Pacers Media Day revealed a lot of changes for the Blue and Gold heading into the 2016-17 NBA season and the changes were apparent from the first comments new head coach Nate McMillan shared to begin the day.
It’s not like Frank Vogel wasn’t forthcoming with the media, but you had to at least ask before he offered any information about injuries or future plans.
Before anyone asked McMillan a question, he divulged that Myles Turner took an errant elbow in during a game at the Fieldhouse last week, suffering a concussion that has the 20-year-old going through the NBA concussion protocol before he cleared to begins playing again.
Turner downplayed the severity of the concussion, saying he didn’t realize he had any problems until dealing with a headache a couple of days later. He certainly has no concerns about the setback hampering his readiness for the regular season.
That wasn’t the only nice nugget of info offered by Coach McMillan and the rest of the team. Here are a few other observations from the Fieldhouse on Monday:
- McMillan showed his work on the roster math before the team’s first practice, saying the 19-man roster included three players destined for Fort Wayne. That would be Alex Poythress, Julyan Stone and Nick Zeisloft.
- But that leaves 16 players with contracts on a roster limit of 15 players. McMillan made it clear that Jeremy Evans would be the odd man out. Evans is rehabbing from shoulder surgery this summer but won’t be ready before the start of the season.
- After one question on the starting lineup, McMillan confirmed that not only did he have a starting lineup set (Teague, Monta, PG, Thad Young, Turner) but that his reserve rotation was set with Aaron Brooks and Rodney Stuckey at guard, C.J. Miles at small or power forward and Al Jefferson at center.
- The veteran lineup McMillan revealed stops at nine which is the number of players McMillan prefers in the playing rotation. Young players Glenn Robinson III, Joe Young and George Niang earned praise but it appears they will receive spot minutes at best until a spot is open in the rotation due to injury or possibly resting a player.
- Lavoy Allen will have to earn his minutes, which sets up a battle Kevin Seraphin for backup power forward minutes when the Pacers are not playing small.
- Paul George is the last man standing from the team that challenged the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals three years ago. The team is now officially his to lead no with more collaborative player leadership. PG appeared assertive and excited about the challenge of being the top dog and mentioned conversations with McMillan about what he needed to do to set a strong tone for the rest of the roster.
- PG took those expectations to heart, volunteering to run in the team’s conditioning test on Tuesday despite the option to skip it due to his work with Team USA this summer. PG felt if he was setting the tone he had to go through the rough stuff with his teammates from day one.
- Monta Ellis sounded like a different guy, quite upbeat and excited about his health and the team heading into a fresh season. Monta dealt with issues on and off the court last season while also trying to fill a leadership void. He now believes, PG is ready to take control of the team and he will fall in line with the other players.
- Thad Young has been working hard on his three-point shot, but also felt he wouldn’t be in a corner waiting to shoot the long ball. After discussions with McMillan, Young feels he will be relied on to play to his strengths which include scoring closer to the rim.
- Al Jefferson joined the Pacers, eager to play a role on a team he thinks can be pretty good. Part of that role is mentoring Myles Turner. Like Turner, Jefferson was once a 20-year-old with high expectation. While Jefferson is impressed with Turner and how he handles himself on and off the court, he is hoping he can share some back-to-the-basket knowledge that can make Turner even more lethal on the offensive end.
- Wow, all of this and we haven’t even mentioned Jeff Teague. The local legend didn’t offer much news other than being quite excited to get started with the Pacers.
- Finally, Aaron Brooks brought some legit humor to the day while also showing his chops as a classic, quirky and highly confident playmaker from Seattle (see: Jason Terry, Jamal Crawford, Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson, Isaiah Thomas...). When asked if there was a player with the Pacers he was most looking forward to playing, Brooks feigned a look of disbelief like the answer was obvious and said, "Uh, yeahhh...Seraphin. That's why I came here, I knew Seraphin was gonna sign." Brooks also said he doesn’t feel any pressure playing on a one-year contract which makes sense when you are ultimately confident your game. Brooks feels the real pressure is on the guys with big contracts and he is just trying to support their success.
- Jeff Teague made a good point about the challenge facing the Pacers with so many new faces and a difficult schedule over the first five weeks of the season. While they have to come together quickly, there has been so much change around the league, there will be plenty of other teams also trying to develop teamwork and chemistry on the fly.
- The Pacers hit the hardwood on Tuesday with two practices. The following Tuesday they will be in New Orleans to tip off preseason play against the Pelicans. Then on Oct. 6 at the Fieldhouse, the Pacers host the new-look Chicago Bulls.