Tag Archives: pacers

Two-Ahh: Pacers lose to Celtics behind 37-16 third quarter

After a well-played first half, the Indiana Pacers were up nine on the best team in the East, the Boston Celtics.

Then the third quarter happened. The Celtics won the quarter 37-16 and were suddenly up 12 entering the final quarter.  Continue reading Two-Ahh: Pacers lose to Celtics behind 37-16 third quarter

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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

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

A Weekly Dose of Pacers Positivity #3: Captain Thaddeus

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 lost big leads, we need some positivity.  Continue reading A Weekly Dose of Pacers Positivity #3: Captain Thaddeus

Two-Ahh: Pacers lose to Sixers 121-110

The Indiana Pacers fell to 5-4 on the season after losing to the upstart Philadelphia 76ers by a final of 121-110.

The Pacers led the game 108-107 after Victor Oladipo hit a 3-pointer, but were outscored 14-2 for the remainder of the game.

Continue reading Two-Ahh: Pacers lose to Sixers 121-110

Lakers fined $500K for tampering with Paul George

After an independent investigation, the Los Angeles Lakers were found to have tampered with Paul George and were fined $500,000.

The reason for the fine was Lakers GM Rob Pelinka expressing interest in George to his agent Aaron Mintz while he was still under contract with the Pacers.

This happened after the league had already issued a warning to the Lakers for tampering after Magic Johnson’s wink-filled interview on national television with Jimmy Kimmel.

The Pacers won’t receive any compensation like draft picks as the league did not find evidence that the Lakers and George had reached an agreement for George to join the team in free agency in 2018.

It’s a small consolation to the Pacers who had zero leverage in the Paul George trade talks because of his widely known desire to join the Lakers and his agent telling teams he would just be a rental.

The Curse of the Photoshoot: This Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words #4

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.

Previously in this series, we’ve looked at Reggie Miller’s torture of the Knicks faithful, Roger Brown and the ABA days, and the time the Pacers played with only six available players the day after the Malice at the Palace.

The Curse of the Photoshoot:

In the 2013-14 season, the Indiana Pacers looked like real challengers to the Miami Heat’s superteam at least for the first two-thirds of the season.

After taking the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012-13, the Pacers were on a mission the following season, starting off the year with a ludicrous 33-7 record. Paul George and Roy Hibbert were each All-Stars for the second time in their young careers. Hibbert was considered the best rim protector in the league with his mastery of verticality that made LeBron James bust out floaters that he used against nobody else, while George was one of the best 2-way wings in the league and still playing out the final season of his rookie contract before his extension would kick in.

Lance Stephenson, George Hill and David West completed the starting unit that made up the best 5-man lineup in the league that was light years ahead of anyone else defensively for much of the season under Head Coach Frank Vogel. This core was relatively young with great chemistry and the Pacers thought they had a team that would compete for years to come.

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“I thought we would be together five, six, seven years, making conference finals,” said Vogel, now with the Magic, recently to ESPN.com.

On February 25, 2014, the Indiana Pacers had a record of 42-13 when the infamous photo that would appear in the March issue of GQ Magazine with the Pacers starting five unintentionally portraying a 90s R&B group and perfectly embodying the team’s (awful) slogan of Blue Collar Gold Swagger hit the Internet. While it was unknown at the time, a curse had been born.

After that Pacers GQ photo appeared, the Pacers finished the regular season just 14-13 in their remaining games, losing as many games and losing twice as often in its final 27 games compared to the team’s first 55, and the Pacers chemistry started to unravel as well.

While they still finished first in the conference and made it back to the conference finals, they nearly lost to the 8-seeded Atlanta Hawks in the first round and the upstart Washington Wizards gave the Pacers all they could handle in the second.

The Pacers lost to the Heat in a respectable six games, but many of the players from the photo and the team itself are still suffering from The Curse of the Photoshoot and have never fully recovered from the end of that 2013-14 season that started off so promising.

“Our window closed fast,” Larry Bird told ESPN.com.

Now only one player remains (Stephenson who returned from his exodus in the NBA desert) from the 2013-14 roster only three seasons later after George was traded to Oklahoma City and Lavoy Allen’s team option was declined, taking away the last remnants from the roster besides Stephenson. Even Bird has a smaller role with the team after resigning from his President of Basketball Operations position.

The Pacers missed the playoffs the following season and have finished 7th in the East the past two years. They now look prepared to start a rebuild around Myles Turner after trading away George.

Let’s look at what’s happened to each player from the infamous photo since the 2013-14 season from least affected to most affected by the curse:

David West:

West and his tight pants from the Pacers GQ photo seem to be the least affected by the curse, losing money, but gaining an NBA Championship. West decided to leave the Pacers by declining his $12 million player option after George’s lost broken leg season to get back to competing for titles and became a ring chaser that no longer had to be the only grown man and veteran voice in the locker room. After one season with the San Antonio Spurs, West joined the Warriors and got his ring this past season.

The Pacers have missed his veteran leadership since he left and his departure may have led to the Pacers plan to put George at the power forward spot the following season.

George Hill:

Hill had a career-best season in 2014-15 with an increased offensive responsibility with no George or Stephenson to share the ball with, but he also missed nearly half that season with various injuries. The following season Hill went blond and the Pacers rewarded him for his outstanding year by signing Monta Ellis and taking the ball away from Hill while he stood in the corner on most possessions. Aggressive George Hill became a rare sight.

Hill’s time as a blond should be no surprise when Hill enjoyed the Pacers GQ photoshoot the most among the starting five.

“GHill was probably the one that was really loving the whole photo shoot and loving his look,” George said when the photo came out. “They gave him that outfit and he ran with it.”

Hill was traded the following offseason in a 3-team deal that sent Jeff Teague to Indiana and Hill to the Utah Jazz. Hill had a great season for the Jazz but found his free agent market surprisingly thin as he again struggled with various injuries during the season that caused him to miss 33 games.

Hill ended up signing as a veteran mentor in basketball purgatory Sacramento on a 3-year, $57 million deal (fortunately for Hill, the Kings seem to be much less Kangz-like with their recent moves and draft picks) after he had declined an extension with the Jazz during the season for worth $80 million over four years. Teague meanwhile left the Pacers after just one season for the Timberwolves on a nearly identical 3-year, $57 million contract as the Pacers preferred to look elsewhere as they begin to rebuild.

Lance Stephenson:

Stephenson was nearly an All-Star in 2014 and led the league in triple doubles with five (which seems so small after last season’s MVP race) but also got into a fight with teammate Evan Turner, who was acquired for Danny Granger at the deadline, during a practice and became most well known for blowing into LeBron’s ear during the conference finals. He was also seen as one of the problems for the Pacers fraying chemistry down the stretch.

“There were issues with Lance not making the All-Star team,” Vogel told ESPN.com. “The addition of Evan kind of screwed him up. Evan’s a great guy. The moves totally made sense. They just messed us up a little.”

Stephenson was an unrestricted free agent the summer after the 2013-14 season and the Pacers tried to woo him with a personal movie and offered him a 5-year, $44 million contract when free agency opened. Stephenson and his (now former) agent declined the deal, thinking that the Pacers were low-balling and he would be able to find a better contract elsewhere.

“I wanted to stay there but they gave me a deadline where I had to choose,” Stephenson told the IndyStar when he returned as a Hornet. “So there wasn’t no time for me to make a decision. They gave me a deadline (before) how long it (was) going to take for them to go somewhere else. I had to make a quick decision and me and my agent decided we would see what other teams (were) talking about.”

Stephenson never found a better offer as he ended up settling for a short-term 3-year contract for $27 million with the Charlotte Hornets that had a team option on the final season as the Pacers quickly moved on to other free agents, signing C.J Miles and Rodney Stuckey.

After Stephenson had the worst 3-point shooting season in history in his first and only season with the Hornets, he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies halfway through the 2015-16 season and though Stephenson had some success, the Grizzlies declined his team option and didn’t bring him back.

Stephenson found little interest on the open market as he hit free agency again this past summer and ended up making the New Orleans Pelicans on an unguaranteed contract to start the 2016-17 season, but he was let go after just six games after injuring his groin. Once recovered, Stephenson signed a 10-day contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but after six games he an injured ankle and was not retained by the Wolves.

After playing for five teams in three seasons and his career prospects looking grim, Stephenson was given a lifeline by Bird and the team he now knows he never should have left in the first place. Stephenson signed a 3-year, $12 million deal and immediately looked like his old self once he was back in a Pacers uniform, providing a spark to an inconsistent Pacers team that went 5-1 to end the season to make the playoffs.

“I’ve been on so many teams,” Stephenson told reporters after he returned, “it felt like seven years ago. I’ve been in five different places since I left here. … It makes you stronger, it makes you smarter, and it humbles you also.”

Stephenson will in all likelihood come off the bench for the Pacers this season, but the real test for whether the curse is done with him will be if his humility from his struggles for three years outside of the organization remains with Lance as the team rebuilds.

Roy Hibbert:

None of these players have had a steeper decline in their career post-GQ-photo than Hibbert. Hibbert was an All-Star and the best rim protector in the league in 2014, but in the playoffs he became a laughingstock on the Internet as he had multiple scoreless games, even matching his zero points with zero rebounds on one occasion.

Hibbert, always prone to inconsistency, seemed to lose all confidence when the Pacers signed Andrew Bynum and fed him the ball in the post more in two games off the bench than the Pacers ever looked for Hibbert inside. Bynum’s time with the team was short, lasting only those two games before succumbing to injury, but Hibbert’s game never fully recovered. Rumors also swirled that George slept with Hibbert’s fiancé and that was causing his poor play (George denied these rumors in an Instagram post of him, Hibbert and Hill fishing together).

Hibbert’s fall was quickened by a rapidly changing league that was going smaller and faster and spread the court with all five positions. Pero Antic forced Hibbert outside his comfort zone in the first-round against the Hawks by forcing Hibbert to defend him at the 3-point line and Hibbert became a liability instead of the lynchpin to the league’s best defense.

After one more so-so season with the Pacers, Bird lost his patience with Hibbert and after failing to get Hibbert to decline his player option by letting him and the world know his role would be limited next season, Bird traded him away for a 2019 second-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Hibbert played one season with the Lakers and started 81 games but scored just 5.9 points per game and was no longer able to make nearly as much of a difference on the defensive end. Hibbert played the first few months of last season as the backup center for the Hornets before being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. Hibbert never played a game for the Bucks before being traded to the Denver Nuggets a few weeks later where he played garbage minutes in only six games.

The 2-time All-Star, 9-year NBA veteran is now still a free agent and if he finds a team, it may just be on a minimum contract as centers like Hibbert are becoming more and more obsolete as the NBA continues to evolve. The argument could be made that Hibbert deserves the “most-cursed” title on this list.

Paul George:

In the summer following the photo, George broke his leg while playing in an exhibition for Team USA. While George would eventually come back better than ever, the lost season in George’s prime would end up making George ineligible for the Designated Player Extension (George needed two of the past three seasons on one of the All-NBA teams, but in the first of those three seasons George played in only a handful of games due to his leg) that would have allowed the Pacers to offer George a massive $200 million plus extension this summer that may have made George more likely to stay.

Instead the Indiana Pacers likely started to lose George as soon as Bird decided to move him to power forward the year after his injury despite him seemingly having no interest in playing the position. Bird’s other failed additions like Monta Ellis, Rodney Stuckey and Al Jefferson combined with disappointing overall team performances also likely added to George’s discontent, but it all started with the photo and then the injury. George went from saying that one day he wanted to pass Reggie Miller to being destined for the Lakers in a span of just two years.

George seemed to lament being the last guy left from those teams before Stephenson returned as player after player was either traded away or left of their own accord in free agency.

