We really had no intention of talking about the coach of this team so much this week. I agree with Tim’s assessment that Jim O’Brien’s continual rotation-tinkering has been a problem for the Pacers this season but that it is not the problem.
Besides, this year’s team is playing the best defense any Indiana club has since 2006, so he has to be doing something right. You don’t just trip and fall into being a top ten defensive team. (Although the weak defensive efforts we have seen all too often in January are obviously a troubling sign that this early-season ranking might soon look hollow.)
I guess the issue of how this team is being coached just something that has been on a lot of people’s minds this week now that we officially enter the second half of the regular season.
Mike Wells sat down with O’Brien for a Q&A on the state of the team and his role in that. Among the topics discussed are the rotation-tinkering, Roy Hibbert’s struggles, transitioning to a “youth movement” and his future with the Pacers after the next 41 games.
Q: Is it frustrating that you’re at the halfway point of the season and still adjusting the lineup?
A: It’s not frustrating. You’re trying to find the right balance and the right rotation that will allow you to play winning basketball. If you’re not playing winning basketball, then you’re always going to tinker with the lineup. Nobody gets a free pass from the standpoint of their playing time. If people are not playing at the level where I feel it gives us the best chance of winning, then I’ll adjust. You have Danny (Granger), who is going to get his minutes. Darren (Collison) is playing at a pretty good and consistent level. Other than that, I’m trying to find the right combinations.
Q: You have players going from being inactive to getting minutes in the rotation. Can you explain your rationale behind it?
A: It does change because we’re looking for the right combinations and you can’t dress everybody. I’m constantly looking at different situations. The guys know that. For an example, I’m looking at Paul (George) to see if he can give us more of a consistency than what we’re getting from Brandon (Rush). What you can’t do with a young team where the majority of the players are of equal levels of talent, is if they’re not playing at the level you think they need to be playing at, you need to make changes. I’m never going to hesitate to do that, and I’ve shown that.
Like with these responses, there isn’t a lot in O’Brien’s answers to Wells’ other questions that is surprising or particularly illuminating, but head over to the Star to read six more questions and answers. It’s nice to at least see O’Brien willing to respond to the most prevalent criticisms I’ve heard fans throw at him.