Tag Archives: Domantas Sabonis

One moment captures the spirit and togetherness of the 2017-18 Indiana Pacers: This Picture is Worth a Thousand Words #5

In case this is your first time here, here’s the concept of This Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words: I take an interesting picture from the history of the Indiana Pacers from ABA glory to the modern era and literally write 1,000 words (or more) about the photo.

While typically these columns take a more historical look at the Pacers (you can read about Reggie Miller, Roger Brown, the GQ Photoshoot curse, and the Day After the Brawl here), this current group just did something that will remain in Pacers fans memories for those at the game and watching from home for a long, long time.

Continue reading One moment captures the spirit and togetherness of the 2017-18 Indiana Pacers: This Picture is Worth a Thousand Words #5


Don’t overlook the passing prowess of Sabonis and Turner

The Indiana Pacers have a pair of exciting young center prospects in Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Both players are seen as core pieces of the team’s future and how well they can play together will become more and more important in the next few seasons.

Right now, they spend most of their time on the court with the other on the bench and play the center position and make positive impacts in different ways. Sabonis is the physical, rebounding, screen-setting sparkplug, while Turner is the sweet-shooting, shot-blocking specimen you’d design in a lab for the modern era.

One thing they both have in common is the ability to make plays via the pass, but even here you see them do things differently.

Sabonis is the more natural of the two big men when it comes to passing and is great at seeing where the open man is, while Turner, not often praised for his passing, grew leaps and bounds last season in knowing where the defense is likely to help and who that will leave open.

Their assist numbers won’t wow anyone as they aren’t racking up assists like the Denver’s Nikola Jokic or DeMarcus Cousins before his injury, but both players are a big part of the unselfish nature of this team.

Sabonis, who averages 3.1 assists per 36 minutes, makes one-handed bounce passes on the move to Victor Oladipo on a backdoor cut on the regular in this Pacers pet play (looked at in detail here).

The Pacers run this play with Turner, who averages 1.8 assists per 36 minutes, but not nearly as often. Here’s Turner executing the play to Oladipo.

Many of their assists come from hand-offs where instead of cutting backdoor Oladipo, Cory Joseph, Lance Stephenson and others go around the big man for the ball and take one or two dribbles before taking a jumper. Both players being able to make that backdoor pass allows this play to be more successful as teams are forced to respect the possibility of the cut.

Some of Turner’s best passing highlights come on plays where it doesn’t seem like he should know the guy is open before he makes the pass. Evidence of him simply knowing where the help is most likely to come from on this pick and roll and that the man in the corner behind him will be open. He immediately turns to make the pass on the catch, likely spotting the help defender as he initially turned toward the basket.

Sabonis, on the other hand, is more likely to catch and assess the defense, see where the help is coming from before making the right pass. Same play as the one above is run here but you can see him looking for the first option, seeing that it’s covered and then finding the open man on the opposite corner in Bojan Bogdanovic.

It makes sense why Thaddeus Young called him a quarterback for the offense early this season when he’s progressing through reads like this.

Both young players need work in their post-up games as they’ve had similar mediocre success up to this point in the year with Turner earning trips to the foul line at a tremendous rate but shying away from contact with a mismatch too often  and Sabonis hitting his field goal attempts at an above average clip but turning the ball over more than once every five post-ups.

While Sabonis does struggle with turning the ball over especially when he holds on to the ball too long and allows the double team to trap him, he’s able to make the quick pass when he sees the double coming.

Turner’s passing really shines in the post at times when opponents attempt to double him, which makes his development on that part of his game even more important. If he forces more teams to send an extra defender at him, he can pick apart defenses. He’s great at sending passes across court to the opposite corner to hit the open man.

In this next one, Turner spots both the double team coming from Young’s defender at the rim and Oladipo’s man coming down to cover Thad at the rim. He zips right pass both for an open 3-pointer for the Pacers All-Star.

You can see the natural instincts that Sabonis inherited from his father, one of the best passing bigs in history in Aryvdas Sabonis, come into play often on broken plays.

Any situation where the defense is scrambling like on an offensive rebound or an overly aggressive help defender, he’s able to find the open man at the right time.

