It has nearly been a month since the Indiana Pacers started their season with a home win against the New York Knicks, and fans have learned a lot about this team during their first 14 games. After a shaky 0-3 preseason start, Coach Bjorkgren has made a strong first impression, and the team is proving the doubters wrong and has squashed a lot of comments before the season started that suggested the Pacers would be lucky to finish the season as the eighth seed.
Even with a new coach, some things never change for the Indiana Pacers
With a new coach, many believed it would mark a radical shift in philosophy. Perhaps what was more radical is how much has carried over from Nate McMillian’s tenure to Nate Bjorkgren’s first year. While the team has certainly shifted away from the notorious volley of midrange jumpers, and it appears that Bjorkgren has imported a variety of schemes from his former Toronto Raptors, the Pacers have retained their defensive mindset even after the departure of Dan Burke.
The Pacers remain a dangerous team to face on defense. They now sport an expanded offensive arsenal that keeps them competitive regardless of the situation.
Thanks primarily to Coach Bjorkgren, the Pacers are playing with a tremendous amount of confidence. The Pacers, headlined by Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, and Malcolm Brogdon, have proven to be quite a force. Doug McDermott and Justin Holiday have shown themselves to be reliable threats when called on.
Still, the Pacers have started the season 8-6 for a reason. The team remains plagued by a variety of injuries ranging from mild to absurd. An inability to maintain a consistent rotation has put a large workload on Sabonis and Brogdon in particular. A hand injury for Myles Turner and foot surgery for T.J. Warren has left the team in a tough spot. In a perfect world, the Pacers could easily be 10-4, or even better. Injuries combined with a slow season start by Aaron Holiday and T.J. McConnell has forced the Pacers to approach each problem creatively.
If this were last season, the team would be looking for Victor Oladipo to help be that solution. Instead, the Pacers joined the fray as part of the blockbuster deal sending James Harden to Brooklyn. Oladipo is now a member of the Houston Rockets, Caris LeVert is now a Pacer. As if the homegrown injuries were not bad enough, Caris LeVert is listed as out indefinitely after an MRI revealed a mass on his kidney. LeVert’s Pacers debut is to be determined.
If the first month of this NBA season is an indication of what is to come, the Pacers appear to have sacrificed short term success in exchange for long term stability. The decision to move on from Victor Oladipo was a tough choice but should be considered the best option. All indications overwhelmingly pointed towards his departure as a free agent, but that doesn’t mean fans will not discuss the what-if scenario.
The first month of the regular season was a tremendous hurdle that the Pacers have, for the most part, successfully overcome. The team has successfully proven they can compete with some of the best teams in the NBA and survived a big West Coast road trip.
As the team looks forward to their schedule in February, they should maintain, if not improve, their standing in the Eastern Conference. Asides from some big games against the 76ers, Bucks, and Celtics, the Pacers will tee off against a variety of opponents that have not been able to play above .500 basketball. If this team can capitalize on this, they’ll head into the March All-Star Break/Pause in fantastic shape.