Tag Archives: featured

Wesley Matthews has ‘Pacers spirit’

The Indiana Pacers didn’t make any league altering trades at the deadline but don’t overlook the coming addition of Wesley Matthews.

Matthews, who was traded to the New York Knicks earlier this week, agreed to a buyout and plans to sign with the Pacers for the veteran minimum once he clears waivers according to multiple media reports.

As with any midseason addition to a group with great chemistry, it’s always important to consider how someone will fit in the locker room. Matthews seems like an ideal culture fit that goes with the organization’s mantra of the 3Ts: toughness, togetherness and trust.

“Perfect pickup for us,” Thad Young told reporters after Thursday’s game. “… Most of all he brings toughness, a defensive mentality we need. He embodies what we do as a team. He has that Pacers spirit in him already.” Continue reading Wesley Matthews has ‘Pacers spirit’

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Where do the Pacers go from here?

The Indiana Pacers lost Victor Oladipo to a season-ending knee injury in the second quarter of Wednesday’s game. He suffered a ruptured quad tendon that could put him out anywhere from six to twelve months.

There are no adequate words to describe the numbness that comes in the moments and hours directly after witnessing an injury that devastating. Shock, disbelief, clinging to some tiny hope that it isn’t as bad as it seems.

There was no joy in watching the Pacers continue to play after Oladipo was taken out on a stretcher. No anxiety as the game was close in the final minute. None of that mattered much. The Pacers had already lost more than this one game could possibly make up for. Continue reading Where do the Pacers go from here?

Ponytail Myles: The confident, surprisingly vulgar Pacers two-way monster

Myles Turner is having the best stretch of his career with Indiana Pacers and the timing aligns precisely with a new hairstyle.

Coincidence?

“That’s what everybody is gassing up,” Turner said after he scored 23 points against the Bucks, “Everybody’s saying it’s the ponytail, so I guess I gotta keep it now, right? … I just wanted to try something different and then my teammates … said it looks good, go for it.”

In the four games since Turner first broke out the pony, he’s averaged 20.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, 1.5 assists while shooting 52.4% from the field on 15.8 attempts per game and 60% from 3-point range on 3.8 attempts, which earned him a nomination for the Eastern Conference Player of the Week that his teammate Thad Young was awarded.

“Ponytail Myles!” Cory Joseph, who claimed to be the inspiration for it, joked during Turner’s post-game media session after the win against Milwaukee. “He got the dreads out of his hair. He can finally see the rim now!”

His teammates have had some fun joking about the hairstyle change, but it’s his huge contributions to this 7-game winning streak that’s been the focus.

“It’s the hair … no, I’m just playing,” Victor Oladipo said of Turner’s play of late. “It’s been good. We need him to play at that high level.”

Ponytail Myles has no chill

Ponytail Myles isn’t just playing well. He’s also playing with a new attitude. In the first game of this era, Turner and Bradley Beal got into it a bit after Beal flopped and Turner called him a motherf***er. Continue reading Ponytail Myles: The confident, surprisingly vulgar Pacers two-way monster

Pacers rookie Aaron Holiday makes his first opportunity count

INDIANAPOLIS–Aaron Holiday hadn’t played meaningful minutes all season. The Indiana Pacers first-round draft pick hadn’t played at all in the team’s last nine consecutive games.

Tonight, Holiday came in with 3:14 left in the third quarter and never came back out, electrifying the crowd with pull-up 3-pointers, chasedown block attempts in transition, and a nifty behind-the-back assist.

“We don’t win this game if he doesn’t come in and play the way he did on both ends of the floor,” Nate McMillan said of the rookie point guard.

Holiday, who finished with 12 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in his 15 minutes, pulled up for a 3-pointer in transition upon almost immediately after entering the game. The shot gave the Pacers the lead at 68-67 and they never gave it back. The Pacers went on to win 97-89 over the Atlanta Hawks.

