With such a condensed preseason, expect the Pacers to continue playing their regular rotation players a good chunk of the minutes since there are so many new faces in new spots within that rotation.
TJ Leaf (quad) and Goga Bitadze (ankle) are two players trying to play catch up after sitting out the first two practice games in India. Since returning to Indy, Leaf has been practicing and is expected to play on Friday, according to J. Michael.
McMillan will likely slide Leaf into the role Jakarr Sampson played in India, as the first front court player off the bench.
Bitadze is another story, as he reportedly remains on the shelf with a right ankle sprain continuing to delay the debut of the Pacers first-round pick. After missing all of summer league and now at least the first three preseason games, the Pacers don’t appear to have much urgency to play the young big man, despite the glowing reviews of his play and their stated intentions to put him in the mix.
Prior to media day, which included those rave reviews and expectations, it seemed like the Pacers would not rely on Bitadze for much of anything this season considering he just turned 20 and is new to both the NBA and United States. The team also has a history of easing young players into the mix, despite what is said outside of game action.
So now, with the string of coincidences keeping Goga a no go for games, it’s not hard to wonder when the rook will play any meaningful minutes for the Pacers. At a minimum, any expectations for Goga’s impact should be toned down.
Hopefully, Goga will shine on the court when he is ready to play, because his dynamic personality will make him a star in this league if he can play.
Check out the links: