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Pacers Set To Begin Orlando Summer League Play

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The Indiana Pacers summer league team is ready to tip off  the Orlando Summer League tomorrow at 3:00PM against a Phily/NJ hybrid team. The Pacers will play five games this week (schedule) with Orlando, Boston, Utah and Oklahoma City providing the other teams. 

The Pacers roster includes Brandon Rush, Roy Hibbert, Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough as well as some other intriguing free agents who should be worth watcing. Get familiar with the numbers on the roster assuming any streaming coverage of the games will involve one camera which makes number knowledge critical in determining who's who on the court at times. Check out Will Blalock's number! The point guard may have the inside track at landing a roster spot just so the Pacers can turn around all of the leftover 11 jerseys at the Home Court Gift Shop.

Here's a closer look at the Phi/NJ roster but among the notables are Marreese Speights and Jrue Holliday for Philly and Chris Douglas-Roberts and Terrence Williams for NJ.

Now, if you're not familiar with the Orlando Summer League allow me to level your expectations for the week.

On Court Considerations

One thing we've learned from summer league over the past few years is that the games are interesting and fun to watch, but making any final judgments on the merits of any individual play is dicey. For instance, Nate Robinson had his number "retired" in Vegas last summer due to his offseason exploits but it took a few years of play before he showed up as a consistent factor in the regular season. Two years ago, Marco Belinelli had the Bay Area abuzz with his scoring exploits in Vegas but hasn't been heard from much since and now resides on the trading block for Golden State. Last year, Jerryd Bayless burst on the scene with a huge scoring game in Vegas which showed he has all the game necessary to play in the NBA, yet he struggled to find time on a talented Portland team.

On the other end of the spectrum, last year Shawne Williams went into summer league ready to prove he was ready to expand his game and take on a bigger role with the Pacers. His lackluster performance after being directly challenged to step up in Orlando may have been the last straw in the Pacers decision to move the forward just prior to the season starting last year. Effort is one thing you can always measure, whether your in the NBA Finals or in a 3-on-3 workout. Orlando will have rosters bulging with players fighting for their hoop lives and working to keep their dreams alive. There will be effort in Orlando and if a player is giving less than his best it will be easily exposed.

So I caution anyone watching the games to watch for the little things, the effort, the hustle plays, chasing down out of area rebounds and scooping up loose balls. Just don't get too excited if you like what you see or too frustrated if the execution doesn't match the effort and the end result is poor.

Normally, teams play with a general offensive scheme and the games can become a run 'n gun fest quickly. These are the types of games which highlight why the numbers are meaningless. This year the Pacers will have far more structure to their offense with Jim O'Brien hoping to get the most out of the summer work. With three players from last year's roster available to help the rooks work through the offense, JOB hopes to get a better look at the young players.

This leads me to another key for the summer league in evaluation the rookies and free agents. How well do they take coaching? Can they adjust their play during a game and figure out how to carry out the coach's expectations?

This will be tricky especially for A.J. Price and Will Blalock as the only point guards on the roster. They'll be playing a lot with Rush, Hibbert and McRoberts, trying to run an offense they just learned for three guys who already know it. While it is a great opportunity to show what they can do, if the offensive sets aren't vanilla it will be hard for either to play without doing a whole lot of thinking at the same time. A half second of hesitation can throw the timing off enough to make the whole squad look silly.

But that's what summer league is for, to work hard and push yourself to the point of looking silly in an effort to learn and improve. That's how individual players improve various aspects of their game. For instance, we heard about Brandon Rush working to develop his left hand this summer. No doubt, he went through several drills using the left hand that sent the ball off his foot and rolling across the gym floor initially. He had to take his current skill level and push it to an uncomfortable area and then keep doing it until it wasn't so uncomfortable. Repeat a thousand times and expand your game until the honed skill is regular-season ready.

Same thing goes for the team and now is the time to push players to expand their games within the context of a game. Maybe Roy Hibbert takes the 17-footer whenever it's available down in Orlando. It's a part of his game he's been developing and summer league offers the perfect chance to green light Hibbert and see what kind of progress he's making.

Off Court Considerations

The Orlando Summer League games are usually streamed live through Magic.com but not with your typical broadcast. Dante & Galante have become a staple of summer league action with their coverage of the games. Essentially, they set up a camera (one camera) to follow the action and then they chat about anything and everything. However, they say little about the actual game action on the court. Occasionally they'll show the score but there aren't any graphics. I'm assuming they haven't upped the ante this year to improve production, so like I say, keep the roster numbers handy because even D & G don't know who some of the players are out on the court at times.

Sean and I will do our best to cover the action from Orlando and at least give you a nuts and bolts report from each game. Please feel free to check out the games and add your own thoughts in the FanPosts. Just remember to keep things in perspective that the summer league context requires.