The Indiana Pacers have improved quite a bit this season and it is easy to look at the new acquisitions as the main reason for said improvement. David West, George Hill, Leandro Barbosa and Lou Amundson have all had a strong impact in their various roles helping the Pacers reach the 40-win mark.
But don't forget the coaching staff. Brian Shaw and Jim Boylen joined Dan Burke to make up an outstanding group of bench coaches for Frank Vogel. Shaw really keeps the players' attention with the benefit of his been-there-done-that advice backed up by his experience winning championships as a player and assistant coach.
Shaw also has the game to combine his words with workouts that push players to improve. The individual work players put in with coaches on game day is a key part of their development and preparation for games, even moreso this season with limited practice time.
"There's probably nobody better at doing that in the NBA than Brian Shaw," Frank Vogel said about his associate head coach's ability to work with players.
"He (Shaw) has a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience," said Dahntay Jones. "He's a championship coach but also played on championship teams, so it's good to have a guy around that keeps the locker room loose but he also keeps us working and he has advice for a wide range of guys in the locker room."
Jones had just finished his pre-game workout along with what has become a ritual with Shaw, a competitive, trash-talk filled Around the World shooting contest from behind the three-point line. Shaw had just gotten the better of Jones, although, according to Jones, it had been quite some time since Shaw had won. The way DJ has been shooting the ball this season, his won-loss record versus Shaw may not be an embellishment.
Jones has shot a career-high 72 three-pointers so far this year and made over 43% of those shots, up from 36% last season. Direct correlation to working and competing with Shaw? No way. Does it help? Absolutely.
Then there is Roy Hibbert. I mentioned a few weeks ago how Big Roy was really working hard with Shaw before games on being physical in the post. On Monday, I caught the tail end of their work on video in which Shaw put Hibbert through his paces after finishing up his work with Dahntay. Hibbert is not averse to working and loves learning from Shaw.
"He's an experienced coach and experienced player," Hibbert said. "He's told me about working with Andrew Bynum and Paul Gasol before the game, pushing strong to make things tough for them getting ready prior to the game. So we don't work for that long but we do a lot of good work in that time."
Hibbert likes to be pushed to get better but he never has to ask Coach Shaw to push him in workouts, "That's just what he does."
Check out the video with a sampling of Shaw's work with Hibbert. It is hard not to think a big part of Hibbert surviving his mid-season funk to deliver consistent production down the stretch run of the regular season is the effort Shaw has put in to keep Hibbert on the grind to let the bad nights go and instead keep working through it.
What you won't see in the video is Shaw a couple of minutes later, sitting down, dripping with sweat and grabbing a drink of water to catch his breath. A lot of things have come together to improve the Pacers this year, and Brian Shaw coaching up the players is certainly a big part of that success.