On Pacers Media Day 2017, team above all else was a familiar theme touted by several players, as well as Nate McMillan and Kevin Pritchard.
From the large WE ARE ONE words painted above the new practice courts at the St. Vincent Center to the words offered by the players about accountability and chemistry, the Pacers are ready to begin a new season without a bona fide superstar but not without an edge to prove what they can do together.
Success will be measured in various forms this season which won’t necessarily always be wins. Pritchard will judge his team on three subjective metrics which aren’t hard to determine:
Did we play hard?
Did we play smart?
Did we play together?
Answering “Yes” to those questions on a consistent basis should make for a great season for the Pacers and also be a change from last season when there were long stretches with too many “No’s!” at the end of the day.
As the only returning starters, Myles Turner and Thad Young are naturally looked at as leaders among this group filled with young players. They will try to apply the lessons they learned last year and in most cases try not to repeat what turned out to be a failure in leadership among the roster.
“The summer workouts have been great, the energy has been the biggest thing I feel like we'll bring this year,” Turner said. “A lot different than years past.
“In years past, the vets, they were here but their voice didn't resonate too well in the locker room. I feel like that's something that's going to change this year.”
But as Young pointed out, part of changing the Pacers’ culture this year is to empower everyone to have a voice in a much more positive environment.
“The situation that was circling around certain guys on our team last year, we don't have that hanging around here,“ Young said. “We can just go out and play with a focus on this season and do the things that we need to do, that's the biggest thing for us now is just to figure it out as a team.”
Part of figuring it out for this team will be setting a standard for what’s expected and addressing situations that fall short of that standard, something Thad felt was missing last year. That process has already started since the bulk of the team has been working together since the start of August.
“We as a team had so many vets that we didn't hold ourselves accountable last year,“ Young said. “With us this year, we're ready to hold ourselves accountable, like we've already been doing it. Policing each other and doing the things we need to do. We didn't want to step on anybody's toes last year and sometimes that has to go out the window for the betterment of the team.”
As for those workout with the new-look roster, Thad has enjoyed putting in the sweat equity with his new teammates as they begin to grow together as a team.
“Since August, going to battle each and every day,” Young said about putting in the work. “It was like practice and we were all here for it. Using both courts, getting work in, using the weight room then coming out and running suicides. We were together as a team, we are all a family and we want to do that work to succeed.”
Young realizes the team in transition has to go through a process to improve which will require patience at times. Of course, Thad may also be a prime trade candidate as the season goes on depending on the circumstances surrounding the team once the wins and losses begin to unfold.
But for now, Young, along with Turner, are all in with their new teammates and looking forward to trying to surprise the rest of the NBA.