There has been a lot of news surrounding the Pacers that has nothing to do with their wins or losses on the court. The frustrating start of the season for a team with a net rating and point differential of a team that was a game or three over .500, yet in reality is 4 games under .500 has moved to speculation of big changes in the offing.
Two major reports from The Athletic (here and here) started the ball rolling while other day-to-day news has thrown additional short-term barriers to success in the mix. Being on the wrong side of COVID tests (Justin Holiday, Rick Carlisle) or X-Ray results (TJ McConnell) has altered team in the here and now.
But the notes and quotes taken from the two articles from The Athletic —- a revelation that the Pacers are willing to trade their most valuable and available (not Brogdon) players from Bob Kravitz and Shams Charania combined with a feature by Jared Weiss that has entertaining and interesting quotes from not only Turner, but Kevin Pritchard and Rick Carlisle, as well. Plus, follow up interviews with Weiss revealed Malcolm Brogdon’s thoughts on the whole thing.
Whew! All of this news and noise and nary a mention of how the Pacers are faring while defending the pick n’ roll or where they are finding advantages on the offensive end. Oh and in case you missed it, the Pacers have won three consecutive wins. There has been loads of bandwidth spilled discussing what all of this news means and honestly, much of it is misdirected.
If I hear the terms ‘rebuild or retool’ again, I gonna freak (you don’t wanna see that) and please, don’t consider trying to explain. It is bad enough batting around issues about a basketball team that don’t involve basketball. Can we save the pedantic semantics analysis?
So with that said, allow me to deliver a pedantic ranking of the news issues the Pacers have generated over the past couple of weeks from least to most newsworthy.
10. Justin Holliday out for COVID - There were several hours where this would have been No. 1 on the list. But with no further issues revealed and Holiday ready to return soon, this remains a mere blip on the radar and just another annoying issue the team has had to deal with to alter their playing rotation.
9. Rick Carlisle out for COVID - Similar to the Holiday news, Carlisle entering the COVID protocol for multiple games is not a long-term concern. However, the timing in the midst of the other craziness surrounding the team is not good. Lloyd Pierce knows how to coach a team through an NBA game and with RC or not, it remains a players league so the end results will still be left up to the team’s effort and execution.
8. TJ McConnell out for wrist surgery - This stinks for both TJ and the Pacers, obviously since it could keep TJ Macs out for the remainder of the season. It also bumps the Pacers third PG option, Brad Wanamaker up to a back up role instead of a break glass in case of emergency role. Will the Pacers look around for another backup point guard? Another third PG? Elevate Duane Washington or another G-League player to that role? Seems like Washington is the most likely option, although he’s more of a scoring guard than hold it down third point guard. Regardless, the Pacers are minus some serious stability in their reserve rotation.
7. Malcolm Brogdon confirms desire to stay in Indy - During an appearance on the Kevin & Query Show, Weiss made a point of relaying Brogdon’s interest in staying in Indy even if the team went through a rebuild. After signing a two-year extension that keeps Brogdon from being a trade piece to use in a rebuild, at least in the short-term, this news is not surprising. It also makes sense considering Brogdon chose to come to Indy when his contract with the Bucks was up. While Brogdon didn’t seem enamored with the prior two coaches, it does appear he’d prefer staying with the Pacers for the long haul. This provides a nice contrast when we hear Kevin Pritchard talk about the Pacers only being able to change their team through the draft or trades since they can’t lure free agents to Indy. And Brogdon is not the only one that feels that way (keep reading).
6. Myles Turner expressing his thoughts on his role and future - Weise’s article was promoted throughout social media with quotes from Turner which left open plenty for interpretation. So much so, that Turner himself had to weigh in...on social media. He also expounded on his feelings after the win over Dallas, mentioning he too wants to remain in Indy and make it work, but that he wants the team to lean on him more offensively (I guess that’s what he said). But in the ranking of newsworthy items surrounding the Pacers, Turner’s opinion of his game not matching the organization’s nor most other observers, is not as newsworthy as the initial flashy quotes made it appear.
