy. I love playing with him.”

His tracking data on post-up plays has steadily improved to the point of him currently ranking in the 73rd percentile with 0.98 points per possession. His increased use of the pump fake, a sign that he’s being patient, has led to more drawn fouls, something he was already doing well in the post. He has a free-throw rate of 18.3% which is nearly twice as high as Domantas Sabonis and Jefferson’s foul rate when they’re in the post.

As he asserts himself in the paint, he’s seemed to gain even more confidence in his jump shot as he’s taken at least four 3-point attempts in each of the last four games while making over half of his attempts.

And the rebounding? Just watch this sequence and say he hasn’t improved in this area. He’s made putback dunks, grabbed key boards in traffic, and blocked out defenders with greater consistency.

The key for Turner will be doing this consistently. He’s had a few good games this season only to seem to take a step back after foul trouble. But the Pacers are winning games with Turner playing this well even while Oladipo has struggled in some of the same games. If the Pacers can get them both going at the same time in the playoffs, the Pacers might be able to make some noise.

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