While I couldn’t be more excited to join the Los Angeles Lakers, I first need to thank Pacer nation for all the love and support over the years. Specifically, I cannot show enough appreciation and gratitude to Mr. Simon, Larry Bird, Kevin Pritchard, Coach McMillan, and all of my teammates. The entire organization stood by me through all of the ups and downs of my career and have played a crucial role in molding me into the man and player that I am today. I will forever be indebted for that unwavering belief in me. Indiana will always be my home, and the Pacers organization will always be my family.
Stephenson became a free agent after his team option was declined by Kevin Pritchard as they looked to create as much cap flexibility as possible.
Lance Stephenson is and will always be a Pacers legend.
Acccording to Chris Haynes, Stephenson has agreed to a 1-year, $4.5 million deal with the Lakers and instead of getting on LeBron’s last nerve as an opponent, he’ll now be on the same side as the player who has knocked him out of the playoffs five times.
The whole scenario sounds like some strange idea for a network sitcom where two players with a large backstory of intense playoff moments and hilarity end up on the same team and become friends. Maybe Lance ends up appearing in the rumored Space Jam sequel?
Space Jam sequel is starting to come together. Lakers signing all the Looney Tunes to be LeBron’s teammates; Warriors are the MonStars. pic.twitter.com/7gznpupSOO
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.
We’ve covered the misery of Knicks fans against Reggie Miller, that game the Pacers played with only six active players, among other things. You can see all the past columns here.
Today, we talk about Lance Stephenson. Born Ready. The Lord of Hype. Lance make ’em dance.
Lance Stephenson, the Lord of Hype, the Born Ready, the Honorary Hoosier, the Jester of the House of Bankers: pic.twitter.com/UHEmYdyTwQ
Stephenson’s team option for the 2018-19 season was declined by the Indiana Pacers which will make him a free agent. The final year of his contract was for only $4.3 million, but Kevin Pritchard and the front office must have some kind of splash in mind this offseason and decided they needed to utilize that money to upgrade the roster.
While the team hasn’t completely ruled out bringing him back, that likely will only happen if the Pacers are unable to sign someone else that fills a role similar to his own. With so few teams having cap space this season, it’s hard to see the Pacers completely striking out. This very well could be the end of Stephenson in a Pacers uniform as rumors spread immediately after the Stephenson news broke that the Pacers are interested in Will Barton, Tyreke Evans and Marcus Smart.
Oladipo on Lance: "I Facetimed with him yesterday. He’s in good spirits. He’s a great human being. It was an honor and a privilege to play with him last year."
Whether any of those players will be a large enough upgrade over Stephenson to warrant the greater cost is a discussion for another time. Right now, we’re here to talk Lance. Because if this is truly the end, this is the conclusion of an unforgettable tale of a Brooklyn basketball prodigy that became a beloved Indiana legend.
This picture was chosen for the column over countless other incredible moments is because it shows the effect that Stephenson had on the Pacers faithful at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse. It shows how much the city and state embraced him when he returned from his humbling nearly 3-year journey with five other NBA teams, seldom looking like the player he was before leaving.
“When I got the call, I almost cried,” Stephenson said when he first spoke to reporters after signing his contract to return to the Pacers organization. “I feel like Indiana is family.”
When Stephenson came back at the end of the 2016-17 season, he was a beacon of light in one of the darkest times in recent Pacers history as the Paul George situation loomed over the entire franchise. His first game back against the Toronto Raptors was probably the highlight of the season.
The Pacers were on the verge on missing the playoffs with a collective group that had no business not at least making the postseason. Behind an energetic boost from Lance that seemed to give the entire team some liveliness, the Pacers finished the season on a 5-game winning streak and made the playoffs.
The Pacers were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs, but the prodigal son had returned and looked like the Pacers second-best player in the series, almost exactly how Indiana remembered him: aggressive, fearless and flashy.
“Some teams, I’d only get three dribbles, or I’d have to stand in the corner,” Stephenson said this past season when talking about why he’s fit better with Indiana than other places. “They (Pacers staff) let me be myself. They don’t guard me, or tell me not to do stuff. If I play freely, if coaches let me play the game, you’ll see the talent in me.”
When Lance is allowed to be Lance, there is so much to enjoy. You can love him for the silly, slightly crazy parts of his game like the celebrations (air guitar, hip gyration, the bird, the fake heartattack, the shimmy), the headbutting of stanchions after big plays or the fact that searching his name in a GIF finder is a treasure trove of greatness.