He’s able to push the tempo off of rebounds and immediately start the fastbreak by taking a couple of dribbles before making an outlet pass, effectively creating situations where the defense is scrambling on his own.

Both players average about the same number of turnovers as assists, but most of their turnovers are offensive fouls, moving screens or lost balls. Only 23 of Sabonis’s 111 turnovers on the season have been from a bad pass and only 15 of Turner’s 64 turnovers on the season have been bad passes.

As mentioned previously, Sabonis sometimes allows the double team to get too close before attempting a pass and that has caused some of his turnovers. Part of this being his tendency to need to see the open man rather than anticipate it coming at times. He also seems to prefer making straight-line passes and is reluctant to put any touch on his passes in many situations.

Turner’s passing turnovers come from him thinking that a defender wouldn’t be in position but instead they’ve stayed at home or making a tough bounce pass too late to squeeze it into a tight window.

You’re still more likely to see the good than the bad from this still improving players. Here’s some terrific ball movement with Turner as the fulcrum of the offense in the paint.

And perhaps a sneak peak of the future for the Pacers here with Domas making some nice passes to Myles with the first pass showing some hesitation on making the touch pass for the easy layup and the second utilizing the spacing that Turner’s shooting creates.

The Pacers great chemistry is partly due to the unselfishness on the court of all their players, but it’s especially important for the team’s best players to be willing to make the extra pass. That’s almost always the case for the Pacers pair of young big men and they’re just getting started in their careers.

By surpassing expectations, the Pacers earn the chance to stick together

Kevin Pritchard has had a long career working in NBA front offices, but this year’s deadline was different than the rest.

Six players came to the Pacers President of Basketball Operations and told him to keep this team together, which be said had never happened before in his basketball life. One player in particular made a strong plea for the group.

“We deserve to see this thing through,” said the mystery player according to Pritchard. “No one believed in us. No one thought we’d be any good. We deserve this.”

Continue reading By surpassing expectations, the Pacers earn the chance to stick together

All-Star weekend will be a “field trip” for Oladipo and Sabonis

The Indiana Pacers will be well represented in the NBA All-Star weekend events this year as Victor Oladipo was selected as an Eastern Conference representative and Domantas Sabonis was chosen to play in the Rising Stars Challenge as a member of Team World.

“It’s just like when your brother is going with you on a school field trip or something,” Oladipo said of having his teammate with him. “I’m excited. I’m looking forward to it.”

Continue reading All-Star weekend will be a “field trip” for Oladipo and Sabonis

New Year’s Resolutions for the Indiana Pacers: Part Two

2018 is upon us and the Indiana Pacers have things to improve on as they await the return of Victor Oladipo and attempt to get back to their previous winning ways. We have resolutions for all the Indiana Pacers for the rest of this season.

If you missed part one:

Domantas Sabonis: Shoot 3-pointers instead of mid-range jumpers

While Sabonis doesn’t shoot jump shots very often (EDIT: which is good for him, I’m not saying he should take more jump shots), his mid-range percentage for shots from 15-feet up to the 3-point line is just 34.5% on 55 attempts. Meanwhile, he’s shooting only slightly worse from distance, 33.3% on 15 attempts from 3-point range. Sabonis shot 32% over his entire rookie season from range, so he can shoot a similar percentage with more volume.

With how Sabonis is shooting his jumper, there’s no reason that this pick and pop shouldn’t be stretched out to the 3-point line.

Continue reading New Year’s Resolutions for the Indiana Pacers: Part Two

Kevin Pritchard has been the gift that keeps on giving

It’s early in Kevin Pritchard’s tenure as the President of Basketball Operations for the Indiana Pacers, but things couldn’t have gone much better over his first seven months considering the hand he was dealt shortly after he took over for Larry Bird.

In the summer, it didn’t look like it was going well to most outside the Pacers organization.

Originally, Pritchard’s plan was to build around Paul George and create a contender that would entice George to remain in Indiana. George seemed willing to let Pritchard try until about a week before the draft and the beginning of the off-season when he had a change of heart and told the Pacers organization that he would not re-sign with the team.