“That team is gone,” George told ESPN.com of that group. “It happens. Players move on, organizations move on. You deal with it. You keep playing.”

George is actually the only reason the GQ photo exists in the first place. Originally GQ approached just George, but George asked if the entire starting unit could join him for the shoot. GQ obliged.

“They reached out to me to do some GQ, and I thought it’d be cool to get the whole starting five in it,” said George the day the picture was released.

With the way George handled his exit and his role in the creation of the curse (only half-joking on the latter), it may be a long time before most Pacers fans can look back at these teams and remember the good times fondly.

While you can claim that other factors actually led to the Pacers demise that season and beyond like the trading of Granger, the failed addition of Bynum, the league evolving overnight or the team’s crumbling chemistry, the Curse of the Photoshoot has struck a few more teams in the years since the Pacers GQ photo.

The Seattle Seahawks made the same R&B cover photo mistake that the Pacers made and lost Super Bowl XLIX to the New England Patriots after quarterback Russell Wilson threw at interception at the goal-line in the closing moments.

The Golden State Warriors had what appeared to be a JC Penney’s catalog shoot during their historic 73-win season, but lost a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers that season.

The New York Giants added to the curse and its rapidly growing list of victims last year with their boat trip picture before quickly losing to the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs.

Update: George Hill signs with Kings Rumor: Pacers interested in bringing George Hill back to Indiana

Update: George Hill gets the same deal from the Sacramento Kings that Jeff Teague got from the Minnesota Timberwolves: 3 years, $57 million.

The Pacers have traded Paul George and are moving into building a new team around Myles Turner.

The biggest opening on the current makeup of the roster is at point guard and the latest rumor has the Pacers interested in a familiar face: George Hill.

Hill has been connected to multiple teams including the Spurs, Knicks and Nuggets, but this is the first we’ve heard the Pacers mentioned as potential suitors. 

The Pacers traded away Hill to the Jazz last season in a 3-team deal for Jeff Teague, who agreed to a 3-year deal with the Timberwolves as free agency started last night. 

Hill and newly acquired Victor Oladipo would make up a fierce defensive backcourt, much different than the undersized Teague and Ellis combination that the Pacers were starting for much of last season.

Hill will likely command a large contract worth somewhere close to $20 million per season. The Pacers have around $25 million in cap space and will have to decide if the 31-year-old that missed a lot of games last season is worth the large contract.

Update: Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reports that the Pacers are not serious about going after George Hill.

Myles Turner says he’s ready to be the face of the Pacers franchise

Myles Turner’s maturity level is well above the typical 21-year-old kid, and soon he’ll have a lot more responsibility to the Indiana Pacers organization than most players his age will ever have to their own.

The Pacers couldn’t ask for someone better to take it all on.

“Without a doubt,” Turner told Alex Kennedy on his HoopsHype podcast when asked if he’s ready to become the face of the Pacers franchise. “… I feel like I’m ready to take on more. I want to become a leader. Why not start early?”

With Paul George essentially giving his 2-weeks notice when he had his agent tell the team he doesn’t plan on signing an extension and is off to Los Angeles in 2018, the Pacers have to feel fortunate to be able to immediately start building their franchise around a player with the potential and professionalism of Turner.

“Be a leader,” Turner told Kennedy when asked about his individual goals for next season.

Turner, who averaged 14.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, seems acutely aware of the George-sized void that will soon leave the organization and need filled.

When asked about his reaction to Larry Bird saying he could potentially become the greatest Pacers player ever during last season, Turner said, “After the initial shock, you start to believe it. When you have someone who is so confident in you and an organization that is so confident in your abilities and your future, it only motivates you to keep working and work harder and get better everyday.”

As for what Turner wants to improve on with all of his hard work, he said “all aspects of his game,” but specifically mentioned facing up in the mid post, improving his 3-point shot further, and defending the pick and roll. In other interviews this offseason, he’s said his focus is getting stronger and working on his post game.

Turner’s reaction to the news that George would be leaving: “Alright, well, what’s next? We have to start rebuilding and look at what we can do for our future. That was my initial thought.”

Turner’s love for the organization and for the state of Indiana, where he’s embraced the community since his rookie season with his WARM initiative, were evident in the podcast as he talked for a couple of minutes about his favorite things in Indiana including the food, the summer weather and how great of a sports town Indianapolis is. He had very high praise for the Simons, is excited for the Pacers new practice facility and called the Pacers a “Grade-A organization.”

In these dark times when the star player of the team decides he no longer wants to be a part of the organization that drafted him, Pacers fans are eager to start the era of the future face of the Pacers, someone that wants to be in Indiana: Myles Turner.

GR3 soared, while Monta went down in flames: 2016-2017 Player Reviews

The 2016-2017 season has come and gone with an up and down year for the Blue and Gold and an interesting, highly important offseason to come with the Paul George situation looming. Here’s the start of our player season reviews with a look at Glenn Robinson III and Monta Ellis.

Glenn Robinson III

Season Per-Game Statistics: 6.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.7 assists

Contract – Under Contract through 2017/18 for $1,090,500 in the last year of his deal. This was his third year in the league. July 2015 the Pacers signed GR3 to a 3-year deal after the 76ers opted to not give a qualifying offer.

The Good – So much good here in Robinson’s mini-breakout season. A player acquired during the summer of 2015 based of potential only who most thought as a fringe rotational player, finally started to show some promise of his skills from his game winner against Atlanta to his NBA Slam Dunk championship. Glenn’s athleticism has always been his strength but this season he added shooting (39% from 3-point territory) and a little bit of defense to go along with it. A 3&D wing the Pacers desperately needed and even filled in adequately for a brief period while Paul George was hurt.

If he can continue to develop his all around game (shooting / defense) and keep his confidence up, he can be an asset in the rotation going forward, perhaps even starting some at the 2-4 spots. His injury late in the season caused Nate McMillan to (mistakenly) start Monta Ellis again so the bench could still have some shooting with CJ moving to the reserves. His importance to the team was never more clear.

