What We Learned from Indiana Pacers Media Day

Sep 29, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13), center Roy Hibbert (55) and forward David West (21) during media day at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 29, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13), center Roy Hibbert (55) and forward David West (21) during media day at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Indiana Pacers hosted media day on Monday. Usually, these events are more of a “Back to School” assembly than anything particularly enlightening. See this chart for reasons why.

But there are so many unknowns about the Pacers right now that we did actually learn some meaningful things.

Here are the top insights from Indiana Pacers Media Day 2014.

No Expectations

The Indiana Pacers players know that this year will be difficult. They are being realistic. Here is how David West put it: “You have to give yourself a realistic starting point. So obviously we can’t be talking about competing for a championship, even being in title contention, we’ve just have to talk about figuring out a way to get the best lineups on the floor, the best guys on the floor to give us a chance to compete.”

Personally, West also knows that the loss of Lance and Paul means his chance to win a ring, as a major contributor anyway, is probably over.

This is all a far cry from last year’s rallying cry to win the East.

Instead, the team isn’t publicly setting any goals this season.

Still they aren’t resigned to being lottery fodder like most pundits are projecting. George Hill, at least, thinks that the team will benefit from being humbler. He said this will give them a chance to sneak up on teams instead of walking around with a bull’s-eye on their backs.

George Hill Has to Score

The Pacers now have a bunch of combo guards. George Hill, C.J. Watson, and Rodney Stuckey aren’t traditional point guards nor are they what you think of for the two-spot.

Each will likely see plenty of time in both spots, and Hill will be asked to be an aggressor no matter with guard spot he mans, according to Frank Vogel as quoted in the Indianapolis Star.

"“Handling the ball more than in the last couple years, I think George is going to be more assertive,” Vogel said. “I’m going to put him in positions to be more assertive.”"

Hill was by far the least aggressive starter last season, with a usage rate of and just 14.8 and 8.1 field-goal attempts per game.

He will certainly have to step that up for this team to even match the feeble offensive production it showed last season. And it seems that both Vogel and Hill understand.

The Indiana Pacers Will Play Some Smallball

Frank Vogel hasn’t outright said that he will go small this year, but the writing is all over the place. For one, both Vogel and David West know that they need to limit his minutes this year. That was the plan before Paul George went down and Lance Stephenson left, and I don’t see them changing it; if they want West to still be effective after George returns next season — which will be the 34-year-old’s 13th NBA campaign — they can’t run him into the ground this year.

So if West’s playing time drops down to, say, 28 minuter per game, then that leaves only two real options. The first is playing Luis Scola — the only other traditional power forward on the roster — 20 minutes a night. He played well in the FIBA World Cup this summer, but asking that much out of Scola, who turns 35 in April, is ridiculous. The Argentine logged just 17 mpg last year (and less than 14 mpg in the playoffs) and often managed to hurt the team even in that limited time.

Lavoy Allen is the natural candidate to take the minutes West and Scola are too old to play. But while Allen was once a productive player for a decent Sixers team (yes, they once fielded one of those), he still has some showin’ and provin’ to do.

Thus, look for Damjan Rudez to log plenty of minutes at the four spot. At 6’10”, he isn’t small. But he is an outside shooter who Vogel can use to space the floor. Chris Copeland also might mop of some of the power forward minutes. Vogel has said he plans to get Cope on the floor at the small forward spot, but with West and Scola being so old and Rudez being so inexperience in the NBA, I presume Copeland will see time at both forward positions.

Vogel has been as stubborn as any coach in the league about sticking with a classic center (Hibbert/Mahinmi) and power forward look upfront. But unless Allen lights the world on fire this year, it looks like father time and Larry Legend have seen to it that this stance is a near impossibility this year. Vogel will need to use the tools he has in his toolbox, and we will likely learn a bit more about the coach this year as he tries to find some combinations that work.

Indiana Pacers Won’t Talk the Talk

The Indiana Pacers made their on-court struggles worse last season when they started speaking too freely in the press. Some public criticism can help, but this just seemed like whining and airing locker room tensions.

The players look like they have learned the error of those ways, and vow to keep it quiet this year. Roy Hibbert in particular plans to let his coach do the talking for him in public, according to Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star.

While I believe Hibbert and his teammates are sincere in their pledge, this is a bit like your friend who makes a New Year’s resolution to go to the gym. He hasn’t been on a treadmill in two years, so excuse me for thinking this new-found discipline won’t last long.

I’m presume the players will keep any early-season problems in house, but let’s see what happens if they’re below .500 at the All-Star break and reporters are shoving a mic in their face every other day asking “What’s wrong?”

Paul George Optimistic About Recovery

You never hear an injured player say, “My rehab is going badly.” This is both because players rarely use adverbs correctly and because they all think they will bounce back better than ever.

Paul George had reason for optimism yesterday, though, since he was able to take off his walking boot for the first time. This was merely to look good for the photos, however. Today at practice, he was back to hobbling around, according to Candace Buckner.

Ian Mahinmi Still Banged Up

Ian Mahinmi hurt his shoulder while playing with France during the FIBA World Cup. He was originally expected to miss a few months, but that time line was cut when he got back to Indiana and doctors checked him out.

But he still isn’t ready to go yet.

He will miss the first few weeks of training camp. but the team does expect him back before the season starts.

The Name Game Is Only Getting Harder

The Indiana Pacers were already making it hard on us writers by having guys named George Hill, Paul George, and Solomon Hill on the team. It’s no real help that Paul George’s go-to nickname thus far, PG, is also the position played by George Hill. It’s all utterly confusing, and I’m sure it isn’t great for the coaches either.

Well, even though Young Trece (thanks for the new nickname, PG) is largely out of the mix now, there is a new problem: Too many C.J.s. The Pacers now employ three: Watson, Miles, and Fair. The team will presumably cut C.J. Fair before the season starts, but it is already presenting issues for the coaches.

Mark Montieth of Pacers.com explains.

"The Pacers managed to play 46 seasons without someone named C.J. donning a uniform. Now, suddenly, they have three of them … Miles, a nine-year NBA veteran, has laid claim to the name.“I’ve got seniority,” he said. “I get to keep mine. C.J. Fair has to take whatever he can get. He’s the rookie.”Assistant coach Dan Burke has solved the problem by referring to each by his hometown. So Miles is “Dallas” and Watson is “Vegas” and Fair is “Baltimore.”"

Good solution.

Maybe here at 8p9s we can use the same fix for the Hill/Hill and George/George problem. (*looks up where George Hill is from* … dammit)