The combination of a slumping team, both on offense and defense, has prompted some to believe that Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel should make a rotation change or two.
Over the past few weeks, there has been no doubting the Pacers’ struggles offensively. Virtually every guy on the team has experienced his own difficulty scoring the basketball.
Their offense became so terribly stagnant that, before Wednesday’s win over the Detroit Pistons, Indiana hadn’t shot better than 40% from the floor for six straight games. Throughout those same six contests, the Pacers managed to score more than 80 points just once, in a home win over the Miami Heat. It wasn’t much prettier then, either, as Indiana beat the Heat 84-83.
Sure, it’s a small sample size. It was, however, some of the poorest basketball play that Pacers fans have seen in a number of years. Indy played one-on-one, boring, unorganized basketball for nine days.
But it goes back further.
Over the course of 18 games scheduled within the month of March, the Pacers won just eight games while dropping 10. That mark was one of the worst in the NBA, and the final nine days of the month simply put the icing on the (disgusting) cake.
Sluggish offensive play raised questions regarding why some other players weren’t getting their opportunity to contribute. Chris Copeland, Rasual Butler, and Lavoy Allen have all added a spark at times this year. None were on the team a season ago, but all have done something significant in a Pacers uniform to earn the respect from fans that buy tickets to watch their team play.
Copeland became a fan favorite the moment he stepped on the court, offering to be a sharpshooter from the perimeter — something the Pacers haven’t had for years. Butler brought a veteran presence to the team’s locker room and has recorded solid numbers when he has received playing time off the bench. Allen, brought over from Philadelphia in a February trade, caught everyone’s attention with his 13-point (on 6-for-6 shooting), 4-rebound performance for the Pacers on March 14 back in Philly.
If key guys like Paul George, Roy Hibbert, Luis Scola and Evan Turner aren’t performing well, there is reason to believe others should get their chance. That’s not to say any of those individuals deserved to be benched, but the possibility of giving some of, say, Luis Scola’s minutes to Copeland or Allen, for a change, sounds appealing to many.
Speaking of change, cutting back on Turner or George’s minutes in favor of Copeland or Butler isn’t too far-fetched, either. Offense has been the issue of late, after all, and Vogel did already bench Turner in favor of Butler in the second half against the Spurs.
In fact, Turner’s minutes were considerably down for three straight games before the win against Detroit, and Butler has scored 8 points in each game in which he’s played more than 20 minutes this season.
Copeland, too, finally got a few opportunities in March, scoring 11, 5, 5, and 5 points, respectively, in the four games he received any form of significant playing time.
The win over Detroit may have helped stem the tide of criticism, and Vogel is saying that stability and belief in the current process are critical. So it’s hard to say if any changes are in store or not, but even if the team rebounds in these last few games, it isn’t out of the question that Vogel will continue to experiment with his “set rotation” theory in the coming weeks.