The Bad – Confidence. Glenn needs to keep playing like he belongs. Too often he can drift and disappear on the court. When he’s out there, he needs to be noticed. Either by his athleticism on offense or hustle on defense. Especially when he’s playing with the second unit. When he’s starting, the team needs him to fill up the boxes by doing the little things. Blocks, hustle, etc. You wonder how much of him disappearing at times is because of who the ball was typically given to when he was in the game. The bench was typically run by ball dominant players like Rodney Stuckey or Ellis. Perhaps we’ll see a larger role for Robinson next year and a willing passer like Lance could lead to more opportunities for Sky Dog.

The injury that sidelined him near the end of the season (right when he was hitting his stride) is not chronic (calf strain). But hopefully those injuries do not become a habit.

Monta Ellis

Season Per-Game Statistics: 8.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists

Contract – Under Contract for 2017/18. $11,227,000, two more years on his deal with the last year (2018-19) a player option (The Pacers can terminate the player option by releasing Monta Ellis anytime before the end of next year’s regular season like they did with Rodney Stuckey this season). This was his 13th year in the league. In July 2015, the Pacers signed Monta to a 4-year deal worth $44 million after he opted out of his contract with the Dallas Mavericks.

The Good – Most fans would say, is there any? While there were many negative Monta moments and themes over the season, 6th-man Monta was a positive at times when Coach McMillan played him there instead of with the starting unit. His ability with the second unit to create and set up teammates was something the Pacers were missing before the acquisition of Lance Stephenson.  If he would accept the role of the bench, facilitating and attacking the rim (not shooting), he has a shot at being a top 6th man in the league. The problem is that if Stephenson continues to come off the bench, there’s really no role for good role for Ellis on this team.

The Bad – Now time for what fans want. Monta shooting threes = bad. Monta dribbling out the clock / ball stop = bad. Monta on defense (especially when Jeff Teague is on the floor too) = bad. Mostly, Monta on the floor with other players who need the ball to be successful (Teague, Lance, Stuckey, Brooks). Thanks for all the ball dominant guards that also aren’t great shooters, Larry! Trying not to kick a guy when he had a down year (lowest PPG of his career since his rookie season with 8.5ppg), but he’s getting older (31 wait, that’s old!?) and a wing who can’t guard anyone (remember the LeBron fast break dunk in the playoffs? ya, I’d rather not) or shoot threes, is a liability.

Best case this offseason is the Pacers somehow find a taker for Monta’s contract that they can sell as an expiring, but they still might need to sweeten the deal with a draft pick just to rid themselves of Ellis (and potentially Al Jefferson, but that’s another player review).

 

L2M Report: LeBron traveled before taking go-ahead 3-pointer in Game 4

According to the Last Two Minute Report, LeBron James traveled before sinking his game-winning, series-clinching 3-pointer with just over a minute remaining in Game 4.

What do you think? Would you have called LeBron’s travel here?

It’s not the most obvious call in the world, and one that is rarely called in the NBA. Before dribbling around the screen, LeBron moves his pivot foot, which would technically be a travel.

It was one of only two missed calls that the NBA found. The other was a missed Paul George travel before he took his game-tying attempt with under five seconds remaining.

The Pacers were swept by the Cavaliers by a grand total of 16 points, lowest point differential in a sweep in NBA History.

Coroner’s Report: An Autopsy of the 2016-2017 Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers season died today after being swept by the defending-champion Cleveland Cavaliers. The sweep was the first in the franchise’s history in a 7-game series. Here’s the autopsy on what caused the Pacers demise in 2016-2017.

Date: 4/23/2017

Patient: 2016-2017 Indiana Pacers
Cause(s) of Death:

  • Larry Bird
  • Nate McMillan
  • Inconsistency
  • Thaddeus Young’s wrist
  • LeBron James

Summary of examination:

Larry Bird:

No better place to start than the top for why the Pacers season died. While Bird did well to add Thaddeus Young for the 20th pick in a weak draft class and the trade for Jeff Teague seems like it’ll work out for the Pacers as long as he re-signs this summer, the team’s various puzzle pieces just never fit together. The team was built with multiple ball-dominant, undersized guards with Teague joining Monta Ellis and Rodney Stuckey on the roster. Ellis and Stuckey make the fit worse by being woeful shooters from the outside. And because Bird thought he didn’t have enough of these ball dominant, undersized guards, he also added Aaron Brooks.

Al Jefferson was added after Bird couldn’t afford to spend the $16 million per year on Ian Mahinmi that he received from the Washington Wizards, but he was only effective on offense when surrounded by shooters which the Pacers were in desperate need of all season long, instead eating up Jefferson’s real estate to work in the post most of the season were Lavoy Allen or Kevin Seraphin. Jefferson also looked disinterested in anything resembling defense all season, adding to the team’s woes in that area.

By the end of the season, Bird has spent $27 million of the team’s salary cap on three players that gave the Pacers nothing in the playoff series against the Cavaliers. Stuckey was injured and released late in the season, Jefferson never saw a minute of playing time in the series, and I wish we saw that little of Ellis. Even as his playing time shrank to just five minutes played in game four, the Pacers were outscored by seven points in that stretch. They lost the game by four. This was Monta’s biggest highlight of the series.

Ellis and Jefferson still have multiple years left on their contracts though the Pacers can rid themselves of Ellis’s player option for the final season by waiving him before the end of the next season like they did with Stuckey this year. Bird’s spent a lot of precious cap space on players that have made the Pacers worse. The Pacers were outscored by 2 points per 100 possessions with Ellis on the court per NBA Wowy, despite spending much of that time with the starters (CJ Miles with the starters meanwhile was the 5th-best lineup in the NBA that played over 400 minutes together). The Pacers were outscored by 6 points per 100 possessions when Al Jefferson was on the court, and 3 points per 100 possessions with Stuckey. None of these players added anything on the defensive end either besides Ellis’s penchant for guessing correctly to get a steal or two per game. 