“We had multiple conversations, we talked about players we wanted to add to this team, and it felt like we were in agreement on that,” Pritchard said after the draft. “Not that a player dictates that, but I wanted him to (give) some feedback. We had conversations about players and how we want to go forward. So, for me it was a shock.”

One week before the off-season and all of the Pacers plans were for naught. That gut punch made for a unenviable scenario for Indiana as they quickly turned their focus to creating a completely new plan.

“It couldn’t have come at a worse time for me,” Pritchard said after the draft. “Had we known this a while ago we could have been more prepared. And then the way it got out… we struggled with that.”

Pritchard was unable to find a deal to his liking during the draft and preached patience on waiting for the right deal to materialize even as George’s agent was making it clear to all potential teams that he wanted to be in Los Angeles. Pritchard found the deal he was looking for with Oklahoma City Thunder, but no one seemed to agree that he made the right call.

The return for Paul George of Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, and no draft picks was laughed at and mocked without mercy by nearly all from police departments, fans, mediaeven other teams. (Myself included in the puzzled-over-Pritchard’s-decision camp to choose this deal and not one that included Gary Harris from Denver in a 3-team deal with Cleveland or waiting for Boston to know whether they would sign Gordon Hayward and trying to snag that juicy Nets pick that would only be in the late lottery if the season ended today.)

No one is laughing now. Except the Pacers.

Pritchard has put together a team that plays hard every night, is more fun than ever and has chemistry that usually takes teams years of playing together to develop.

“My teammates are phenomenal people,” said Oladipo. “When you surround yourself with people that care about you, chemistry comes natural. It’s a special locker room.”

None have been more important to this team transformation than Victor Oladipo, who leads by example, cares for his teammates immensely, and has hit big shot after big shot in the clutch for the Pacers so far this season.

It’s likely that Oladipo makes an All-Star team this season, while George probably does not. Not many would have predicted that when the trade was announced this summer.

“He should be an All-Star starter,” Darren Collison said after a recent practice. “I think he deserves it. Since day one, he’s been the leader that we’ve asked him to be.”

And Sabonis has been a big part of the Pacers emerging chemistry as the guy that seemingly everyone loves to play with.

But the deal that netted the Pacers two key pieces for their bright future is only one move that Pritchard made this off-season. He’s looked to have hit on just about every transaction to this point including signing Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic and trading for Cory Joseph.

In total five of the eight players that play the most minutes for the Pacers were added by Pritchard this off-season and another (Thaddeus Young) was widely looked at as someone they should have looked to trade away after the George news instead of keep around.

Instead of being a lottery-bound league bottom feeder that many expected coming into the season, the Pacers sit at 19-14, good for 4th in the Eastern Conference, and have been a much improved team from last year’s version.

The Pacers looked for players that had the following traits in the George deal and seemed to have carried that over into their free agency moves as well: motivated, toughness, hardworking, togetherness, unselfishness, intelligence, athleticism and chemistry.

““It’s chemistry,” said Lance Stephenson after the Nuggets game, “sticking together and believing in one another. We’re bringing it every night. … There’s no hate. You know what I mean? Some guys get mad about somebody doing good. This team wants their teammates to do good. I feel like that makes this team even better.”

Resilient is another word that should have been added to the list as the Pacers come from behind seemingly every game, especially at home.

The only question so far for Pritchard is how his draft picks of TJ Leaf and Ike Anibogu will turn out, but neither player is even 20 years old yet and it’s too early to jump to any conclusions about them this early in their careers.

“We know that he can score the ball,” McMillan said about Leaf after practice. “We want to see him defend and continue to work on, certainly scoring, but really his first year is about just playing. There’s no pressure, no expectations, other than getting out there to play.”

A big difference between Bird and Pritchard’s style in recent off-seasons is the lack of long-term deals that Pritchard handed out.

Both guys spent most of the cap space that they had available nearly every year, but Bird’s long-term bets in consecutive years on the likes of Rodney Stuckey, Monta Ellis, Al Jefferson not only didn’t work out in the immediate sense but gave the Pacers less wiggle room in following off-seasons to improve the roster.

