The Indiana Pacers are four days, five practices and one 16-hour flight into their preseason preparation and naturally the first impressions of the new-look Blue and Gold have been quite positive. That may or may not change as early as Friday morning when they play the first of two games against the Sacramento Kings in Mumbai, India.
The Friday game against the Kings tips off at 9:30 a.m. ET on NBA TV and then same team, time and TV on Saturday.
So going back to media day along with the snippets of info from the first few practices, here’s what we think we know about the Pacers before they play their first practice game.
- Victor Oladipo is a big presence once again on this team, although he will only be present on the sidelines for somewhere between a couple and a few months into the season. His personality rose above all on media day, save for a few Goga Bitadze moments, when the full team was on the floor for their various picture and autograph duties. Prior to the group gathering, VO went through a media session without saying much other than bantering with questioners about the wording or context of questions. All is good, everything is feathery, he’s going to be back better than ever...however, he and no one else knows when that may be. But he still has a strong voice on this team which could be heard encouraging teammates during clips of scrimmage work over the weekend. Unfortunately, Vic won’t be making the trip to India.
- Nate McMillan seemed as surprised as anyone that someone, in this case Malcolm Brogdon, want to play for him and the Pacers. Brogdon has said he wanted to play for the Pacers or Spurs because of the way those teams play and handle their business. The culture the team has worked to develop since PG tapped out is starting to pay some dividends with the type of players the Pacers want to invest in. Brogdon’s signing, led to Jeremy Lamb taking an interest and wanting to join. The next step in strengthening the organization’s culture is similarly attracting a high-level star player...that’s a big step.
- Observing the full team standing around and literally getting to know each other in some cases (Domas Sabonis was shaking hands with new players for the first time) the size and versatility stood out. Aside from TJ McConnell and Aaron Holiday, there are several players between 6’5 and 6’8 who can mix and match from shooting guard to power forward, if needed. Can only assume Dan Burke is quite hyped about all of the length and athleticism his team defense can throw at opposing offenses.
- Speaking of Aaron Holiday, he said he wasn’t promised anything with regard to a spot in the playing rotation. In the numbers game for actual playing time with all of that versatile depth, the thought of McMillan leaning on veterans like McConnell and Justin Holiday as safer options to developing players like Aaron Holiday and Edmond Sumner felt like a possibility. A buzz kill possibility to be sure, but since McMillan coaches to win each day, without appearing to glance too far into the future, a sure possibility. By the end of the weekend, those concerns were allayed when we saw video clips of the Pacers initial 5-on-5 run (via Scott Agness).
- So what we saw in the 5-on-5 run was essentially, McMillan running out the playing rotation based on his first instinct. During his media session, McMillan mentioned his initial plan was to start Brogdon, Lamb, TJ Warren, Sabonis and Myles Turner which we see in the video. As for the reserve (white squad), youth was served with Aaron Holiday, Edmond Sumner, Dough McDermott, TJ Leaf and Goga Bitadze running against the starters. It was a relief to see AHoliday and Sumner out there since giving those young guys a chance to develop will help the Pacers today and in the future and if one or both struggles at times, then you have the vets in McConnell and JHoliday who can fill in, as needed. Whew!
- Finally, the rookie Goga Bitadze goes through life with great energy and quite an engaging personality. If he can play at all, the rook from the Republic of Georgia is going to be a star. let’s hope he can play.
- Speaking of playing, Bitadze earned his fair share of compliments from other players for his play during the team’s pre-camp pick up games. Goga said the speed of the game was noticeably different, even in pick up and the intensity was impressive. But the player who earned the ‘DJ Augustin preseason hype’ award was definitely TJ Leaf. Hopefully, Leaf will deliver on the hype better than Augustin did for the Pacers back in 2012.
- As CC chronicled, Myles Turner and Domas Sabonis will ease into things during preseason after playing in the FIBA World Cup and prior warm up games over the summer. They both seem genuinely excited to play together and find a way to make it work, almost like they know something we don’t know. But there remains something they don’t know, which is pretty important - how will they guard the 4!
- Finally, the Pacers took a luxury private flight to Mumbai on Tuesday. TJ Leaf shared a quick tour of the souped up Boeing 777.
Pacers team plane is INSANE ✈#NBA #NBATwitter pic.twitter.com/9hfm4IGfB4— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) October 2, 2019