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Vogel mixing and matching

The Pacers have been a democratic, inclusive, class-free society during most of their practice scrimmages so far. No starters, no reserves, just a bunch of guys with equal opportunity.

Rather than organizing his players into first, second and third units, coach Frank Vogel has tried to divide them into competitive groups that no inherent advantages. The original intention was a nod toward the team’s superior depth and to allow everyone to grow accustomed to playing with one another, but the end result has been more spirited games.

Friday was fairly typical. The Blue team, consisting primarily of George Hill, Danny Granger, Luis Scola, Chris Copeland, Solomon Hill and Luis Scola, managed a 23-21 victory over the White team, led by Roy Hibbert, Lance Stephenson, David West, Orlando Johnson and C.J. Watson. Paul George sat out the scrimmage, but reported no injury. The White team’s win came when George Hill inbounded the ball with 1.7 seconds left and hit a three-pointer from behind Granger’s screen out top.

It apparently was a typically competitive scrimmage.

“One day the Blue team wins, one day the White team wins,” Granger said. “One day I was on a team that blew everybody off the court, the next day we got blown off the court. One day the Red team won. It keeps the games competitive.

“Playing (starters) together, that’s for later in the year.”

Vogel said he’s made just one exception to the mix-and-match approach.

“The only time it wasn’t down to the wire was when we did have starters go against the bench, and the bench won handily, with Danny and Scola playing together,” he said.

“Yeah, we beat them pretty bad,” Granger said. “We beat them the whole day. They were pretty upset about it. But it’s been kind of teeter-totter after that. Everybody’s had their moments.”

George Hill’s moment in the scrimmage was no fluke, according to the regular training camp observers, one of whom said he appears to have “taken a step” in his development. Vogel agreed.

“His shot-making, his assertiveness off the bounce, pushing the tempo … I think he’s been really strong,” Vogel said. “He’s probably been our loudest and most prevalent voice in practice, and he’s an elite point guard defender.”

Hill downplayed the early praise.

“The season hasn’t come yet,” he said. “The only thing I’m trying to do is be a better player than I was last year. Be a better point guard. Just lead out here. Let my voice be heard.”

Actions speak loudly too, though, and Hill had earned his game-winning shot with his play earlier in Friday’s scrimmage. Vogel, who was coaching the Blue team, drew up the play for him rather than go to Granger or Hibbert.

“That’s just Vogel being a good coach,” Hill said. “He saw that I had hit a couple of shots and he wanted to ride off of that. You always say, milk the cow until it doesn’t have any more milk.”

About The Author

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Mark Montieth has more than 30 years of experience as a reporter, columnist, and feature writer for major media entities, and his work has been featured both in Indiana and across the country. This is his second full season contributing to Pacers.com, though he spent many years as the team's beat writer for the Indianapolis Star. Montieth also hosts a radio show called "One on One" on 1070 the Fan.

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