With Victor Oladipo exiting the game with knee soreness early in the first quarter, the Pacers were in need of a next man up as the game swayed with large runs from both teams as the Pacers went from down 10 to up 3 to down 12 before Holiday’s shot gave them the lead for good in the third quarter.

“Anytime we lose a guy like Victor, we have to figure out a way to supplement his scoring and his defensive ability,” said Thad Young, who added 11 points and 7 rebounds, “and we figured it out. We got a lot of guys that can step up on any given night and tonight … Aaron was the true player of the game.”

Young is impressed with the team’s rookie and he earned the praise of many of the veterans in the locker room after the game.

“I’ve always said that he’s better than his draft number,” Young said of Holiday. “Definitely could have been one of the guys in the top 10 especially when you put him one-on-one against anybody in his draft class. He’s done a good job waiting for his turn, staying poised and the sky’s the limit for him.”

Darren Collison, who went 4 for 5 in the second half with 12 points after missing all five of his first-half attempts, was glad to see Holiday be rewarded after seeing him working hard throughout training camp and during the season.

“He’s stayed working, the first one in the gym,” Collison said of his fellow UCLA point guard. “It just makes you happy for somebody that has that success like he did tonight. He’s a real good player. He’s going to be a good player in this league … It’s only going to be sky’s the limit because that kid can play. Once he gets his opportunity on a consistent basis, it’s going to be good things to come.”

Both Collison and Young noted his sky-high potential. Cory Joseph said he thinks Holiday will have a long career, but Holiday knows he still has a lot to prove and isn’t getting too high off of just a single game.

“I don’t think I earned anything yet,” Holiday said when asked if he thought this game would lead to more playing time. “It’s just one game. I’ll just keeping working, see what happens.”

While Holiday would clearly like to be playing more often, he understands it’s a waiting game for him at the start of his career.

“It’s very tough,” Holiday said. “Being a competitor like I am, I wanted to get out there, but obviously, in the league you have to wait for your time and I’m just happy it came today.”

The team took a final turning point after the Hawks had scored 17 straight points from the end of the second quarter through the beginning of the third. After a quick timeout, Thad Young took it upon himself to call out the team for the lack of effort.

“The players gathered, and they knew that we needed this game,” said McMillan. “… Sometimes those guys have to police themselves, and that was a moment when they knew that. There’s only so much that I can say … I can call a timeout, but you know you need to get it together and that was a moment where they got together and talked about playing better basketball and we ended up winning that game.”

Bojan Bogdanovic led the team in scoring with 22 points. Myles Turner had his first double double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Domas Sabonis had a nice all-around game with 9 points, 16 rebounds and 6 assists.

The Pacers were 0-5 last season without Oladipo in the lineup and while technically he played tonight this was a good sign for the team’s depth and ability to find ways to win without their All Star player at all or without him at his best for the second straight night.

The Pacers won last night’s game against the Miami Heat with Oladipo having one of his worst nights as a Pacer with just 8 points as Tyreke Evans took over with his best game in Indiana with 23 points. Another game, another player steps up.

Oladipo is day-to-day with the knee soreness and while the team certainly hopes he doesn’t have to miss any games, they look more equipped to deal with his absence now than last season.

Having Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis a luxury for Indiana Pacers

While the NBA as a whole may be getting smaller, the Indiana Pacers have the rare luxury of two superb options at the center position in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis.

“The dynamic duo of bigs that we have is phenomenal,” Victor Oladipo told reporters after the win against the Chicago Bulls. “It just goes to show you. … Myles protecting the rim like he did today, Domantas carrying us the way he did the other day coming off the bench and doing a great job like he always does, there’s no drop-off. That’s hard to find in this league.”

The Pacers pair of centers have come up huge at different points in the last three games thanks to their varying strengths.

On Wednesday, it was Sabonis and his rolling to the basket and rebounding that led the way as he scored 30 points with perfect shooting from the field at 12 for 12 in only 21 minutes before fouling out.