Bird’s poor roster construction the last two seasons has wasted two years of Paul George’s prime at the worst possible time as his contract comes another year closer to being up before George can hit free agency after next season.

All these additions led to a roster that had a nasty problem of both too little shooting and too little defense. After years of being in the upper echelon of team defense, the team struggled all season long to be consistent on that end of the court after losing George Hill, Ian Mahinmi, Solomon Hill and Frank Vogel, despite Bird’s confidence that assistant coach Dan Burke would take care of that end.

Bird allowed Vogel’s contract to expire (article had previously said Vogel was fired, but his contract simply wasn’t renewed) after the Pacers lost in the first round to the Raptors in seven games while saying that he wants a “new voice” in the locker room and for the team to play faster. Vogel led the teams to the playoffs every year except for one: the year Paul George recovered from his broken leg. They were one win away from getting the final playoff spot that season. Meanwhile, Bird quickly decided without interviewing any other candidates that his “new voice” to get the team to play faster was a coach that had been with the Pacers the previous three seasons and was notorious for his ultra slow-paced, but efficient offenses at Portland, Nate McMillan, which brings us to the next cause of death.

Nate McMillan 

McMillan in his first year as head coach for the Pacers was dealt a flawed roster from the start (see above) but did little to find ways to put some of these mismatched pieces in a position to succeed. Bird wanted the team to play faster on offense, but they were only 18th in pace this season. Most perplexing of all was McMillan’s decision to start Ellis for 33 games of the season and then two more in the playoffs, even though it was obvious as soon as Teague was acquired that Ellis and Teague would never fit together. Pacers were outscored by nearly eight points per game when Teague and Ellis shared the court in the playoffs. Even after realizing that finally pulling the plug on starting Ellis after the first two games against the Cavaliers, McMillan somehow decided that he should attempt to finish the game with Ellis as he played six minutes in the fourth quarter of game three during the Pacers historic collapse.

Meanwhile, the Pacers starting lineup with either Glenn Robinson III (+6 per 100 possessions) or CJ Miles (+7.7 points per 100 possessions) was one of the better 5-man lineups in the league. When Robinson got hurt, McMillan made the mistake of making the starters worse for the sake of the fit of the bench by going back to Ellis over Miles. It didn’t hurt the Pacers in the regular season as they ended the season with five straight wins, but we saw the effects of it in the playoffs.

He chose to bog down bench lineups with double plodders (pairing Jefferson and Allen or Jefferson and Seraphin or Allen and Seraphin) for much of the season while never giving Georges Niang an opportunity to play as a power forward to see if he could help the spacing issues and stay with a stretch big better than the other bigs that came off the bench. Driving players like Stuckey and Ellis could never find any space in the lane and spent a lot of time bricking jump shots from the outside and Jefferson was short on room to operate from the post in the paint.

The Pacers were very much a team that was living in the past under McMillan with a general a lack of awareness of the 3-point line. The Pacers were tied with the 4th-best 3-point shooting team in the league by percentage at 37.6%, but were a lowly 27th in the league in attempts per game. On the other end of the court, the Pacers gave up the 5th-most 3-point attempts and were 13th in the league in opponent’s shooting percentage from long range (35.5%).

Another of the more puzzling moves from McMillan was his coaching of second-year player Myles Turner. Turner’s usage percentage mysteriously dropped after the All-Star break from 21% to just 16% with McMillan on record of saying that he wanted Turner to not shoot it every time and “distribute more,” but this made Turner hesitant to shoot when opportunities were there as he was stuck thinking too much instead of just playing with instinct. A finger injury in March didn’t help, but the drop in usage started before the injury. Turner got better as a passer throughout the season, but that’s a waste of Turner’s talents when he’s passing out to players like Ellis in the corner. Turner was called the Pacers best shooter and potentially the best Pacers player ever down the line at different times by Bird in the last two years, but Turner went from being the 2nd or 3rd offensive option to only the 4th or 5th for reasons unknown. Turner still has plenty of room to grow by adding strength and gaining more of a low-post game, but there’s no reason that his jump shot shouldn’t have been utilized more in the offense this year.

Too often this team seemed undisciplined and unorganized on defense, and at some point, the team’s inconsistency of play from one night to another comes down to the coach as well, which brings up the next cause of death.

Inconsistency

The Pacers at home this season were one of the best teams in the league with a record of 29-12 that was tied for 7th-best in the league, but on the road, the Pacers record of 13-28 was the 8th-worst in the league. The road woes came even against the bottom-feeders of the league as the Pacers lost to the following non-playoff teams on the road: Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks (twice), Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets (twice) and Miami Heat (twice).

All of these bad losses become even more frustrating when just one more win this season would have avoided the first-round matchup against LeBron James, and the Pacers had a much better shot of challenging the Toronto Raptors or any other team in the East than James and the Cavaliers. By winning only two of these 11 games, the Pacers would have been the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Pacers effort on defense came and went all year. Scott Agness reported after today’s game that the general feeling was that they were “horrendous” on defense all season and that communication was the biggest thing that they lacked.

Some of this inconsistency from early in the season can be blamed on a lack of familiarity with each other as the team was overhauled from the previous season, but they never seemed to find much chemistry until Lance Stephenson arrived on the scene.

Thaddeus Young’s Wrist

Thad Young showed how important he was to the Pacers when he suffered his wrist injury and missed eight games. The Pacers would the first two, but then lost the next six going into the All-Star break. Young came back after the All-Star break and still helped the Pacers with his hustle, effort and array of lefty floaters in the lane, but his wrist was clearly still injured and his improved shooting stroke from outside was unable to make a return in the second half of the season. For a stretch early in his return, he struggled to even catch passes from his teammates.

Young shot 39.6% from 3-point range on 111 attempts before the All-Star break and only 14% after on just seven attempts. Young was unable to even consider shooting from the outside as his wrist recovered. The Pacers were 27-22 before Young’s injury and 15-18 after the injury.

