The 2018-19 Indiana Pacers gathered for the first time as a full team in public view during Media Day on Monday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. While much has changed since this time last year, plenty of the good stuff remains the same.
Here are some thoughts and observations about what we saw at BLF on Monday:
- Nate McMillan makes no promises regarding the expectations for his team. One thing is for sure, he’s not leaning on last year’s success to be a factor. Regardless of how many players carry over from year-to-year, each team is unique and McMillan treats them that way. Setting expectations for the players and developing a winning chemistry will always be a focus. Among, the initial thoughts conveyed to his squad, McMillan wants players to be on time and don’t “eff” with the game. (Check out CC’s fantastic look at the Pacers not “effing with the game” last season.)
- Victor Oladipo remains the life of the party that is the Pacers, but he’s not interested in setting any expectations with the fans nor media. He’s more of a “show me” type of guy. In fact, when asked by Mark Montieth what he improved on over the summer, Vic replied, “I can’t tell you, but I can show you.” Everyone lauded Oladipo’s effort to get nearly the full roster to gather in Miami last month for workouts while working on the winning chemistry. Check out what else Oladipo had to say on Media Day here.
- The initial esprit de corps was on full display once the players trickled out onto the Fieldhouse floor for all kinds of pictures, interviews and memorabilia signing. The energy was fueled by Oladipo who made a grand entrance, startling everyone by yelling as he emerged from the tunnel. From that point on, the interaction between different groups of players was filled with plenty of energy. The photogs didn’t have to ask anyone to smile, instead had to occasionally pause until the laughter subsided.
- Veteran Kyle O’Quinn (yes, I believe Kyle is his middle name) is already making his presence felt and you talk about a smile. The beard may look menacing on the court, but when chopping it up with his teammates, O’Quinn is ebullient and will no doubt be a fan favorite.
- As a matter of fact, watching the interactions between all of these guys, with Victor bouncing around making sure everyone (literally, everyone - players, staff, photogs, media) was enjoying the moment, this team will be beloved by Pacers Nation — you know, if they still win more than they lose.
- Myles Turner had a turn on the media dais after McMillan and Oladipo, confirming much of what we already know. He has worked extremely hard in the offseason and wants to make a bigger impact on the court with improved defense, rebounding and overall confidence. Show me time for Myles.
- Domantas Sabonis is in a similar mind set, looking to expand his impact on the game. Sabonis’ offseason work was apparent, as he definitely bulked up his upper body with triceps that struggled to remain discreet.
- Kevin Pritchard touched on the roster heading into camp while also repeating some of his comments from recent radio interviews. He’s witnessed the workouts of several players, including what Oladipo was putting himself through in Miami, and has no concerns about the team not working to improve. Pritchard also likes to point out that the team should be able to maintain a little chip on their shoulder since many around the league don’t consider the Pacers on the level of the Celtics, Raptors or Sixers in the East. He thinks people may believe the Pacers are a Milli Vanilli team (Google it young people).
- As for the roster, it appears the 2-way roster spot once given to C.J. Wilcox will be available but he’s in no hurry to fill it. He had nothing official on the Wilcox, other than to laud the work he had done before a torn Achilles wiped out his comeback bid. While a couple of camp invitees may possibly earn the 2-way spot, Pritchard indicated the team would keep an eye on the waiver wire as the preseason unfolds.
- Pritchard doesn’t have any concerns about Bojan Bodanovic after the Pacers forward tweaked an ankle while playing for Croatia in the FIBA World Cup Qualifying tournament recently. With Bogey’s extra playing time leading up to the season, Pritchard did say they would probably monitor his workload to make sure he has enough rest since the sharp shooter would never ask out.
- Oh, and Cory Joseph showed up with a new look, sporting cornrows up top. Duly noted.
- The Pacers begin practicing on Tuesday with the first preseason game a week from Thursday on Oct. 4 at Houston.
- Here’s a link to the roster to start preseason camp. Also, check out this report from CBS 4’s Tricia Whitaker which does a great job of catching the vibe at BLF today.
WATCH:— Tricia Whitaker (@TriciaWhitaker) September 24, 2018
“We can beat anybody in the NBA. Don’t know how we stack up w/ them, but I just feel like we can beat anyone.” - @VicOladipo at #Pacers Media day.
(But the best part of my story is for sure the screengrab of @44Bojan giving Vic the biggest hug upon seeing him.) pic.twitter.com/8q0PX6EcrV