The Indiana Pacers have higher expectations this year than they have had in a long while. Led by head coach Rick Carlisle, they will be looking to snap a two-year playoff drought.
Tyrese Haliburton is poised for another All-Star season, Myles Turner will be looking to build on his breakout year, and the rest of Indiana’s youngsters are hungry to show what they can bring to the table.
But with how much talent the Pacers have up and down the roster, some guys simply aren’t going to see the floor. And those are tough decisions Carlisle, who just received a contract extension, will have to make.
Rick Carlisle was ‘almost in tears’ talking to Indiana Pacers guard TJ McConnell before last game
Carlisle revealed that he had to have a very difficult discussion with veteran point guard TJ McConnell and let him know that he wouldn’t be a part of the Opening Night rotation. (H/t Dustin Dopirak of Indy Star)
“I had one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had with a player about the situation and the minutes,” Carlisle said. “It was T.J. I was almost in tears talking to him about it.”
This year marks McConnell’s fifth year with the Pacers after beginning his career with four seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers. He’s been a constant member of Indiana’s rotation throughout his tenure with the club.
The 31-year-old was the ultimate professional when Carlisle delivered him the news.
“One of the reasons [I was almost in tears] was he was so great,” said Carlisle. “He was just him. He said, ‘Hey, listen, I’m disappointed. I’ll be ready. I’ll be professional, you know that. I’ll do everything I can to set an example.’
“But this is one of the great competitors in the history of this franchise. There certainly are going to be opportunities for him to play, but heading into this game the minutes plan didn’t shake out well for him. So we talked about it, and that was tough.”
Indiana opened up their season against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night, earning a massive 143-120 win. McConnell only earned 6:00 of playing time.
Andrew Nembhard acted as the Pacers’ primary point guard off the bench, and he looked awesome in that role. Nembhard put up 12 points, four rebounds, and 10 assists while shooting 6-of-9 from the field.
McConnell is ready to do anything to help the team win, even if Carlisle hated having the tough conversation with him. That’s what the consummate professional looks like.