LeBron James

James delivered the final death blow to the Pacers season by being the best player in the world throughout the first-round series. Every time Paul George had an amazing game in the series, James answered. James averaged 32.8 points, 9.0 assists, 9.8 rebounds and 3 steals per game and was the catalyst to the Pacers historic collapse in game three as he was unstoppable while surrounded by four shooters in that fourth quarter and the Pacers had no answer for the lineup. The Pacers could have avoided facing James by taking care of business in the regular season though as talked about above.

Drugs in system at time of death

Abnormal levels of hype and adrenaline

Lance Stephenson, Born Ready, briefly brought this team back from the dead when it looked like the team would fail to make the playoffs as they went 5-1 after he was signed to a 3-year, $12-million deal after Stuckey suffered a season-ending injury. His energy and passion was infectious for the Pacers as the team finally were consistently showing up night after night with their season on the line. The Pacers outscored opponents by 10 points per game with Stephenson on the court in the regular season and look like they have a steal at just $4 million for next season.

Myles Turner is in a Sophomore Slump

When Myles Turner started this season off with an impressive 30 points, 16 rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 steals in an overtime win against Dallas, it looked like Turner might be ready to make a leap to stardom quicker than expected.

But since that opening night, Turner hasn’t surpassed 30 points (closest is 26 points against the Pelicans in December) or 16 rebounds (his closest is 15 rebounds against the Nets in January). At the All-Star break, saying his season was a disappointment would still have been unfair as the 20-year-old second-year player out of Texas was averaging 15.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game (constantly adding to the ever-growing Myles High Club).

However, since the All-Star break and particularly during the month of March, Turner seems to have hit the proverbial wall and is in the midst of a sophomore slump offensively during an inopportune time for the Pacers as they look to secure a playoff spot. He’s averaging just 8.9 points and 6.9 rebounds in the Pacers first nine games of March. The signs of a decline in his play were evident in February as his shooting percentages dipped from well over 50% for the first few months of the season to only 46%, but they’ve plummeted all the way down to a lowly 40% so far in March.

Lately, it seems that Turner is reluctant to look for his shot in the offense, and you have to wonder if his confidence is dwindling as his shooting stroke from beyond the 3-point line has completely abandoned him. He’s made just 2 of his last 22 attempts from deep after starting the season shooting 40% (33 of 83), and he’s yet to make a 3-pointer in March on nine attempts.

Statistics seem to support the hypothesis that he’s passing up some shots that he would normally take as his usage percentage is down to just 16.2% since the All-Star break after being at 21.2% in the season’s first half.

The only positive from Turner turning down shot opportunities has been his improved passing making more appearances every game. Turner’s nearly doubled his assist average since the All-Star break with 1.9 per game after getting just 1.1 prior and has made many passes that he wouldn’t have even thought to attempt during his rookie season.

Turner’s become very adept at finding the open shooters at the 3-point line, but he’s also making some flashy passes. This assist is from January, but Myles has been making a lot of no-look passes like this one in February and March.

 

Based on comments to the Indy Star earlier this month, this may be a concerted effort for Turner to pass the ball more and find ways to contribute outside of scoring.

“The game has really gone to the five man being involved in pin-downs or pick-and-rolls and a lot of times that ball is thrown to him and he’s got to make reads,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan told the Indianapolis Star. “It’s not shooting every time, but it’s taking what the defense is giving you and making the right read. I thought last night was probably his best game of making those reads of the pick-and-rolls and the pin-downs.”

Still you wonder if the Pacers have gone too far with wanting Turner to pass and if it’s causing him to think too much about whether it’s okay for him to shoot. It’s not often that you see Turner catch the ball on a pick and pop and immediately be ready to shoot the ball in the midrange during this stretch. It’s also becoming increasingly rare to see Turner get the ball on the block while posting someone up (still looking forward to him working with Jermaine O’Neal in that area).

Fortunately for the Pacers, Turner’s still been very good defensively as the anchor down low as he’s led the Pacers to a 5th-best defensive rating since the All-Star break even after the Raptors torched them last night. While he struggles with blocking out as he tries continue to add strength to his young body, he’s still the most important player defensively for the Pacers.

Even in this awful offensive stretch, Turner’s been the Pacers second-best player in terms of Total Points Added with Paul George leading the way by a large margin. You can see how good Turner’s been defensively that he’s still about +5 overall in this metric and how much more value he’s added on defense than any other Pacer.

Last night’s brutal game against the Raptors was a perfect microcosm of everything that’s been going on with Turner for about a month and a half. He scored just three points while taking only four shots as he often passed away opportunities to score and managed three assists while looking for his teammates, but also had two turnovers. Besides the game against Kristaps Porzingis and the Knicks where he put up 17 points and 11 rebounds, Turner has often seemed extremely passive in the offense since the All-Star break.

Turner continued to look skiddish when getting the opportunity to shoot in the first half tonight against the Jazz, but seemed much more intent on looking to score in the second. He finished with 16 points and made more than 50% of his shots. Hopefully, this will carry over to the next game for Turner.

Turner’s improvement in passing and uptick in his assists average is not worth all the points per game that the Pacers are losing by him not being as involved in the offense in terms of scoring. If the Pacers want to make the playoffs and perhaps challenge either the Wizards, Celtics, or Raptors in a 7-game series, they’ll need Turner to score, not to just get a couple of assists per game. Turner finding that balance between sharing the ball while still looking to score and regaining confidence in his shot will be key for the Pacers as they try to lock down their spot in the playoffs.

Rebounding struggles have improved for Pacers since All-Star break

Rebound: undefined period following the break up of a romantic relationshi… oops wrong definition. Basketball Rebound: gain possession of a missed shot after it bounces off the backboard or basket rim.

Once known as a defensive-focused team who controlled the glass, rebounds are hard to come by for the Indiana Pacers this season. Currently the Pacers are 2nd to last in Defensive Rebound Percentage (Percentage of available rebounds grabbed, last place is NYK) and near the bottom (26 of 30) in total rebounds per game. In total rebounds, the first Pacer listed is Myles Turner at #32 overall with next listed being Paul George at #62. So… not good.

