Kevin Lee talked with Mark Boyle on Sportstalk Wednesday night to honor Boyle on beginning his 20th season with the Pacers. Naturally, they discussed what is in store for this coming season. Below is a recap of the Boyle's impressions of the Pacers heading into the season. This is not a transcript, it is a rough approximation of what was said so Boyle is free to refute any comments I attribute to him.
Comments on New Season, New Coach
Boyle is pretty excited because the climate, aura, culture of the team needed to be adressed and it has been. Talent still needs to be addressed to be championship contender but he expects a better team than last year.
Boyle likes the business-like approach of the coaching staff. They teach in a constructive, yet authoritative manner when working with players. They DO want to shoot the three and run, this is not lip service. Still, need to take more steps to get back to the level of heyday, but impressed with what he's seen so far.
How much difference can the coach make on won/loss record?
With this team, a solid committed coaching staff can make a big difference. Last year ended with a lot of chaos. Reasonable to hope for a plus .500 season and a playoff appearance. (Me: Reasonable? OK, I like that kind of talk.)
Jermaine O'Neal: Any carryover from trade talk?
All depends on J.O. If he comes to work, plays hard, is productive and stays on the floor, then it won't be an issue. He has every incentive to have a big year. Needs to re-establish his reputation around the league. He was a talent on the rise when he signed his current contract, but he has not established himself as a superstar player. He can do it, should be a legitimate 20-10 guy. But he has to do it and stay healthy. Last season was not good, as J.O. shot 42%. The coaching staff let him play like a shooting guard shooting guard, launching too many outside jumpers.
Coaching change and JO
Coaches will rely on J.O., but they won't rely on every possession going through J.O. He may get as many shots as a year ago, but not as high a percentage of plays going through him. He'll get his chances, but it will be different approach.
Single most important player, especially considering the way O'B want to play. (Me: I wrote a preview that will soon run on About.com and said the same thing. Boyle's a genius.) Tins hasn't been able to play at a high level consistently, but the Pacers haven't played this style before. This is the year for Tins to demonstrate that he can get to the place in his career that we all thought he would get to as a rookie. You can argue that his best year was his rookie year. Kevin Lee: If he's not productive this year, you can make the final determination on Tinsley's future with the team. Boyle: Agrees with Kevin, but thinks Tins will prosper this year. He needs a coach to shoot straight with him, who he respects.
Had a hole in his tendon, they think they have it figured out, but there is still a question about his health. (Me: Not what I wanted to hear. He has practiced at full speed so far, so that's positive.) Boyle: Marquis is such a unique talent, not a prototypical point guard or shooting gaurd. He's just a guy who does stuff. Quis should thrive in O'B's style of play.
Two years ago Murph had 34 double-doubles, last year, 7. He can get back to a regular double-double guy and provide outside shooting.
Dunleavy will always fight a perception battle because he was such a high draft pick. But he can be a good NBA player and contribute. Should expect Dunleavy to be consistent, one of the better players, and a nightly contributor. Defense is not his forte but he does a lot of other good things.
Small Forward/Shooting Guard
Lots of depth, but how will they use it all? Stephen Graham is unknown. Rush can shoot it and Pacers desperately need shooting. He's (Rush) ideally suited to come off the bench. Granger, very promising, can play multiple positions and should be a heavy contributor. Starting lineup won't be impressive, but 1-10 will look good. Boyle thinks the team plans to use the depth, keep pushing the pace, and wear down teams.
Slick joined the party for a segment
Slick has been in professional basketball for 54 years. "Been down the road, baby." He's played, coached, or talked about every important player who has ever played in the NBA. George Mikan gave Slick his nickname when he was playing for Mikan somewhere in West Virginia.
Slick expects some entusiasm from the team. He thinks they have an excellent coaching staff and they will get the maximum out of the talent level they have. (Unsaid truth: not much talent)
How much difference can coach make? It is a talent game and we all know that. Coaching can make somewhere between 5-10% difference. 90% is on the players.
Boyle's baseline expectations for the coming season
We should see hard work, effort every night, accountability, and an entertaining style of play. We'll have a better idea how that translates to Ws in a a few weeks.
Great stuff from Kevin and Mark tonight. I can't help but be intrigued (excited?) by this continual undercurrent of positive vibes emanating from anyone in or around the Fieldhouse. Let's hope it lasts.