I’m sure you have already heard many hoops analysts trumpeting the futility of teams like the Lakers and Mavericks. Each started the season 0-2, and thus — the flawed logic goes — they can’t be true contenders. Of course, all of that is nonsense. It’s that any specific arguments hailing the downfall of L.A. or Dallas are nonsense; it’s just that the outcomes of all these early-season games are not, in and of themselves, revelatory. Because, really, this is still the preseason.
The outcomes of these games of course matter in the standings and, particularly in the Western Conference, might decide which teams make the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean that any teams are actually ready to play the season yet. Most every team’s strategies, schemes and rotations are more fluid, misunderstood and uncertain than they will ultimately prove to be.
In short, these games count but this isn’t the regular season yet. Not as we typically know it. You can’t pick a date on a calendar when teams are ready to play any more than you can draw a line on a map and say Afghanistan is a country. They need some time to get all the issues in order that are normally hammered out between October 1 and opening night.
So while it will be interesting to look at the standings for the first two weeks of the season, try not to take them too seriously. Some of the teams that struggle early will be the toughest outs in the playoffs. And some of those that enjoy success in the early going will look meek by the time better teams work off the rust.
For the Pacers — like most teams — this rust will have to be sand-blasted off on the court. During real games that count. Because due to this year’s compressed, arduous, 66-game schedule, Indiana’s practice sessions will be few and far between.
“You have to do it up top mentally when there’s not a lot of practice time,” [David] West said. “We have to think about the good things (we did against Detroit), think about the bad things and we have to be looking to improve. If we continue to be unselfish and play together, the sky is the limit for this group.”
[Coach Frank] Vogel will use film sessions as a teaching tool without taking the court.
“We have to really concentrate in film sessions,” small forward Danny Granger said. “Sometimes that’s tough with younger teams, but we know that’s our next challenge, getting better without killing our legs. I’ve talked to players on teams that win every year and they have a lot more off time because they understand the game more and don’t have to practice as much.”
Coach Vogel has some dates on the schedule for practices, but admits that he may have to call some off if he feels that his players need rest more than reps.
They’ll have to be creative because they routinely don’t practice after back-to-back games. Vogel is thinking about reducing practice time even more to avoid fatigue early in the season.
The Pacers play 15 of their next 21 games on the road.
“Day-by-day we’ll just get a feel for what our guys can handle and whether it’s going to be productive or counterproductive,” Vogel said. “You really have to make daily decisions on that.”
It will be interesting to see what affect minimal practice time has on Indiana, a young team that has two new players among its “seven starters” and other players trying to adapt to new roles.