You’re sliding the wrong way.
(Please welcome first-time 8p9s contributor Terry Donahue, who will hopefully become multiple-time contributor Terry Donahue soon. He has been a Pacers fan longer than I have been alive and has the unfortunate distinction of being Tim’s brother. Enjoy. – JW)
I’ve had a really bad feeling about this team the last 10 days or so. I think coach Frank Vogel is back to doing what I think got former-coach Jim O’Brien fired and what once-upon-a-time coach Isiah Thomas tried to do — play too many people and decide from night to night who has the hot hand and who should play down the stretch.
With that strategy, by the time you’ve run through all your options, it’s too late to do anything else.
We’re 62 games into the season and still arguing about who to play. I think Vogel, if he has any chance of keeping his job (something I don’t have an opinion on as of yet) needs to decide his rotation and stick to it. If they lose, they lose. But it’s time to play for this year and not several years down the road.
That will be difficult for Vogel to do. If he sits any of the young players, he will get the same type of heat that O’Brien got from an impatient fan base. From what I’ve seen, however, teams that play for the future are still playing for the future years down the road — only with different cast members.
I don’t think the Pacers should have played Stephenson at all this year. I can see the talent — and it is more than I expected — but adding him to the mix just disrupts what the team is trying to do. This would be true even if he were the best of teammates, which evidently he isn’t. I don’t think there is any advantage to him playing in these situations, rather than going through a full training camp and entering next season, possibly as a rotation player, essentially as a second-year rookie. (Hey, it worked for Blake Griffin.)
I don’t know if Bird told Vogel to play Lance or not, but he told everyone else that Lance was going to play, so I think that distinction it comes down to semantics. I find that disappointing, as I’ve always thought that Bird — a former coach — was the type of general manager who puts the players on the roster and lets the coach coach them.
As for the yelling on the floor and in the locker room, I expect that is probably more about defense, particularly defensive rotations, than about who is getting the ball on offense. If one or two players aren’t where they are supposed to be on defense, or are rotating late, it exposes the guys who do rotate as their men score easy baskets. Pretty soon no one is playing team defense. Teams like Milwaukee, for example, can compete even with half of their roster out injured, because they do play team defense.
Going forward, if I was coaching this team, I would probably move Dahntay Jones to the starting lineup instead of Paul George. This is not necessarily because Dahntay has earned it, or because he is necessarily a better defensive player, but because he is veteran who could help solidify the starting unit defensively. Meanwhile George, with Jones off the floor, might be forced to become more aggressive offensively — something I don’t think he will do as a starter right now.
On a macro-level, I also think the Pacers need to revamp their offense to get the shooting guard more involved. Of course, I don’t think that can be done until next year. But if Rush would react as I expect him to — by disappearing in the second unit — then George would likely have to shoot more, particularly if he plays the small forward position in that unit.
At this point, as NBA players are wont to say, I think it is what it is. So just play what you’ve got and see what happens. The only truly positive thing I see that will benefit the young players and, thus, the Pacers future development, is this team making the playoffs. Conversely, the biggest negative would be not making the playoffs.
So regardless of getting Lance playing time and making sure the young players stay in the rotation, Vogel should just do what he thinks is necessary to get this team into the postseason.