Many factors go into not being able to control the boards of course. Personnel, style of play, effort, opponent, etc. And for the Pacers there is no simple answer besides a little bit of all of these. Head Coach Nate McMillan knew this was a potential issue before the season even began with how the roster was set up.

“One of the concerns, or things we will have to improve on, is our rebounding,” McMillan told 1070 the Fan in early October. “We’ve played pretty much a big lineup the last couple of years; we’ve been able to rebound the ball. We’ve got to rebound the ball this year, that’s going to take a team effort.”

When the Pacers win or match the opponent in the rebounding battle, they tend to win games. But that hasn’t happened often enough this season.

This season the Pacers have won or tied in 26 of their 65 games so far and are 18-8 when they do so. When they lose the rebounding battle, they are 15-24. The Pacers magic number seems to be about 43 rebounds a game. Hit that, and they are almost guaranteed to win the rebounding battle.

“It’s got to be more of a collective effort, because we don’t have that big tree down there that takes up a lot of space,” CJ Miles told the Indy Star earlier this season. “Wings have to crash. And we have to help out our forwards like Thaddeus. I won’t call him undersized, but he’s not as big as some other guys and when you wrestle with guys like (the Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson), you gotta come help him.”

It is not the cure all though to win the rebounding battle though. If you can’t win on the boards, you need to make it up in other spots. Either from the 3-point line or Foul Line.

Recently things have been looking better on this end however. Since the All Star break, the Pacers have tied or out-rebounded their opponent in all but one of their games. (The outlier being that clunker of a game against the Charlotte Hornets).

Since the Pacers don’t seem to have the personnel to consistently win the rebounding battle (no 7-footers on the roster and their center still just 20 years old and growing into his body), they have to rely on effort play to get there and gang rebound or hope it’s a cold shooting night by their opponent.

“We don’t have a lot of world-beaters (in that area), so our team schemes have to be solid, our defensive shell has to be solid,” Assistant Coach Dan Burke told the Indy Star. “And we need everybody to crash. That gang mentality has to told steady every game.”

Effort on the glass is one of the reasons why players like Rakeem Christmas and Lavoy Allen have had so much of an impact in their limited time on the floor of late.

Since Christmas had his first large minutes game against the Grizzlies right after the All-Star break, the Pacers have only been out-rebounded only once. He’s averaging three rebounds a game in 11.5 mins per contest, with minutes coming when Albus Jefferson was out with Dental Work (shout-out to Joe Betz).

Same can be said of Lavoy Allen’s resurgence lately. Since the All-Star break, he’s averaged 18.2 minutes a game when he plays with 7.4 rebounds per contest. By comparison, that would be the best per game average on the season for the Pacers (Turner, 7.1 & George, 6.2).

Without the consistent personnel to win on the glass, the Pacers have to come with a sense of urgency and hustle to win the rebounding battles, end possessions, and start their offense on the break. Which a team run by Jeff Teague should love to execute (think end of the Atlanta game). The Pacers have shown improvement in this area since the All-Star break, and we’ll see if this trend continues or if it’s just a good couple of weeks that disappear into more inconsistency.

Let’s hope the Pacers can continue to play like they have since coming back from the All-Star break and attack each game with an attitude like one of the greatest hustle players in history:

“I’m hungrier than those other guys out there. Every rebound is a personal challenge,” Dennis Rodman famously said.

 

 

Paul George should be VERY happy with the new CBA

A new CBA agreement was tentatively reached last night between the NBA and the NBA Players’ Union. One new detail in the agreement will likely affect Paul George and the Pacers as they try and come to an agreement on an extension to keep George in Indiana next summer.

It will allow teams to designate one veteran player that has achieved certain criteria as a player (Zach Lowe reports that at least one of these will be making an All-NBA team) and offer that player a contract extension that is 35% of the Salary Cap in year one of the extension (30% if he leaves as a free agent with another team) and allows the contract to extend up to 5 years in addition to the one year remaining (4 years is max as a free agent with another team). It also allows the Pacers to increase the salary by up to 7.5% per season, while other teams would be limited to only 4.5% increases.

This amounts to a huge increase for Paul George and other star players like DeMarcus Cousins and Russell Westbrook that will be looking for new contracts in the near future.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders broke down what it would look like for Paul George if he signed an extension under this provision next summer and compared it to what a potential deal would look like if he choose to leave.

Home teams certainly have a lot more money to throw at stars to encourage them to stay and to avoid free agency with the extension now than they ever have. Here’s what Kyler reported George’s contract would roughly look like.

This is big news for small markets that are increasingly losing their marquee players in free agency, and it couldn’t come at a better time for the Pacers and their fans as Paul George is locked in for $19.5 million next season (2017-2018) and is expected to opt-out of his contract in the summer of 2018 to become an unrestricted free agent.

 

 

 

 

A Good Problem: Finding minutes for Glenn Robinson III

With Paul George and C.J. Miles both out the past two games, Glenn Robinson III has stepped up in their absence and led the team in scoring each of the last two games for the Indiana Pacers.

First, GR3 put up 20 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block while making 4 of his 6 3-point attempts in a landslide victory against the Brooklyn Nets.

In his encore performance against the Los Angeles Clippers, Robinson made 7 of his 9 shots for a team-high 17 points and 6 rebounds.

https://twitter.com/ipacersblog/status/805405313448996866

Now as George and Miles are nearing a return to the lineup, the Pacers have a bit of a conundrum. How do they find minutes for their budding young player that seems to be growing in confidence the more he plays while also not creating a disgruntled veteran that gets pushed out of the rotation?

Putting Robinson back on the bench and out of the rotation is simply not an option at this point as he seems to be ready to take on a full-time role at minimum as a backup wing.

McMillan is surely eager to see if Robinson can build on this momentum and keep up his recent level of performance, and here are some options that may be considered by the Pacers coaching staff.

