The Pacers still have a rough road ahead of them and that's before the regular season starts. Coach Frank Vogel doesn't expect anything to be easy this year so he's embracing the challenges put to the team by their preseason schedule.
With all but two games away from home against a group of quality opponents this preseason, including a week spent 12 time zones away, the resting of Roy Hibbert, David West and George Hill, along with a sick Paul George, against Dallas last night makes more sense.
The Pacers now finish the preseason with four road games which will have them flying back and forth from the Fieldhouse. First they have back-to-back games at Chicago and Cleveland starting Friday before returning for the Fan Jam on Sunday at BLF. Then they are off to Atlanta to play on Tuesday, return home for a day and then fly out to Dallas to wrap up the preseason against the Mavs on Friday.
"It's a big challenge, there's no doubt about it," Vogel said. "But nothing about this year is going to be easy. When you're trying to take a step from Conference Finals to going to the Finals and trying to compete for a championship, nothing about that is going to be easy."
Of course, Vogel is well aware of the grind and offers a little insight into how he's mentally preparing his team for what lies ahead this year. They are no longer the plucky new kids on the block, but instead have the attention of the whole league, so they won't be sneaking up on anyone this year.
"When you make the Conference Finals and now you're the target, getting everybody's A-game all year, nothing is going to be easy about this whole year. So we're embracing that the preseason is like this and going after it and turning adversity into a strength of ours."
Regular season roster
The Pacers have 13 roster spots locked up for the regular season with the camp roster at 17. The Pacers could add up to two more players to max out their regular-season roster at 15 with camp candidates Hilton Armstrong, Rasual Butler, Darnell Jackson and Ron Howard having an inside edge. When asked about that possibility, Frank Vogel didn't mention any possible names and steered clear of setting expectations that the team will add any more players.
"I'm expecting 13 (players on the roster) and we're looking at what options we have out there, in terms of adding a guy," Vogel said. "But until I'm told otherwise, it's going to be 13."
The four camp invitees have seen little court time thus far in the first four preseason games. Darnell Jackson has yet to play and Ron Howard has played just three minutes. Rasual Butler has played a few minutes in two of the games, including 11 minutes last night and his name seems to be mentioned around the Fieldhouse as a player that would be a good fit on the roster.
However, Hilton Armstrong seems to be the most logical option as an additional big man. Armstrong has also played in each game with minimal minutes in the first three games before playing 19 minutes last night and leading the team with eight rebounds.
So Armstrong would be my choice to add to the roster while still keeping an open spot, but the Pacers may just want to remain more flexible and keep both spots open along with any remaining money to make a more targeted move should the need arise later in the season.
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