Is Bjorkgren really on the hot seat already?
My initial reply was: Who isn’t on the hot seat at BLF?
Perception is reality in today’s NBA and the perception of this Pacers team, as they wind down this brutal season filled with COVID protocols, injuries and heaping spoonfuls of defensive lapses, is that the rats are abandoning a sinking ship.
When Woj and Shams get involved in the day-to-day operations of your organization, things are happening and change is likely on the horizon.
Every man for himself!
If only Becky Hammon were coaching...but I digress.
Head coach Nate Brjorkgren is most definitely on the hot seat, one COVID season in or not. It no longer matters that Bjorkgren hasn’t had the good fortune to coach the team he signed up for thanks to injuries. The response of the players he’s had available have put his status in limbo.
The Pacers are missing a dynamic scoring option in T.J. Warren and have missed him for nearly the whole season. The Pacers don’t miss Warren’s scoring. They’re getting buckets. The problem is when they play a team more interested in Ws than draft profiles, they are having problems stopping them.
I know, Myles Turner has been out. Is he the only guy that can play D? There is a standard level of effort that all of the players on the roster are capable of putting forth to slow down opponents. Unfortunately, they don’t seem interested, nor held accountable, for showing said effort.
Aside from this paragraph, this was written prior to the Pacers game against the Kings with my full expectation that the team would circle the wagons due to embarrassment if nothing else and put away the Kings. Oof, was I wrong about that plan. I didn’t think it could get worse than what we saw in D.C. on Monday but it did, and Tony East caught the worst of it.
So, yeah, Bjorkgren is on the hot seat.
But he’s not alone.
About those players, you know, the one’s who were lauding Bjorkgren at the start of the season for being everything that Nate McMillan is not, most notably Malcolm Brogdon, by heaping praise on the new coach’s approach to the game.
Now they don’t like Bjorkgren’s approach either? Shams’ report named Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis among the players not happy with how Bjorkgren controls things behind the scenes.
Players throughout the roster have voiced their dissatisfaction with Bjorkgren and their general unhappiness amid a down season, including key star players in Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon, sources said. Those sources say Bjorkgren has implemented an analytics style of coaching that players privately do not find suitable for the roster, and that there have been issues among the coaching staff at times. Bjorkgren has worked to address matters internally, and one source described him as “over-communicative” to make sure he is sharing and receiving messages from the roster. One coaching source predicted that this would have a similar ending to what took place in Charlotte in 2013, when former St. John’s assistant Mike Dunlap was fired after just one season amid widespread player frustration.
These are two players putting up monster numbers which will certainly be used to their benefit in future contract negotiations. Yet, the losses mount. Somebody find these guys a mirror.
No player, not one, should be untouchable this offseason.
Back to Bjorkgren’s toasty courtside chair...the report of his controlling nature not just with players but staff as well inside the Fieldhouse seems crazy. However, it does explain why he whiffed when putting together a coaching staff. As a first time NBA coach, having more experience among his staff, preferably a former head coach, would have served him well. Reportedly, Jeff Hornacek was among the mentors considered but he’s not on the staff and maybe that is how Bjorkgren wanted it.
Prior to this madness and assuming Terry Stotts doesn’t survive in Portland, I thought Bjorkgren may be smart to bring the former Bloomington North grad back to Indiana to fill that role. He may not get that chance now.
This situation is so nutty, it is hard to assume who is leaking the damning info to Woj and Shams. Players, via their agents, are surely a likely source and maybe Brogdon’s nickname of “The President” is more apt for his ability to play politics as opposed to actually lead. But the leader of the organization also needs the klieg lights pointed his way.
This is Kevin Pritchard’s baby. The Pacers prez extended Nate McMillan in the bubble and soon thereafter (the after being a Heat sweep of the Pacers) sent McMillan packing after consulting with his key players (why does Brogdon’s name keep coming up?).
Admittedly, injuries have blurred the vision KP had for the franchise this season, but what we’ve seen from the strategy of the coach to the effort of the players has been clear as day. There’s a reason owner Herb Simon spent extensive time at the Fieldhouse in March when fourth quarter collapses became the norm. At the time, I figured that was the first sign Bjorkgren may be in trouble, but now that extends to Pritchard.
Unless KP has a go-forward plan, check that, go-forward coach ready to go which will inspire not only the players but the fan base, then it seems like someone else should give it a try.
And that brings us to Herb Simon, a one-time savior of the Pacers who continues to manage the Pacers like a small-market team. A team that can exceed expectations regularly but has to show it is really close to competing for a championship before goin all in. That’s a rough sell if you do end up trying to replace Nate Bjorkgren, let alone Kevin Pritchard.
Ever wonder why the Pacers have so many injuries? Maybe because they have to take chances on talented players with poor injury histories to try to squeeze out what production they can without paying the max. Danny Granger fell in the draft thanks to knee concerns and was awesome until knee issues eventually slowed him down. Myles Turner dropped due to concerns about his running gait. Malcolm Brogdon had foot injury issues. T.J. Warren had injury red flags, but was free. As frustrating as the injury issues are, it isn’t shocking.
Players, coach, GM and owner? Yeah, a full implosion would likely not solve the current problem, but instead land the franchise in another city. But the treadmill of mediocrity (KP’s term, not mine) is humming and the team is sliding in the wrong direction. Something has to change for those who pay the bills because they haven’t been paying to watch the Pacers this year and may get used to it.
The incredible apathy from the fan base for the Pacers right now is shrouded by COVID restrictions at the Fieldhouse, not to mention a TV contract with Bally Sports Indiana that keeps lots of us (I’m weezin’ ATT Now log in info from my in-laws for chrisakes) from watching this season.
That may be a blessing, as the current apathy would only include more outrage if those that care enough could see what is going on.