All those things showed how much Lance loves the game of basketball. He loves the game with a passion that only can seem to be matched by people from Indiana. He approaches the game with a fierce intensity and a sense of child-like joy. Pure elation when things are going right and never giving up when they aren’t.
There’s nothing quite like experiencing a classic Lance moment in Banker’s Life Fieldhouse as he sizes up an opponent with dribble moves like he’s back in New York at Rucker Park. Every bounce of the ball pushes the crowd closer to a frenzy and when the play reaches its peak as Stephenson goes up for a layup or rises for a jump shot, the entire arena becomes a singular sentient being with the sole purpose of getting hype.
And the moves don’t always work. Sometimes Lance makes pump fakes with one-hand with no effect on the defender, sometimes he loses the ball on the dribble. But maybe that’s part of why the moments are so special when they do.
Now you’re probably asking yourself: well, what did Lance do after he got the ball? Did he at least make Cory look good?
When Stephenson plays, every pass is an opportunity to engage the crowd. No-look, behind-the-back attempts are as commonplace as a fundamentally sound chest or bounce pass. To this day, I’ve never seen a more impressive pass than one Stephenson made during his first tenure in Indiana: a behind-the-back, no-look, in the air pass to a wide open CJ Watson in the corner for a 3-pointer.
When Stephenson gets the crowd involved, it gives everyone else on the team that same adrenaline boost. That’s the Lance Effect. His energy off the bench this season was a huge part of the Pacers penchant for making comebacks. In the first large comeback of the season, it was Stephenson that sparked the effort in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons by grabbing rebounds on both ends and hitting big shots.
He played a huge part of the team’s comeback against the Nuggets later as well. This time it was his defensive effort making a difference.
This is everything Indiana loves about Lance Stephenson in a single picture.
But perhaps bigger than his clear passion for the game, his entertainment value and relentless effort, Indiana fans love Stephenson because he is fearless and won’t back down from anyone, especially when it comes to LeBron James.
“I fear no man,” Stephenson said after the Pacers won Game 6 in the first round against the Cavaliers this season. “You on the other team, I don’t care. I don’t care about you.”
Stephenson is well known for his knack of getting under LeBron’s skin. Something that very few, if any, other players can claim they’ve done. While Stephenson is over-matched in skill, strength and every other measurable category to the best player in the world, he has never backed down from challenge of James.
He blew in his ear. He tapped him across the face, grabbed his chest. He flopped at every opportunity. He’d attempt to provoke him. This past season he finally got James to respond and earned two technical calls against LeBron during the season. But he wasn’t just an irritant, Lance picked up his game in the playoffs as well.
In these battles against James, he perfectly symbolizes his team as the one that always gives the best all they can handle, even if they always seem to fall just short.
Stephenson almost made a jump ball one of the best plays in Pacers history when in the fourth quarter of Game 4, he first won a jump ball against James and then held the ball up like it was Simba in the Lion King. Later, in the closing seconds nearly won another one against Jeff Green that would have possibly given the Pacers one last chance to tie the game as you can see one ref call for a tie up and the other call for a foul at about the same time.
The team option was for $4.3 million this season. Stephenson re-joined the Pacers at the end of the 2016-17 regular season and instantly found his game again after bouncing around the league with five different teams in three years.
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.
I don’t know about you but I’m ready for another summer featuring The Pritch Slap.
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.
KP, when talking about why they marked a lot of guys off the board in this draft, said they want "toughness,"
He also said "where they really get better" is on July 1, when they could have $20M in space.
There are two RFA, in particular, who readily fit the above description.
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.”
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.
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.
It took Victor Oladipo 16 minutes after the game ended to start thinking about next season and to text his trainer.
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.
A revealing Nate McMillan postgame:
"We created a culture with our organization that we will continue to build.
“We want guys who are going to come in and play for the name on the front of that jersey. It’s not about the name on the back, it’s about the Indiana Pacers." pic.twitter.com/2A416bNLn0
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.
Kevin Pritchard says no one in the front office said they would get to even 40 wins this season when the owner asked.
They shocked everybody. Including their own organization.
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.
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.”