5. TJ Warren confirms desire to stay in Indy - There were no direct quotes, but in the Kravy/Shams report they included a nugget on Warren’s happiness with being in Indy and what his interest in re-signing with the Pacers this summer. That all sounds good, but how much is it worth to him? Considering Warren’s health history which was spotty at best in Phoenix, allowing the Pacers to essentially acquire him for free, the market should be tepid. But it only takes one team to throw in the Bubble tape and watch Warren toss in an easy 50 to skew the asking price. What a healthy Warren can offer is very much missed by the Pacers, even though it is rarely involved in the analysis of the team since he essentially missed all of last season and remains month-to-month with hopes of January being that month he returns (check back in January). Still, his interest in staying with the Pacers combined with Brogdon, TJ McConnell and Myles Turner’s career of local loyalty helps refute the organization’s stand that they can’t rely on free agents. Yes, I understand that KP is referring more to “big name” free agents that can single-handedly alter a franchise. However, even raising that white flag diminishes the players you do sign and those who do want to play in Indy. Similar to saying your team doesn’t have any stars, when there is a two-time All-Star on the roster. Yes, the NBA is not a level playing field and I’m the first to yell that fact from the nearest mountain top, but, as the leader of the franchise, continuing to express these foggy barriers to success comes off like another lousy excuse.
4. The Pacers are willing to trade Caris LeVert - I love guys who can get buckets and Caris LeVert can get buckets. But his role and fit (sorry CC) with the Pacers just isn’t working. Ideally, I see LeVert as a microwave scoring option off the bench for a great team. I just don’t know if the Pacers can make enough moves and improve to the point where LeVert would accept and thrive in that role. I think there are plenty of smart teams that understand how valuable LeVert can be and his return for the Pacers could really help alter the state of the team. The beauty of the situation, though is that the Pacers should be dealing LeVert from a position of strength. No need to deal for the sake of dealing since LeVert will always be able to deliver the Pacers 20+ points and there are certainly ways to massage his role. But if the price is right...strike.
3. The Pacers are willing to trade Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner - For all of the Turbonis talk over the years, it seems extremely naive to think the Pacers haven’t been trying to deal Turner and/or Sabonis since Domas pulled up in the Paul George trade. Now, the willingness to trade Sabonis part is a far more recent development since we already went through the Celtics, Hayward deal with Turner that almost, maybe but ultimately didn’t happen. If the team really wants to alter the franchise, the right deal for Sabonis could do it with young prospects and quality draft picks. But Turner could fetch a quality haul, as well while also altering the playing rotation once and for all. Again, there is no rush. Let the contenders looking to get over the hump overpay. The only risk is that the Pacers go on several solid stretches of winning and making the playoffs.
2. Rick Carlisle in for changing course of current team - The conventional wisdom on Carlisle’s hiring was that the veteran coach went to Indy to help push this collection of good to very good players over the hump as a collective, capable of making a run in the playoffs, at last past the first round. Carlisle preached patience at the outset because of injuries, a challenging schedule and a third head coach in three years. As the season has gone on, and the Pacers have lost some tight games, Carlisle has seemed to be rolling with the situation and exploring various options and roles for players, almost as if he was playing the long game with his crew. And here we are, ready for the long game, even as the team starts to play better. But Carlisle’s impact on the future will be more significant than an average coach. His input will hold plenty of weight, not to mention it isn’t crazy to think Carlisle could slide into Pritchard’s role if the team pres can’t deliver on altering the roster in successful manner.
1. Herb Simon onboard with the idea of a rebuild - This, now this is the biggest news to come out of all of this. The Pacers owner is finally willing to let Kevin Pritchard try to shut off the treadmill of mediocrity and do something that may make the team worse in the short term but set it up for more long-term success. This is where the narrative shifts to how big a rebuild, blah, blah, blah. The fact is all options are on the table. Herb Simon has never wanted to bottom out because his team to do their best to give the fans the best team possible for the nights they are in the Fieldhouse with the idea being, if they recognize the team is trying to field the best team possible they will support it. Well, the Pacers have a rabid and faithful fanbase. Unfortunately, it is the smallest collection of fans in the league, let alone per capita. The attendance this season was surely the primary factor in Simon taking a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude since it can’t get much worse at the Fieldhouse (which isn’t all just on the current team, several other factors, but still a bottom line problem).
So if nothing else, all of this recent news involving the Pacers has created a lot of local noise. As mentioned above, there has been plenty of bandwidth used up discussing the Pacers, not to mention radio and television air time. All publicity is good publicity, so no we will see if the Fieldhouse letting this news loose was the sincere start of something new or simply a way to draw some attention to the team and remind locals they are still playing games downtown between Pennsylvania and Delaware. And don’t look now, but they’re winning some of those games.