“He got in foul trouble and only played seven minutes in the first half,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said of Domas after the Knicks game. “In the second half, he continued to be aggressive and make plays for us. When we have a combination like that, guys playing well, we’re going to stay with them. He did an excellent job on both ends of the floor not only scoring for us but rebounding the ball.”

McMillan likes to roll with the hot hand and in the last three games it’s alternated between Sabonis and Turner down the stretch at the center position with each game coming down to the wire.

On Friday, it was Myles Turner’s turn as he made all of his 2-point attempts on his way to 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting. The spacing his jump shot added to the team was a big factor but his biggest contributions came on the defensive end as he protected the rim as well as he has all season and blocked six shots, including the Bulls final attempt at the buzzer to win it.

“Protect the rim and be the best shot blocker in the NBA that I know I am,” Myles Turner said of what he was trying to do when he came in during the fourth quarter against the Bulls on the post-game interview.

“That’s what we wanted him to do is to defend the basket,” McMillan said after that one. “Tonight, he had to come out and defend the perimeter. Their guards are scorers, and those guys have the ability to shoot behind that 3-point line and they were knocking down some shots. We stayed with our defense trying to pressure those guys, keeping our bigs up, and he had the game-winning block at the end there.”

On Saturday, both players had their moments as Turner played well in the first three quarters scoring 12 points on only six shot attempts, but Sabonis got himself going in the fourth quarter playing alongside Tyreke Evans. After Turner came in a little later than he normally does in the final quarter, things simply weren’t going his way on either end as he committed a double dribble, got called for an illegal screen (questionable) and missed a midrange attempt, and McMillan went back to Sabonis quickly for the rest of the game.

“It’s part of the game,” Turner told Mark Montieth of Pacers.com afterwards. “Coach goes with what he feels is working. It’s not my job to sit back and complain. Just because I get subbed out, I’m not going to hope for guys not to do well. That’s not the way I’m built and that’s not the way this team is built.”

And that’s an important factor for both of these players to the team’s chemistry and success, they’re always putting the team ahead of themselves. Neither sulks on the bench after they get replaced by the other in the game.

While it might eventually be an issue with both players wanting more time on the court than they are currently getting, neither center is complaining at this point. The easiest solution to this would be the pair playing together, but it’s been at best a very mixed bag so far this season.

To be blunt, the overall numbers when they share the floor are terrible. Turner and Sabonis play on average just under five minutes per game together. Those lineups have a net rating of negative 17.5. The offense has simply gone to a halt at a abysmal 83.8 offensive rating.

There are some glimmers of hope buried in the numbers however while looking at specific lineups. When Sabonis replaces Thad Young and is playing with the rest of the starters including Turner, the Pacers have a net rating of 26.3. It’s an extremely small sample size of only eight minutes on the season, but that’s the third highest net rating of any lineup that has played at least that long this season.

Sabonis’s perfect shooting night against the Knicks also began by him dominating against smaller defenders while playing as the power forward alongside Turner. He scored on his first five offensive possessions that night starting with some offensive rebounds and putbacks and ending by abusing Enes Kanter’s pick-and-roll defense.

All of the statistics this year are still small sample sizes but if the Pacers want to give their pair of young centers their best chance at success, they may want to find ways to use them together more effectively on offense. Right now, both players have much higher net ratings when they play without the other player (Turner 7.1 and Sabonis 10.2).

The good news is that there is plenty of time for both players to improve and we’re seeing a lot of improvement from both Sabonis and Turner already this season.

One of Turner’s biggest struggles at times has been letting himself get rushed in his eagerness when opportunities come his way on the offensive end.

“Players who play with each other a couple of years, they know where they’re going to be,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said at the beginning of this past offseason. “That makes the game come slower. Domas, the game already comes slow. He can make reads. Myles, he gets a little frantic. And that makes a difference. He’s got to calm down a little bit.”

He’s started writing “TYT” (take your time) on his shoes and has made noticeable strides with his patience especially in the post where he has calmly made many moves with success that were rare last year.

