OK, now I'm freaking out a little bit. Mike Wells posts a blog entry after the first day of practice and appears to be quite positive about what's going on at the Fieldhouse. Come on, Mike. I rely on you maintaining a cynic's eye when analyzing the Pacers from your objective viewpoint.
Since Wells is never one to overstate the positive, I have to take his word when he reports on the passing prowess of Rasho Nesterovice and Roy Hibbert or the great effort of Austin Croshere who may end up pushing every player to get better just so he doesn't swipe their roster spot.
As advertised, much of the practice focused on defense. Jim O'Brien begins camp with a plan to adjust the team's approach to defense and he's determined to squeeze the most out of his team at the defensive end.
In his press conference yesterday, JOB mentioned focusing on "blueing" the side pick and roll defense instead of "blitzing" it. The blue defensive approach pushes the ball handler to the baseline and keeps the post defender closer to the paint which limits the need for another defender to rotate from the opposite side.
The Pacers were often a step slow when rotating to cover the man left open after doubling the pick and roll ball handler last year. Usually the result was a foul which contributed to the free throw deficit the Pacers faced in most games. The Pacers have a chance to test out their new approach against the best in their first preseason game versus the New Orleans Hornets. No one is better at handling this defense than Chris Paul.
Jim O'Brien also hopes that the improved offense of the Pacers will force defensive improvement through practice. If the Pacers reach JOB's goal of a top five offense, then defending against that offense in practice will pay off in games against less potent teams.
Also, JOB plans to begin the year three players to attack the offensive glass instead of two. He expects this to put more pressure on the defense in practice, since the defense will have to hit people more than they did last year.
But what about the games? If three players hit the offensive glass and don't come up with the ball, won't the defense be at a disadvantage?
I guess the first answer is to turn and sprint. Plus, teams won't be able to load up on the break if they have to account for another body around the rim. In theory, I like the idea because it is aggressive and takes the fight to the opposition. Only time will tell if the Pacers can put that theory into action.
UPDATE: Jeff Rabjohns focuses on defense as well in his article today for the Indy Star. On-ball defense and keeping the ball out of the paint are other key areas the Pacers are working to improve.