The Indiana Pacers have lost three straight games as Victor Oladipo has missed the last two and head into the New Year on a bit of a down note on what has otherwise been a terrific start to the season. Everybody has something to improve on, however, so in the spirit of New Year’s, here’s part one of resolutions for each of the Pacers for the remainder of the season.
Myles Turner: Use the fadeaway in the post sparingly when faced with a mismatch
Myles is the league-leading shot blocker and perhaps as a victim of high expectations hasn’t had the start to the season than many were hoping for. That being said, he’s averaging 14.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks with a usage rate that is lower than his rookie season. He’s still just not a featured part of the offense on most nights but he’s putting up solid numbers with efficiency.
One area that he can definitely look to improve on is taking advantage of mismatches in the post. Too often, Turner tends to fade away when matched with a smaller player instead of taking advantage of his height. Here’s an example from the Mavs game with Harrison Barnes guarding him.
Turner has shown improvement in this area and has gone straight up more often of late as was the case with a couple of chances with Gary Harris on him in the post against the Denver Nuggets switching scheme, but he still has a tendency to fade more often than not.
This play is exactly how you want to see Turner take advantage of the mismatch. He doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be in the post all the time (or even most of the time) with that smooth jump shot, but the more he improves with someone smaller on him, the less likely teams will even consider switching on the pick and roll.
Turner’s also gone away from his no-dribble turnaround shot in the post, which has always been very effective since his rookie year. Even just going straight up is preferable to the fade as most of the smaller players won’t have any shot at blocking the high-release attempt and it has a higher chance of getting a foul call as well.
When I asked Turner about a one-leg, Dirk fadeaway that he used in the first game against the Bulls, he said, “I don’t want to always settle for that, but it’s a move that I know is tough to guard.” So Turner knows that fading shouldn’t be something he does every time. Hopefully it starts to become like junk food at the top of the old food pyramid and is used sparingly.
I asked Myles Turner how often he works on that Dirk one-leg fadeaway. Victor Oladipo immediately says "all the time." pic.twitter.com/t4OaTC9ZhE
Bojan Bogdanovic: Let yourself be fouled in late-game situations.
Please. Bogdanovic is shooting 84% from the free-throw line this season, but didn’t seem to want to be fouled in the closing seconds against Boston with that inexplicable high pass that was stolen by Terry Rozier. He almost dribbled into a turnover earlier this season in a similar scenario, but was given a foul call. If the Croatian Mercenary is going to play in the game’s final moments, he has to be willing to take those fouls.
I think writing ridiculous things is my coping mechanism after something inexplicable. Hope you enjoy this one. I had a good time writing it.
This has always been one of the things that I’ve disliked about Stephenson’s game even during his first tenure with Indiana. When the ball gets swung in his direction, he almost always ball fakes to no effect and gives the defense a chance to reset before making a decision. More often than not, the right play is just an immediate pass to the next man on the perimeter. Here’s an example of Stephenson doing this here, though Oladipo is still able to hit the 3-pointer as the Thunder don’t recover with the extra time Lance allowed them with the unnecessary fake.
Stephenson’s done far more good for the Pacers than bad this year, especially while being a big part of sparking some huge comebacks at home and getting the crowd amped up on a nightly basis, but a few quick swings per game would go a long way for the offense that sometimes doesn’t move the ball as much as it should.
Bonus resolution for Born Ready: Find his shooting stroke on the road. Before the game against the Chicago Bulls where Stephenson made two of his five 3-point attempts, he was shooting only 17% from deep. At Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, he’s shooting 38%.
Darren Collison: Don’t settle for mid-range attempts when the opponent switches on the pick and roll
Collison had a terrific offensive game against the Bulls, scoring 30 points on just 16 shot attempts. One area where the point guard could get more movement into the offense is any time the opposing team is switching in the pick and roll. Collison with a big man on him is reluctant to try a pass into the post over the taller player and instead most of the time ends up taking a contested mid-range attempt.
This happens so often that many times Turner doesn’t even look to post up when Collison is the ball handler in a switched pick and roll, because he knows what he’s likely to do more times than not.
The Pacers have also started having Turner post on the opposite side so Collison can swing it to the next guy on the perimeter and allow that man to make the post-entry pass that DC doesn’t make very often with the taller man defending him. You can see Turner going to post up on the opposite end on the previous video. The problem is that this allows the opposing team to switch the point guard off of Turner and get at least a slightly bigger player on him, which you can also see happen on the play above as well, and it takes more time to accomplish.