Option 1: Start GR3

One option the Pacers could look at is moving Robinson to the starting shooting guard while moving Monta Ellis to a sixth-man role.

The Pacers briefly had Ellis come off the bench in favor of a scorching Miles, but the experiment only last a single game. Ellis already plays a lot of time leading the second unit and his skill set has always seemed perfect for a sixth-man scorer that could attack opposing benches.

This would be the scenario that gives Robinson the biggest role. Ellis could still end up playing more minutes, but if Robinson can keep up his hot shooting from 3-point land of late he could bring a much needed boost in spacing to that starting lineup.

The challenge for Robinson in this option will be keeping his aggressiveness while playing alongside George. Too often in the past, Robinson has been too passive when given opportunities with the starters, but this has changed in the past two games with Robinson playing with extreme confidence and making quick decisions when he decides to attack. There hasn’t been any hesistation when he gets a chance to shoot.

He’s still picking his spots, but has been very efficient in the past two games, shooting 68% from the field (13 of 19). Obviously, this is not a sustainable percentage, but he can continue to build up his 44% shooting from the field and 34% shooting from deep, he’ll be valuable as a floor spacer for the starters.

Robinson is also a better defense option for this lineup as it gives the Pacers more size to go against teams with bigger guards. This has been a problem with Ellis in certain matchups. A perfect example being the game against the Charlotte Hornets where Michael Kidd-Gilchrist destroyed Ellis in the post repeatedly to begin the game as the Hornets took advantage of that match up over and over again early.

The problem with Ellis coming off the bench is then what do the Pacers do with Aaron Brooks and Rodney Stuckey. Miles is locked in as the backup small forward once he’s healthy. So backup minutes at the guard positions would have to be split between three players: Ellis, Stuckey, and Brooks.

McMillan would likely end up benching Brooks, who is by far the best shooter of the group, and the Ellis, Stuckey combo would have many of the same issues that Ellis, Teague as a pair have (both need the ball, both aren’t great as floor spacers off the ball, small defenders).

Option 2: Glenn Robinson III, backup wing

Robinson gets a rotation spot while coming off the bench as a backup option at both the wing positions. C.J. Miles will likely still play more time in this scenario, especially if he comes back shooting as well as he has so far this season. The Pacers have been much better this season with Ellis on the floor than off so keeping him with starters isn’t a terrible option.

The problem that this creates is the same as the previous one. What does McMillan do with Stuckey and Brooks?

The only way to still play both of them would be to give Miles and Robinson some time as a small-ball power forward and eliminate some or all of Lavoy Allen’s minutes.

While this may sound appealing, Miles has serious durability issues already and playing the power forward spot wore him down quickly last season, and the Pacers do tend to rebound better with Allen on the floor, which has been a weakness of this team.

Once again, this will have to lead to benching of Stuckey or Brooks, who both have had some decent moments this season.

Option 3: Larry Bird finds a trade partner for Stuckey, Ellis, or Brooks.

If the Pacers truly believe that Robinson is ready for a permanent, contributing role, then Larry Bird should be searching for any takers for either Stuckey, Ellis, or Brooks.

None of these players are going to be hot commodities in the trade market. Hoping for some team to offer a first-round pick for one of these players is highly unlikely, but looking for a backup power forward (Omri Casspi, perhaps?) is possible or maybe the Pacers can get an offer of a second-round pick or two.

Trading away one of these players opens up an obvious spot for GR3 to slide right into and avoid having a veteran becoming disgruntled while spending all of his time on the bench.

The risk in trading one of these players away becomes an issue if Robinson can’t continue this level of performance and loses confidence.

If the Pacers think Robinson’s ready to roll, he needs to have consistent playing time, and McMillan will have to make changes to the rotation once everyone’s healthy to keep him on the court and off the bench.

https://twitter.com/ipacersblog/status/805405313448996866

New numbers for the new Pacers

Pacers officially announced the acquisitions of Thaddeus Young, Jeff Teague, and Jeremy Evans earlier today and each player had to choose a new number from the one worn the previous season.

Thad Young will rock the former number of David West, during his Pacers time with number 21. His former number with the Nets (30) is retired in honor of ABA great George McGinnis.

Continue reading New numbers for the new Pacers

Glenn Robinson III, Georges Niang continue to impress in Summer League play

The Pacers fell to the Pistons in their third game of Summer League play after a late rally fell short as Joe Young’s tying layup attempt somehow bounced out, 80-76. Their record is now 1-2.

More important than the results of a very entertaining, but meaningless game, a couple of the Pacers young players played very well with challenging matchups.

Glenn Robinson III was up against the Pistons previous first-round pick and defensive stalwart Stanley Johnson. GR3 put up 20 points and 7 rebounds, while going back and forth matching bucket for bucket with Johnson in the closing minutes of the game.

At the same time, Georges Niang, the 50th pick in the draft, went up against Henry Ellenson, who the Pistons picked at 18. Niang put up 14 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.  Continue reading Glenn Robinson III, Georges Niang continue to impress in Summer League play

Lance Stephenson considering a return to the Pacers

Born Ready may become Reborn Ready soon. Nate Taylor of the Indy Star reports that Lance Stephenson is considering a return to the Pacers as he mulls offers from multiple teams. Both sides appear to be interested in the possible reunion.

Stephenson has played for three teams since turning down the Pacers 5 year, $44 million deal just two years ago. After a challenging year with the Hornets, he was traded to the Clippers. The Clippers then traded him during last season to the injury-riddled Grizzlies where Stephenson started to find his groove as a player again. He averaged over 14 points per game while with Memphis, but the team declined his $9.4 million team option which made him an unrestricted free agent.  Continue reading Lance Stephenson considering a return to the Pacers

ESPN reports Pacers, Kings have discussed Rudy Gay deal

Yesterday, there were some rumblings from unreliable sources and today Marc Stein of ESPN has reported that the Pacers and Kings have discussed a potential deal that would send Rudy Gay to the Pacers.

Continue reading ESPN reports Pacers, Kings have discussed Rudy Gay deal