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Pacers still working through change management problems

Change is never easy to implement and requires leadership which seems to be missing with the Pacers as they try to implement a small-ball style of play.

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Major organizational change is a challenge to implement under any circumstances.

When faced with strong egos and external scrutiny, the challenge is magnified, requiring a strong plan and an even stronger leadership hand to navigate the inherent turbulence created by change.

Paul George was in town working out to prepare for the season at least six weeks prior to the start of training camp. The Pacers, pushed by Larry Bird and backed up by Frank Vogel, discussed the idea of altering their style of play well before that time. During summer league in early July, the idea of Paul George sliding up to "power forward" in a small-ball attack was discussed as the team's go-forward change following the departure of Roy Hibbert and David West.

Yet it appears from outside the Fieldhouse that there was very little effort to manage this major change prior to the start of training camp. A few days before camp started, PG said he wasn't thrilled with the idea. Then following the first game of the year, a frustrated George didn't think he was "cut out for the four spot."

Prior to leaving for Auburn Hill on Monday, PG and Vogel addressed the media to clarify the post-game comments which included PG getting a clarification on his role from Vogel and Bird. As it turns out, PG claims he was just stating his opinion after a frustrating game in which he thought he got his "ass kicked" in his matchup with Anthony Davis, when in reality that wasn't necessarily the case.

But PG should know it won't get any worse than guarding AD and more importantly he should understand the big picture.

He should know how and when he'll be used at power forward. He should know the advantages the Pacers can create when he plays power forward in certain situations. He should realize, implementing the small-ball option isn't a 48 minute per game proposition and instead another weapon in the team's arsenal. He should understand the benefits (more offensive firepower, challenge to defend) and known risks (rebounding) with the approach along with the expected net gain for the team -- wins.

Why does the whole process appear to remain a mystery for Paul George? The supposed discussions between Bird, Vogel and PG during the offseason obviously weren't effective.

George Hill doesn't sound sold on the idea either.

"You're always all-in because you're part of the team, but I'm like, we have to wait and see how it develops," he said. "We're just testing this out now in the preseason to see if it can be our makeup. If not, I'm sure we'll go back to traditional Indiana basketball.

Oh, and hearing Frank Vogel talk about dealing with the rebounding hole in the lineup following the first preseason game sounded like someone pulled a string on his back to cough up an answer, because giving up an advantage in rebounding simply doesn't sound like the Pacers coach we know and love.

"Every coach I talked to this summer about playing the small lineups, that's the one thing they said, rebounding just kills you and everybody just has to compete at a higher level, even than they're capable of," Vogel said. "It's something that we're aware of and we all have to do a better job."

On Media Day, Vogel also mentioned how the change was a work in progress and that the team could revert back to their prior style of play overnight.

PG, along with George Hill, are the defacto team leaders, which means they should be working in lockstep with the Vogel and Bird to reach the team's goals. Instead, we roll into game two of the preseason and the only person that seems truly committed to the small-ball approach is Bird.

Personally, I liked what I saw from the small lineup in the first game, even against Anthony Davis and even if PG thinks his arse was kicked. They simply have more options to attack and pressure other teams instead of trying to hunker down play prevent being attacked.

Unfortunately, I feel like I have a better feel for what the Pacers are trying to do than Paul George does and that is simply a failure to manage effectively.