The Indiana Pacers tip off training camp on Tuesday after Media Day on Monday. There remain plenty of questions surrounding the blue and gold as they try to build on last season's success and avoid taking a step back.
All kinds of breaks fell the Pacers way in the strike-shortened season last year as they avoided major injuries (save Jeff Foster retiring) while other contenders in the East had to deal with key injuries while dealing with the condensed schedule.
To the Pacers credit, they attacked the season with a plan to rely on their depth and often used a 10-man rotation to minimize the wear and tear of the season. But with a full regular season ahead, the playing field is level again and the East will have several strong teams contending, all with an eye on taking the Pacers down a peg or two.
So I wonder what questions are on the minds of Pacers' fans heading into training camp. Here are a few areas I'm looking forward to following as the season unfolds.
- Which players will be in the regular rotation? - The Pacers found success with a deep rotation in the regualar season, even if the bench wasn't the right answer in the playoffs. Still, I imagine Frank Vogel will at least start the season with nine to ten-player rotation. But who will play? The starting five is back, and then three new bench players in Ian Mahinmi, Gerald Green and D.J. Augustin were added. So that's eight players. Tyler Hansbrough returns as the first front-court player off the bench. Suddenly there is just one spot remaining in the rotation. Lance Stephenson will get some consideration. What about rookie Miles Plumlee? There should be some great camp battles to earn regular minutes.
- Will Tyler Hansbrough step up? - Huge year for Tyler Hansbrough. After struggling in his role off the bench last season, Hansbrough heads into a contract year with plenty left to prove. The league adjusted to his game last season, as did the referees. While he still found his way to the foul line plenty, he was hardly an efficient player with the ball. Certainly didn't play like a player the Pacers should offer an extension to for much more than he is making now. Hansbrough is no dummy, though and he certainly understands the situation, so I'm looking forward to seeing how he's changed his game.
- Will the rookies add anything to the mix? - Hard to expect much of an impact from either rookie, especially Orlando Johnson, mainly because of the crowded playing rotation mentioned above. But, Miles Plumlee will certainly get opportunities to play, if not on a regular basis. I must say, after recent preseason hype about Jeff Pendergraph's play from Frank Vogel and the front office, I thought maybe they were laying out a little distraction. "Look at this shiny Pendergraph over here! Don't worry about that Plumlee in the corner." Neither player should expect much of a role unless injuries hit. But, if those injuries hit, having depth with solid size can be a huge advantage. Can Plumlee deliver that depth?
So what else? This is about to get real fun with a team we don't have to talk ourselves into to believe they can compete in the East.