The Indiana Pacers are a bad basketball team right now. There is no other way to put it. They are losers of five of six, and they ended March with a losing record.
Since the All-Star Break, the Pacers have just the seventh-best record in the lowly Eastern Conference.
The team's offense is playing its worst basketball of the season, and that's saying a lot, as the Pacers offense hasn't been very good all season. The team has attributed that to guys playing their own game and not playing solid, team basketball like they were at the beginning of the season.
Since the guys want to continue talking about the "individuals" on the team, I figured putting together a "do's and don'ts" for some individuals and groups would be fitting.
Do's: Roy has to continue being a rim protector. That is the biggest asset he brings to the team, and he is the anchor of the entire defensive unit.
On the offensive end of the floor, Roy has to demand the basketball on the block. When the ball is in his hands, he has to be confident he can score on his man (like we saw in the Miami game).
Don'ts: Roy needs to quit opening his mouth to the press. There are several parts of Roy's game that are probably frustrating to his teammates, and nobody has spoke out on those, but Roy has been quick to call out teammates of late. That's the easy way out when your team is struggling, in my opinion.
In terms of actually playing the game, Roy has to quit allowing his man to push him 15 feet out from the basket. If Roy catches the ball from ten feet or closer, it's almost always a sure bucket. When he catches from anywhere outside of that, the Pacers' chances of scoring quickly diminish.
Do's: West has been struggling on the floor lately, but he still has to realize he's the vocal leader of this basketball team, especially on the floor. If he has to get on guys to bring more energy, pass the ball, or run the offense, it's okay, that's part of his role.
As for in-game do's, West needs to attack and finish as if nobody is in his path. He has been looking for contact almost every time he goes up, and it's showing in his shooting woes.
Don'ts: David has to quit with the "stink face." He mentioned a couple days ago that the body language of the Pacers has been poor, and he is no exception. If a call does not go West's way, you can certainly count on his hands flying in the air, his eyes squinting, and some barking at the officials.
On the floor, West needs to quit playing with a lack of confidence. When he is rolling, he has a swagger to him that says, "I know I'm one of the best power forwards in the game." He doesn't have that swagger right now.
Do's: For George, he needs to let his game work from the inside-out. If he can get his first couple of shots on the inside and see them go through the net, he gains confidence. Paul George with confidence can be a scary sight for opposing teams. Aside from that, Paul George has to play with a chip on his shoulder. He's not proven anything yet, and he can't get a sense of entitlement, that's not his game.
Don'ts: George can't let his personal life seep into his professional life. He has already been in the news twice in 2014 for things off-the-court. The Pacers have been quoted as saying they're "all in" this season, and George can't let his focus shift to things off the court.
On the floor, George can't try to shoulder the entire load when things start to go south. He is a much better scorer when he gets a shot within the offense. When he starts forcing the issue, it is usually not a good thing for the Pacers.
Do's: Lance has to continue to bring energy each and every night. Even while the Pacers have slumped, you can tell in Lance's game that he wants to be out there, and he wants to win, which I'm not positive you can say for every Pacer.
Lance also has to be pass-first. He does an excellent job of penetrating and drawing the defense to himself, but he has to be able to pass out of that. There was a time in this season that Lance getting 10 assists in a game wasn't a surprise. Now, his numbers are nowhere close to that.
Don'ts: Stephenson can't try to hit the home run with every play. Making the simple pass is not a bad thing. Often times Lance gets caught trying to make a "spectacular" play, and it ends up resulting poorly for the Pacers.
Lance also can't let his high-energy style of play get the best of him. He went from being a key factor against the heat on Wednesday night, to being a no-factor because he got ejected.
Do's: Hill has to be a game manager. When things start to go poorly for the Pacers, he has to be the one to pull the guys together in a huddle and compose them. On the floor, Hill has to be a threat from all areas in every game. He goes through stretches where he's a good scorer or a good passer, but he has to have to games where he can put both together. When George Hill plays well on the offensive end, usually the Pacers follow suit.
Don'ts: Hill can't take his time getting the Pacers in their offense. The Pacers offense doesn't start sometimes until there is 12 or less seconds on the shot clock. As the shot clock winds down, the Pacers find themselves scrambling and usually end up with a poor shot attempt.
Hill also can't be afraid to be a vocal leader. As the point guard, he is the floor general. If a guy is doing something that isn't within the team's plan, Hill shouldn't be afraid to step up and say something.
Do's: Every player on the bench has to come in with confidence that they can sustain (or build upon) what the starters did. They have to trust that they are an integral part of the team, as Vogel usually goes 10-deep with his lineups.
The bench also has to play together. When there are five bench players on the floor for the Pacers, they are probably outmatched by their opponent, so they have to play together to combat that.
The guys on the bench also have to bring energy even when they aren't on the floor. At the beginning of the season, there was a lot of guys getting out of their seats, chests bumps coming into timeouts, and things like that. Now, in the Pacers woes, even the bench looks flat.
Don'ts: The bench can't come in and lose all momentum that the starters built. Although the starters are even struggling right now, the Pacers bench has been an issue for the past couple of season. They can't be comfortable that they are coming in with a lead, and then make the starters exhaust their energy trying to build a lead again.
Do's: Frank has to light a fire under his team. The positive approach is great in spurts, but sometimes the team needs to be called out. When things aren't going right, Vogel has to hold himself accountable as much as the players need to, as well.
Within the game, Vogel needs to go with what's working. He is very methodical in
how he plays his lineups, and he doesn't stray from that very often. My advice to
him is to ditch that approach as the Pacers struggle and try new things.
Do's: The Pacers have to play team ball. Yes, definitely easier said than done, but it isn't something they've never done before. They played solid, team basketball up until January, and there is a way to get that back. What exactly that way is, that's for them to figure out.
The most important "do" for the Pacers team is to realize that all of their goals are still attainable. They can still clinch home court advantage, they can still win the Eastern Conference, and they can still win an NBA Championship. The season is not lost, and they have to keep their eye on the prize.
Don'ts: The Pacers can't afford to play without an edge. Last year and early in this season, they played "pissed off" basketball because they didn't think they were respected. Now, they're playing entitled basketball, and we have all seen how that has worked for them. Hopefully the "boo birds" coming from the hometown fans were enough to set them off into "pissed off" basketball, but only time will tell.
At the end of the day, the Pacers find themselves in a six-game race with the Heat for the first seed in the East. There is still time to get the ship moving in the right direction, and ultimately, it's completely in the Pacers hands' the way this season will be remembered. It can be one that ends in jubilation, or one that ends in disappointment. The challenge awaits them.