Oh, what a difference the playoffs make. After getting swept out of the first-round for the third time in four seasons, the Indiana Pacers have fired head coach Nate McMillan, who but a few weeks ago had agreed to a one-year extension to remain with the team.
“On behalf of the Simon family and the Pacers organization, I’d like to thank Nate for his years with the team,” Kevin Pritchard said in a statement released via the Pacers. “This was a very hard decision for us to make; but we feel it’s in the best interest of the organization to move in a different direction. Nate and I have been through the good times and the bad times; and it was an honor to work with him for those 11 years (in Indiana and Portland).”
Unless his dismissal proves to be a precursor for other changes, McMillan shouldn’t be scapegoated for losing a series in which one of his All-Stars was limited and the other was out, but he can’t be entirely acquitted, either. Not when his offensive system, mostly devoid of misdirection, already struggles to find an extra gear in the playoffs, and his team, for the entire first half of Game 3 and bits and pieces of Game 4, got outworked and, at times, failed to live up to his reputation for coaching the heck out of effort.
Granted, without Domantas Sabonis as a consistent source of roll-gravity, Bam Adebayo’s defensive versatility completely changed the complexion of the series for Indiana with the way the Heat were able to clamp down on driving lanes; nevertheless, there’s no overlooking the fact that Miami shot 26 percent from three in Game 4 with only 10 free throw attempts and a one-armed Jimmy Butler, and the Pacers still couldn’t find enough points to extend the series.
Overall, Nate McMillan wasn’t the only reason why the Pacers lost to the Heat, but he was a factor among many. He deserves credit for raising the floor of several injury riddled teams, but it was fair to question if that heightened floor would continue to be the team’s ceiling — especially headed into a contract year for Victor Oladipo, who as you may remember, told The Athletic he planned to sit out the restart before informing his coach.
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, in addition to potential “program builders,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni is expected to be a target for the job if he becomes available — interest which, given his affinity for small-ball, seems likely to foreshadow further revamping for a team with two starting centers.