The Pacers will now still be paying Monta Ellis, who was waived in the off-season using the stretch provision, when the NBA All-Star game makes it long-awaited return to Indianapolis in 2021, and neither Ellis or Stuckey have even found a team willing to sign them at all since they were waived by the Pacers. They aren’t the only players from the 2016-17 roster that are now out of the NBA: Lavoy Allen, Kevin Seraphin, Rakeem Christmas, and Georges Niang.

Pritchard, however, kept the team’s future cap space open while going after overlooked veterans that would take short-term deals with partial guarantees in the final year of the contract.

Collison and Bogdanovic both are making about $10 million this season and at this point look likely to complete their 2-year deals next season with the team, but if they didn’t pan out Indiana could have cut the cord with little cost to their salary cap for next season as the second years had a very small portion of guaranteed money. These contracts also could be used as potential trade sweeteners for teams looking to shed salary to make room in FA for a max contract slot.

Right now, it doesn’t seem like these fail-safe options will be necessary, but Pritchard put the organization in good position either way.

The challenge will eventually become what to do with many of the team’s current players as their contracts end either this summer or the next, including Joseph, Collison, Bogdanovic, Young and Glenn Robinson III, but so far Pritchard has been the gift that keeps on giving for the Indiana Pacers.

The Indiana Pacers have never been more fun

The Indiana Pacers (12-9) have had better teams in the past but they’ve never been more fun than this.

Just watch this video. Feel the joy. Buy a home or rent an Airbnb in this lovely neighborhood.

Indiana’s never had more enjoyment from watching the Pacers than with this underdog group of running, gunning, have fun-ing bunch. Almost every game at the Fieldhouse turns into a house party.

The fun all starts with Lance Stephenson, who has averaged over 17 points per game in his last three and has added five assists and eight rebounds in consecutive games.

Stephenson is the Pacers prodigal son, who languishes outside of Indiana when he’s not wearing the blue and gold and thrives in Banker’s Life Fieldhouse. He dances and inspires dances. He prances. He plays air guitar. He high-fives the crowd. He head-butts stanchions.

“Coach is doing a good job of letting me play through mistakes,” Stephenson said after tonight’s party of a win against the Orlando Magic. “He lets me be me.”

The Pacers fans wouldn’t have it any other way. Everything that Lance does elicits a louder reaction than if someone else would have done the same. So when he does something special as has been the case often lately, it feels like the roof may collapse.

But the Pacers are this fun for more than just Lance reasons.

Victor Oladipo made his first 11 shots tonight, which included maybe five heat checks that all went in. It got to the point where even he didn’t know what was happening after banking in a 3-pointer.

Domantas Sabonis continues to be gift from the basketball gods, (mostly the god of European big men Arydvas Sabonis). He scored 19 points while taking just seven shots, added eight rebounds and five assists. That crazy play by Lance wouldn’t have been possible without his expert cut at just the right time.

“I don’t know. It just happens,” Domas said of his on-court play with Lance, “… He understands me. It’s just chemistry.”

The Pacers other stud young big man, Myles Turner, was no slouch tonight either as he scored 18 points in the first three quarters, being unleashed from long range with five attempts and three makes. He nearly had four made 3-pointers but his toes were on the line on one attempt.

“The thing I love about this team is that we never stop competing,” Turner said.

Every game is non-stop effort from the Pacers. They may lose some games, but as Turner said, they’re always competing. Whether they’re down 22 in the third quarter or having just lost a lead at the start of the fourth quarter like tonight.

The Magic were up one briefly in the fourth quarter. Then the Pacers went on a 23-5 run.

The Pacers aren’t just a one-man show these days. Anybody is capable of a huge night to lift the team, Bojan Bogdanovic continues to show a more all-around offensive game than many expected, Thad Young is the glue guy, Darren Collison is capable of occasional 30-point nights. They play together and as a unit. They care about each other off the court.

These Pacers are modern. These Pacers are always looking to run. These Pacers love to play together. The Pacers have never been more fun.

A Weekly Dose of Pacers Positivity #5: Chemistry is Cooking

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. And in this stretch of big (like, HUGE) wins, I thought it best to focus on something that is all too rare in the NBA: noticeable chemistry.