He makes that dribble to the side often when a defender flashes towards him. Last season, he would have been much more likely to either take a quick shot or pick up his dribble and pass the ball at the first sign of a double team.

After struggling to finish inside after suffering a concussion early last season as he shot just 57% around the rim, he’s been very strong at that area this season at 72%. His patience a possible reason for that uptick in improvement this year as well.

While Turner’s rebounding numbers haven’t improved yet, his primary job on that end is to protect the rim. If he’s going to block a shot by helping on someone else’s man, that’s going to leave him out of position for a potential rebound. With how well he’s been defending at the basket, it’s not overly concerning that his rebound totals are stagnant as the team defense remains strong while he’s out there.

Most of the weaknesses for Sabonis are on the defensive end. While he’ll never be able to block shots like Turner, he’s been good on that end this season when playing at the center spot. According to NBA Math, Sabonis has the third-best DPS (Defensive Points Saved, Turner ranks first on the team in the same metric) on the Pacers and is actually the 17th-highest ranked player overall in TPA (Total Points Added) so far this season.

You’d still like to see Sabonis turn the ball over less (six turnovers in the same Knicks game where he didn’t miss a field goal) but he has improved in another area of his game that at times caused turnovers as defenses sat on his strong hand, especially in the post. You’re way more likely to see him use his right hand down low than in his first two seasons in the league where he earned the nickname Reverse Zoolander.

Both players have already dealt with foul trouble on a few occasions so far this season and have certainly committed a few fouls that they’d each like to have back, but that again showcases the value of having both players available when one is having issues with whistles.

The Indiana Pacers are very fortunate to have both of these dynamic, young big men in the present. With Turner locked up with his extension, the question will he whether they can afford to keep this luxury after next season when Sabonis’s rookie deal ends. For now, the Pacers get to enjoy the strengths of both players.

How Alize Johnson could help the Indiana Pacers this season

As the 50th overall draft pick, the Indiana Pacers rookie Alize Johnson has an uphill climb to make an impact on an NBA roster.

That’s nothing new for him. He’s been the overlooked underdog throughout his high school and college career. His story of small high-school guard as a freshman to junior college to Missouri State is well known by Pacers fans by now.

“I have to do things different,” Johnson said before Summer League play. “Being the underdog I have to show some things that I can do consistently. Rebounding is effort. I’m all about hard work and getting into the gyms. Not really being the most athletic person, but just having the grit to go up there every time and get it is something that’s still in my blood. I have siblings back home and a family rooting for me, so when I’m up there grabbing rebounds, that’s what I’m doing it for.”

If you watched him play in Summer League, you were likely to get at least a little caught up in the Alize hype as his high-motor rebounding was on full display and his ability to start the fastbreak was a highlight of the Pacers play in Las Vegas.

“When you’re picking that deep in the draft, the likelihood of that player succeeding, the percentages are certainly working against him,” Pacers GM Chad Buchanan said after the draft, “so you look for like one trait or one skill that a guy possesses that would give him a chance. And Alize has two things for me; he has tremendous motor, and he just has an innate ability to track down rebounds.”

Pacers coach Nate McMillan caught Alize fever during the exhibition games in Vegas.

Continue reading How Alize Johnson could help the Indiana Pacers this season

Victor Oladipo sees the East as wide open, Pacers ready to do something special

Victor Oladipo is making his media rounds lately and appeared on ESPN’s morning show Get Up! to talk about a variety of topics including being traded twice, about the state of the Eastern Conference after LeBron James decided to go to Los Angeles and about that missed goaltending call in the playoffs.

Michelle Beadle, one of the hosts of the show, wanted to know what players in the East felt like when James, who has dominated the conference, decided to go to a Western Conference team.

“When I first heard about it, I was a little upset,” said Oladipo. “I like playing against the best player in the world and competing against him and seeing where you’re at.”

Despite Oladipo’s love of the competition, he does realize that this an opportunity for the team to take the next step.

Continue reading Victor Oladipo sees the East as wide open, Pacers ready to do something special