Despite the gloomy health news making headlines yesterday, the Indiana Pacers are actually playing some basketball down at the Fieldhouse while preparing their re-worked roster for the regular season. Fortunately, there are some interesting reports about (YAY!) basketball with a few items of interest that really caught my eye.
Prior to camp, it was obvious that the new players on the roster along with those who were around last year had heard the message. Defense will be a priority. Almost every player interview, regardless of length, had said player mentioning a focus on defense. With the verbal message delivered, Bruno's latest Caught in the Web reports that the players are now physically getting the defensive message as they work to put all of those words into action, which will eventually evolve into positive results (hey, it's preseason, of course I'm expecting positive results).
Despite the heavy emphasis on defense, don't expect the Pacers style of play to turn into a '90's-Knicks grind. Jim O'Brien sees no reason why a stifling defense can't compliment a fast-paced offense. Still, hi comment about the pace of play and the potential playing rotations had my eyebrows shooting toward the ceiling.
"There definitely will not be a slower tempo," said O'Brien, whose team averaged 105.1 points, second in the Eastern Conference and fifth in the league last season. "We played statistically at the third-highest pace in the NBA and had the second-most possessions and I know when we're playing our best we're a difficult team to guard. So it has nothing to do with our offensive tempo.
"It comes down to utilizing a little deeper rotation, maybe a 10-person rotation and having the players know that our staff ... will lean heavily toward the defensive end when it comes time to evaluating who should play and who should not."
Hmm, a 10-player rotation? Over the past two years, JOB has normally used an 8-to-9-player rotation and seemed to prefer an 8-man rotation in tight games. Obviously, the way a game unfolds dictates how many players are used, but in general juggling ten players consistently could be a challenge. I love the idea of sending waves of fresh bodies at the opponent throughout a game. Plus, with the depth and versatility of the bench JOB will have at least ten players worthy of minutes, especially when you include Tyler Hansbrough and Mike Dunleavy.
Consider a starting lineup of Roy Hibbert, Troy Murphy, Danny Granger, Brandon Rush and T.J. Ford. Along with Hansbrough and Dunleavy, I'd expect Earl Watson, Dahntay Jones and Jeff Foster to all see the floor as well. Boom, that's ten. With Hansbrough and Dunleavy sidelined, Josh McRoberts and Solomon Jones have an opportunity to earn some minutes in a deep rotation to really offer JOB some flexibility in the front court.
Mike Wells reports his observations from practice yesterday along with Jim O'Brien admitting the defense is working to catch up with the offense at this point. Here's what Mike saw during a portion of the team's scrimmage which used a first unit of Hibbert, Murph, Granger, Rush and Ford.
I recall Granger only missing one jumper during the 12-minute scrimmage Monday. He's definitely attacking the basket on a mission. He should spent a lot of time at the foul line shooting free throws this season.
A.J. Price also looked impressive. He put on a nice shooting display when he made back-to-back 3-pointers and was fouled on a 3-point attempt the next time down the court. Price's shooting touch prompted Dahntay Jones to start defending him.
Nice to hear some positive feedback regarding A.J. Price as he tries to maintain his steal-of-the-draft status.
Jeff Rabjohns reports on Brandon Rush and Dahntay Jones preparing to hold down the shooting guard position for the Pacers. Although, it sounds like they're ready to work as a tandem when JOB utilizes a small lineup.
"I think we're going to be on the court a lot together," Rush said. "They're going to move Danny to the (power forward) spot, and have me play (small forward) and Dahntay play (shooting guard).
"I think that's going to work out well."
The Pacers results with a small lineup last year were mixed at best, but the option is much more appealing this year. With T.J. Ford and Jarrett Jack, last year's small-ballers were really small and left exposed at the defensive end. With Dahntay Jones added to the mix, the small lineup could actually ratchet up the pressure defensively while keeping the fast break lanes filled with Ford's choice of fast finishers. Fun? F#&%, yeah!