Collison is shooting well from the mid-range in certain areas, but oddly the area that he takes the most attempts in the mid-range is where he shoots by far the worst percentage. From the right elbow to the 3-point line, Collison is shooting a dismal 25.7% on 35 attempts. In all other spots from 15-feet to the 3-point line, Collison is shooting a very good 53.6% on 56 attempts. If DC is going to take those type of shots, he has to start shooting more often in the areas that he’s been far more successful in. It’s very rare to see him take the opposing big to the rim as well, which could open up shots for others if he forces the defense to help as well.
TJ Leaf: Stay confident, grow in team defensive concepts.
Nate McMillan recently said that there aren’t really any expectations for TJ Leaf in his first season they just want him to get some experience on the court.
“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.”
The problem lately has been that Leaf hasn’t seen much or any playing time. Alex Poythress has gotten the most recent chance at the backup four minutes and when Glenn Robinson III comes back, it may likely be Bojan Bogdanovic playing some extra minutes as the backup power forward.
Leaf was a very confident rookie to start the season and will need to remain so even while he’s likely to sit the bench. Learning more about how to be a better defender will be the biggest thing he can do to help himself earn more minutes when his opportunities do come. Maybe sit next to Pacers defensive assistant coach Dan Burke on the bench every night.
McMillan praised his attitude recently when he went down to the G-League and played well.
“We do respect that,” McMillan said of Leaf’s mindset of wanting to do whatever is best for him. “Some guys feel they’re above (the G-League). His thing was, ‘It was good to play and get some minutes.’ … That’s what these guys love to do, is play basketball. That’s the purpose of sending him down there.”
Fortunately for the Pacers this season, Al Jefferson hasn’t been needed to play a whole lot. Hopefully that stays true in 2018. Turner and Oladipo both said that he was the one player on the team that most needed a makeover on the team. Big Al needs some new style.
Joe Young: Stay committed to the role of pesky, full-court defender
Young has embraced being the annoying, pesky defender that guards the opposing point guard the entire length of the court and it’s resulted in the occasional forced turnover. His minutes are likely to remain sporadic barring any injury and this is the easiest way for him to make an impact as he’s not going to be looked at as a primary scoring option when he plays.
Trust me I'm still one of the best scorers in the world!! Just doing my role and Becoming a great defender.
Young has added a few points in the last two games (6 and 7 points respectively), but for him to continue playing in the league, he’ll have to up his defensive game. He’s got the right attitude and you know a guy that sleeps on the practice court is going to work hard.
Damien Wilkins: Don’t get your LaVar Ball on.
Old Man Wilkins just found out that he was having his third son as he was surprised by a gender reveal during the Pacers/Mavericks game.
The Indiana Pacers start off the game slow, let the opposing team get a lead around 20 points. Then, suddenly, usually sparked by something mildly insane that Lance Stephenson did or a pull-up 3-pointer by Victor Oladipo, the Pacers look like a different team and go on a huge run. The atmosphere is intense. The Banker’s Life Fieldhouse crowd is going crazy. They end up winning by late heroics from Oladipo as he points down to the court, letting everyone know, “This is My City. This is Our House.”
Tonight, the comeback came against the Brooklyn Nets as the Pacers improved to 19-14 on the season and 3-0 against the Nets as they sit in 4th in the Eastern Conference.
Per Pat Boylan, the Pacers have been down by double digits in six of their last seven home games and by at least 16 points in five of those seven home games. Despite this, the Pacers won four of the seven and had a chance in the fourth quarter at winning every one of them.
Kevin Pritchard seems to have created something special in Indiana.
Perhaps not in terms of an abundance of talent on this Pacers team, but in a creation of chemistry that most teams can only dream about having after a few years growing together with little roster turnover. But this team brought in nine new players in a single off-season.
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.
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.
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.
Myles Turner on the difference between this year and last year's energy- "Oh man, it's incredible. There were times last year when they'd go on a run and guys would just be down. This year we have guys with energy and we feed off that."
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.
This team deserves more fans in attendance. It's a Monday night against Orlando, and the #Pacers are putting on a show for the fans.
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.
More on the team’s chemistry:
After the win, several Pacers checked to see what others were doing tonight. Several planned to grab dinner together.
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.
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→
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.