Continue reading A Weekly Dose of Pacers Positivity #5: Chemistry is Cooking

Stray Pacervations: Odds and Ends of the Indiana Pacers winning streak

Stray Pacervations is intended to shed light on the odds and ends, the small things and possible trends that happen during Indiana Pacers games. Some good. Some bad. Some neither.

The Pacers have won four games in a row, four road games in a row, five out of six overall, and just won all three games in a 4-night stretch. It’s been fun. Let’s dive right in.  Continue reading Stray Pacervations: Odds and Ends of the Indiana Pacers winning streak

Why everybody loves playing with Domantas Sabonis

Game after game, it seems like there are more and more reasons to gush over the performance of Domantas Sabonis.

He’s been called the quarterback of the offense by Thaddeus Young. Nate McMillan said early in the year that they like to run the offense through him while he’s out there. He’s played two games while battling an illness only to produce a couple of his best performances of the season in those contests.  Continue reading Why everybody loves playing with Domantas Sabonis

Lance Stephenson makes ’em dance their way to a comeback victory

INDIANAPOLIS — After being down by 22 points with less than six minutes left in the third quarter, the Indiana Pacers outscored the Detroit Pistons 51-22 the remainder of the game to win in impressive fashion by a final of 107-100 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Pacers were kick-started by none other than the infectious energy of Lance Stephenson in the fourth quarter as he scored all 13 of his points and grabbed six rebounds in the final 12 minutes.  Continue reading Lance Stephenson makes ’em dance their way to a comeback victory

The Indiana Pacers pick-and-roll coverage on James Harden was doomed from the start

The Indiana Pacers got off to a slow start last night against the Houston Rockets and never recovered. After a first quarter where they were outscored 35-18, the Pacers ended up being beat by a final score of 118-95.

The Pacers biggest problem was dealing with the Houston Rockets best player in James Harden.  Continue reading The Indiana Pacers pick-and-roll coverage on James Harden was doomed from the start

For Myles Turner to grow, more opportunities are necessary

Should Myles Turner be considered in the NBA’s group of future frontcourt stars along with Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid?

If the Indiana Pacers want to find out, they’re going to need to give Myles Turner the ball. With a lot more consistency and frequency.  Continue reading For Myles Turner to grow, more opportunities are necessary

Stray Pacervations: The Good, The Bad and the In-Between

Stray Pacervations is intended to shed light on small things and possible trends that happen during Indiana Pacers games. Some good. Some bad. Some in between.

1. Domas Sabonis rebounding and pushing the pace. There are so many things to love about Sabonis’s game already, but this might be my current favorite. When Sabonis grabs a defensive rebound and no defender is near, instead of pausing and finding the outlet pass, Sabonis will immediately turn into a dribble while looking for an open man. It’s a small thing but it helps the Pacers gain a little bit of extra time for their budding transition offense.  Continue reading Stray Pacervations: The Good, The Bad and the In-Between

Two-Ahh: Pacers cruise to easy win over Kings

Domantas Sabonis continues his impressive start with the Indiana Pacers.

Within the first seven minutes of the game, Sabonis had nine rebounds to go with six points.

At the end of the first half with the Pacers up 55-30, Sabonis had yet another double double already with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists.  Continue reading Two-Ahh: Pacers cruise to easy win over Kings

Two-Ahh: Pacers run past the Wolves while setting a franchise record in shooting percentage

In some games, the box score simply speaks for itself. In this game, the Pacers box score was a work of art.

The Pacers shot a franchise record 66.7% on their way to 130 points as they beat the Minnesota Timberwolves for their first road win of the season.  Continue reading Two-Ahh: Pacers run past the Wolves while setting a franchise record in shooting percentage

Two-Ahh: Pacers comeback effort falls short against Heat

In the middle of the third quarter, the Pacers trailed by 21 points, and it looked like the fourth quarter was going to be 12 minutes of garbage time.

But the Pacers had other ideas.

These new-look Pacers refused to give up, cutting the deficit all the way to just two points with 12 seconds to play, but the Heat made both free throws to ice the game and won by a final of 112-108.  Continue reading Two-Ahh: Pacers comeback effort falls short against Heat