A Pacers win at the Fieldhouse normally come with a post-game soundtrack provided by Victor Oladipo in the locker room. On his first night with the blue and gold, Trevor Booker sat stoically checking his phone a few feet from Oladipo’s locker as the Pacers guard with the golden pipes broke into some R&B while walking to his locker following the Pacers win over Milwaukee.
With the media assembling, Booker lifted an eye but played it cool trying not to react. Then Thad Young told him to get used to it. This allowed Booker to finally let loose and begin laughing hysterically. Young continued to advise his new teammate that Vic didn’t just sing in the locker room. During meetings, practice, on the bus, in the shower you are going to hear Vic singing.
But, the song options are very diverse with plenty of old-school R&B in the mix, so it ain’t all bad. Oladipo then chimed in and told Booker there will be days when he’ll hear the singing and realize, “Man, I used to love that song in high school!”
Welcome to the Pacers, Trevor.
With their win over the Bucks, the Pacers moved to 10 games over .500, but it is hard to believe they don’t lead the league in team chemistry. That chemistry revealed itself in how Oladipo was so excited following the win despite one of his worst outings of the year, which included 10 turnovers and as many missed shots at points (14), because his guy Bojan Bogdanovic had a huge game and the Pacers showed they are a good team, not a one-man show.
So, back to Booker. Will adding a veteran to the roster who is expected to play a role in the rotation upset that great team chemistry? The rest of the roster will be impacted in some way, so how will those players react to adjusting their role?
OK, let’s cut to the chase: Is there any fear of repeating the tumult that melted the 2013-14 Pacers after adding Andrew Bynum and Evan Turner?
”No, no, no,” Lance Stephenson said, implying there is no way to compare the two situations. “We’re so together and I think he’ll fit in excellent. Once he gets with the culture and sees what his role will be, he’ll be alright.”
Lance is the only player remaining (via a few stops between) from that wild 2013-14 season which started so well and ended in the Eastern Conference finals, but took some wild and bizarre turns along the way. The great start drew national attention which led to the Stephen A. Smith interview on ESPN which left George Hill’s comments on the cutting room floor and then the infamous GQ photo shoot which had us all rolling on the floor laughing.
All those distractions and then “the trade” that was intended to fortify a title run but instead exposed a few key players who weren’t mature enough to handle a challenge by the front office to play better by bringing in competition for minutes.
So forgive Pacers fans if they are a little squeamish about messing with a good thing. But, Lance hit the nail on the head with his reaction that you can’t compare the late-season moves nor the different rosters ability to handle said moves.
The biggest difference, besides the strong chemistry and easy-going personality of this team, is that Trevor Booker chose to join the Pacers. He wasn’t traded, but instead weighed his options after being bought out in Philly and decided he liked what was going with the Pacers and wanted to be a part of the team.
No only does Booker want to be here, but his new teammates want him to be here to help them out as this group continues to focus on team success above all else. Here’s what a few of Booker’s new teammates had to say about their new teammate.
”Book can bring a lot of things,” Thad Young said. “A lot of energy, rebounding, of course. Me playing against him all the time, I know he’s created some tough matchups for me with his abilities on the court. I think he’s going to work wonders for us, especially with that second unit coming in.”
As for his fit within the culture of the team.
”Oh, he’s exactly what we need from a guy,” Young said. “Great guy, upbeat, high spirited, team guy, family guy and he’s always going to be there for us no matter what. He’s going to sacrifice a lot for us just like we’re going to sacrifice for him.”
Corey Joseph echoed the thought that Booker should slide in nicely to the Pacers locker room.
”We know his character,” CoJo said. “We know what type of player he is, how hard he plays. He brings in all of the characteristics that we have here in this organization.”
Oladipo looks forward to getting to know his new teammate but his initial impressions are positive.
”From what I hear and after talking with him earlier today, he seems like a great person and great man, first and foremost,” Oladipo said. “He’s going to be a great addition and he’s going to help. If he wasn’t I don’t think they’d want him here. I’ve seen him play over my years and I know he’s going to fit well with us and I’m looking forward to when he gets into the rotation.”
It seemed appropriate to have Young and Oladipo breaking in Booker in the locker room since they have emerged as the leaders among the team this year. But soon other players were in the mix, which included Myles Turner reciting the various restaurant options near the Fieldhouse open for post-game meals.
Sitting casually at his locker among the post-game buzz, Booker looked like he’d been part of the team all season. On Wednesday against the Jazz, we’ll find out how well he fits on the court, as well. Then we can see if adding Booker is the successful chemistry experiment Kevin Pritchard and the players expect.