It wasn’t long ago the Indiana Pacers were one of the youngest teams in the NBA. David West was still playing for the New Orleans Hornets, Danny Granger was only a couple years into his career, and Roy Hibbert and Paul George were still taking baby steps into their early days in the league. They were lacking experience on and off the court. Oh, and who was Frank Vogel? Apparently an assistant coach that knew how to spin a basketball on the end of his toothbrush while he brushed his teeth. Cool.
The blue and yellow are now recognized across the country as a hard-nosed, blue-collar team that plays together, and plays with experience. Vogel is now the head coach of the Pacers, leading them to the playoffs the past two seasons. Numerous players, both experienced and inexperienced, have been quoted as saying there really isn’t a standout leader on the team. George Hill knows how to win, coming to the Pacers in a draft-night trade back in 2011 with the San Antonio Spurs. We’re all aware what the Spurs have accomplished under the guidance of Gregg Popovich.
David West, who saw playoff action in 24 games with New Orleans, brings a veteran presence to the locker room and a lead-by-example attitude on the hardwood. West and Hill played two-against-five in the final minutes during the Pacers’ opening game of the season at Toronto on Wednesday night, coming from behind to seal a two-point victory. Not to mention Danny Granger, Indiana’s leading scorer over the past five seasons, is out indefinitely with soreness in his left knee.
Leading with experience. Leading by example.
Other current players such as Tyler Hansbrough, Lance Stephenson and Ian Mahinmi also know what it takes to win, both in the regular and postseason. Hansbrough and Stephenson contributed in the playoffs for the Pacers the last two seasons, and Mahinmi helped the Dallas Mavericks win an NBA title in 2011. Mahinmi signed a four-year, $16 million deal to be the Pacers’ backup center behind All-Star Roy Hibbert.
Frank Vogel understands the efforts not only from himself, but also from his coaching staff, that have helped clinch playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Vogel knows it will take a huge effort to advance further into the postseason. And he also perceives this team as one that has the ability to accomplish that feat. What is most important is the respect he has earned from his players, and the respect he gives in return.
Recent memory provides flashbacks of when this kind of experience did not exist with the Pacers. It is evident that this team knows how to build a lead and maintain it through four quarters, win close games in the final seconds, and rally its troops to earn a victory, as witnessed this past Halloween night in Toronto. Experience has bought this team the support it deserves, and even better days are ahead in the Hoosier state.