Indiana Pacers: Was hiring Nate Bjorkgren a mistake?

Nate Bjorkgren, Indiana Pacers - Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Nate Bjorkgren, Indiana Pacers - Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Myles Turner
Myles Turner (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The Indiana Pacers are hounded by injuries, but Bjorkgren failed to adjust

In sports, context matters. Part and parcel of what made the Indiana Pacers underachieve in the season is the endless struggle with injuries. And for a team bannering continuity to carry itself into the year, the lack of health, especially for key players, has created a negative impact in both on-court production and off-court relationships.

TJ Warren is out for the season. Myles Turner is currently out indefinitely. Caris LeVert missed a lot of time due to a battle with cancer. Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis still have their customary missed games in bunches. By this virtue alone, expecting a good record is difficult. And demanding it may be too much. But adjusting and adapting has done this team good in the past.

Winning is the easy fix-it-all, but the thing is, it has been hit-and-miss all season long. Compared to last year’s impressive regular season run that cultivated in a 4th-place finish, the team is dangling in the middle with no solution in sight, at least for this campaign.

Despite all the injuries, there is a valid precedent for fans still demanding more out of Bjorkgren. His predecessor, Nate McMillan, has similarly faced wretched bouts with lengthy injury reports, but he has done an admirable job at instilling a resilient culture that encourages a “next man up” mentality to be successful. His stoic and calm disposition resonated with the team, braving through adversary even in critical times to still be in the position to succeed.

In fact, in two injury-plagued seasons in 2018-2020, the Indiana Pacers finished 5th and 4th respectively, a remarkable feat for a team which missed its All-Stars in Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for long, pivotal stretches. McMillan’s familiarity with the organization is an advantage, but Bjorkgren’s rawness does not absolve him from his faults, especially since most of the losses this season stems from the team blowing big leads, playing lackluster defense, and playing poorly in clutch situations.

Also, too often have we seen Bjorkgren overplay his injury-prone stars, even in blowout situations. In a compressed season like this campaign, his penchant for deploying players to play in the 40s at times is bizarre. For example, in last Saturday’s affair, he kept Sabonis in the game even though he was coming off a back injury and the Pacers were leading the Thunder by more than 50 in the third quarter, which leads us to the next point.