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Pacers Preparation Relies On Mental Approach With Limited Practice Time

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Balancing game preparation and rest is tricky for NBA teams this year with so little practice time available to make adjustment and prepare for upcoming opponents.

Game day shootaround practices come in varied forms depending on the coach as some teams prefer to give up the prep time to let players rest while other like to go through the game plan in a live practice setting. Jim O'Brien was known to run shootarounds that were like a full-speed practices just a few hours before game time.

Frank Vogel still has his players lace 'em up for shootarounds for brief stints but overall he has changed the game-day approach this season to accomodate the wild schedule and the need to keep his players as fresh as possible.

"We just kind of show up for the games and hope they know how to play," Vogel said, half jokingly prior to Saturday's game. "It is a big challenge, there's virtually no practice time and there's not going to be much practice time. You gotta learn off the tape, you gotta have a mentally tough approach and that's how you have to improve."

They do get together for shootaround practices on game days, although not normally on back-to-backs. Prior to the Charlotte game, Vogel just had a half-hour walk-through practice to go through the game plan. But in Boston while trying to get back on track before playing the Celtics, things were different.

"At the Boston game, we ran a half-hour live like a practice because we were off the day before and we needed to sharpen up with our disposition defensively, and we did."

But the players notice a different approach that keeps them more involved and stresses the mentally tough approach Vogel is preaching. Plus, with so little practice time going through things during a shootaround is helpful.

"Coach Vogel stresses sharpening our minds and not running and drilling," Paul George said. "So when we come in, our practices for shootarouds are straight mental. We're still working on things we need to interpret for the game, but he's not killing us. He's doing it in a way that we can get a lot out of it and still preserve our bodies."

Coming in from San Antonio, George Hill hasn't noticed much difference in game-day shootarounds but wouldn't want to have a full-speed practice.

"We go hard in shootarounds because you want to get mentally prepared," Hill said. "But going really hard like a full-out practice is not a smart idea because with the short season we're playing day after day after day, so I think Frank's done a good job of really maintaining our body and being smart with what he does."

Danny Granger is happy to have more experience around him as the team preps with new veterans on the roster and younger guys becoming vets themselves which helps the team get more out of shootaround time.

"We do a lot the same the same things but we have an older, veteran team that takes advantage of the prep time," Granger said. As for the full practices of the past, it isn't an option.

"That wouldn't be possible this year because we just don't have much practice time with the games. We have to learn on the fly, so I think our experience has helped us with that, so no more shootaround practices like we used to have in the past."

Granger chuckled as he mention the practices of the past, but Roy Hibbert made sure to point out that the Pacers aren't taking it easy in their game-day prep. In fact, he thinks the players are even more engaged now since Vogel lets them provide input and invest a little more in the process.

"We walk through a lot of stuff, but on certain days we'll go hard," Hibbert explained. "If we have a couple of days off and coach needs us to go hard in practice, we'll go hard in shootaround and then other times we walk through stuff. But we're very focused and we have more of a voice in shootarounds, more than we have in the past. We keep our legs fresh and we have input and that's the biggest thing for us though. If you see something as players that we don't like, we can voice our opinion and coach listens."