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INDIANAPOLIS – New roster. New practice facility. Even new jerseys.
So much has changed in just a few months for the Indiana Pacers.
With Paul George long gone, one thing that hasn’t changed is the organization’s philosophy regarding internal expectations—tanking is not an option.
“We are in the business of winning and that’s what we are focused on,” second-year head coach Nate McMillan said at the team’s media day on Monday morning. “There’s a lot of unknown with our group as far as how we will come together, the style of play and all of that.
“(Again) We are in the business of winning. That is going to be our approach to build that team that gives us a chance to win ball games. We certainly understand we want our fan base to respect what we do, and how we go about doing it. How we play is going to be very important. Expectations haven’t really changed much from me. Last year we wanted and expected to win. That’s my approach this year.”
Here is a look at the team’s expected starting five when Training Camp begins on Tuesday:
PG-Darren Collison: Five years after starting for Indiana, Collison is back again. While the Pacers have some depth at point guard with fellow newcomer Cory Joseph, the shooting/veteran leadership of Collison should get him the starting nod. Collison says his comfort level in being more of a leader is at a much higher level, compared to his first Pacers’ stint. While the open-floor speed might not be the same for Collison, nor the lateral quickness on defense, his shooting has risen in recent years. “I couldn’t really shoot the ball as well as I can now,” Collison said on Monday. “That’s something that I’ve tried to perfect. I was more of a driver, quickness (from 2010-12 with the Pacers). This year I’m more comfortable and confident shooting the ball.”
SG-Victor Oladipo: That smile Indiana fans are used to from Oladipo was back again on Monday. The ball is going to be in Oladipo’s hands a lot when the Pacers need baskets late this season. Listening to Oladipo talk on Monday, it was quite apparent how eager he is to be the perimeter go-to guy after the Magic and Thunder traded away the former No. 2 overall pick: “I feel this organization actually believes in me and my ability,” Oladipo said. “I can honestly say that for the first time in my career.” When McMillan says the Pacers need 1 or 2 players from this current core to become All-Stars, he’s looking right at the team’s new starting shooting guard.
SF-Bjoan Bogdanovich: Added shooting was a definite focus during the offseason. Bogdanovich provides that. Spacing the floor was an issue for the Pacers last year. The additions of Collison and Bogdanovich, specifically, give the Pacers a potential starting lineup with five capable three-point shooters. Coming off the bench for Washington late last season, Bogdanovich chucked up more than four three a game, shooting just under 40 percent. Expect Glenn Robinson III to factor into some wing minutes as well. GRIII gives the Pacers a versatile wing that many in the organization envision a big jump from in his age 24 season.
PF-Thaddeus Young: Healed from a nagging wrist injury, Young is back for a second season in Indiana. It’s a totally different looking Pacers team and Young himself has a specific mindset change in how he views his 2017-18 role: “I definitely can’t be the same I was last year. I think I took a step back because I had so many guys that could go out and score the basketball, so I just wanted to be the intangible guy. Now I have to step into a different role where I have to score a little bit more. I’ve done that in my career. I’ve been on teams that didn’t have as many players but increased my points and production and rebounding.” Young, 29, has done that before, as the leading scorer of a 19-win Philadelphia team in 2013-14. Young said on Monday that he had an emphasis on improving his shooting this offseason, after connecting on 38.1 percent of his three-point attempts last season, which was a career-high for the 11-year veteran.
C-Myles Turner: The budding star has worked on strengthening his lower body going into his third NBA season. Like Oladipo, Turner is one capable of being an All-Star, as early as this year. Turner spoke on Monday about how his off-season work keyed on ‘game situations.’ The Pacers will definitely be looking more towards Turner when crunch time arrives in 2017-18. As the new face of the franchise, Turner will not shy away from the playoff aspirations of a team with nine new players. “(People) are kind of downplaying us, keeping us out of the playoff picture, but I think we have a chance to compete for that spot,” Turner says. “We just have the versatility at every position to do so. You look at a lot of teams, you think of star power. Star players can’t do anything without their team. I think this is a good team. I know this is a good team and we have the versatility at every position to make that happen.” McMillan said on Monday that the Pacers will be playing Turner some at the four-position this winter.
Other Media Day Tidbits
- Sixth Man Lance: The bolt of lightening that is Lance Stephenson will indeed be the team’s sixth man this year. In that role, Stephenson should ignite a unit that has been heavily scrutinized in recent years.
- Leaf is Healthy: McMillan said on Monday that first-round pick T.J. Leaf is healthy for Tuesday’s start to Training Camp. With so many undefined roles, it’s hard to project exactly where Leaf will fit into the 2017-18 rotation.
- Vegetarian Al: Growing up on a Mississippi farm, it was not easy for big man Al Jefferson to decide it was time to give up meat. The slimmed down Jefferson will not be changing his game—Posting 101 will still be his strength—but he says his stamina is ‘night and day’ from last year. The 32-year-old Jefferson has been joined in the frontcourt by newcomer Domantas Saboins.