Pacers working to go on win streak, implement new pieces
The Pacers have struggled to go on a win streak over the last few weeks — a streak of any kind, actually. They’re 3-3 in their last six games, alternating losses and wins.
Tuesday, when the Los Angeles Lakers make their only appearance to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Pacers (42-13) begin a stretch six games over the next nine days. That includes two sets of back-to-back contests, where seven of their 13 losses have come.
Never mind the fact that the Lakers are at the bottom of the Western Conference at 19-37, without Kobe Bryant (among other key players), and have lost 12 of their past 15 games.
“For us, we got to get a win,” said coach Frank Vogel after a quality practice on Monday. “That’s the bottom line, so it doesn’t matter who’s coming in, what mystique they’re bringing or lack of mystique. We have to go out, execute and get a win.”
“We got to take care of our transition defense. Some teams that run on us or think they can run on us, they’re going to be mistaken when we start doing what we’re supposed to do. We’ve enhanced our urgency with that.”
Stephenson says the challenge is staying sharp and mentally into every game throughout an 82-game schedule.
“Don’t underestimate teams and bring it every night,” he said. “I feel if we bring it every night, no one can stop us. That’s our main goal, just to bring it every night.”
Part of the challenge over the last few days has been working in two new players, in addition to center Andrew Bynum, who joined the team just over two weeks ago. Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen, who were acquired late last week from Philadelphia in exchange for Danny Granger and a second-round pick, practiced with the team for the first time Tuesday afternoon.
“It was neat to have 15 guys and just look at the possibilities of what these guys could do,” Vogel said. “I thought Evan stood out more than anyone today. I thought he had a great practice and made me pretty excited about what he can do for us.”
Turner will make his debut Tuesday night. Vogel plans to immediately give him Danny Granger’s minutes — 20 to 25 minutes as the backup wing.
One area Granger expected to boost the second unit was beyond the arc. However, he shot just 33 percent. Although Turner’s percentage (29) is slightly lower than Granger’s, Vogel isn’t concerned at this point with his 18th-ranked 3-point shooting team.
“If there was any, it was quickly squashed watching those guys (Stephenson, Turner) play together today,” he said. “One guy making a play for each other or for someone else. To have two guys out there on the court that can really create for others is a weapon that we haven’t had.”
For now, the wing rotation will strictly be Paul George, Stephenson and Turner — meaning 3-point threats Rasual Butler and Chris Copeland remain on the bench.
“That’s probably not even enough minutes for those three guys, but it’ll be close to enough,” Vogel said. “Those guys will balance it out and man the ship. I’m excited about what they can do.
“Evan’s strength is definitely with the basketball. He made some terrific plays today in the pick-and-roll game, in the open court [and had] great decisions late in his drives. We’ll definitely put the ball in his hands.”
The transition for the players shouldn’t be as difficult as usual because they’re coming from the 76ers, a team led by first-year head coach Brett Brown. Since Indiana’s base offense is structure a lot like San Antonio, and Brown spent six years on the bench beside Popovich, it’s not too different.
C.J. Watson signed the team in the offseason and said it took him two weeks to get comfortable. The newcomers will have to speed it up with time running thin. Just 27 regular-season games remain.
Down to Six
The roster to the right is mounted to the brick wall on one side of the Pacers’ practice court. Since the team’s last deal, it has been adjusted accordingly.
There’s a new name at the top, and no “Granger” for the first time since 2005. Even more interesting, just six names remain from last year’s team that came “12 minutes from the Finals.”
“The key six guys, though,” Vogel wanted to make clear, referring to the starters plus Ian Mahinmi. “That’s an important six guys you’re talking about.
“It’s different, and down to three guys (George, Hibbert, Stephenson) from the team I took over. I still got the picture in my office. This is a league of change. We knew last year and this year, this is kind of a start-our-own team and we wanted to build up the pieces around those guys.”
Numbers & Nicknames
Turner and Allen will put on their new jerseys Tuesday night. Turner will be sporting No. 12.
“When I went to the pros, 21 was taken,” he explained. “Like five people told me to get 12 so I just thought it was a sign.”
Turner goes by two nicknames, E.T. and ‘The Villain.’
Numbers typically are meaningful in sports … just not for Allen. He “just picked” No. 5 and said it has no significance. His college number was 24.
His lone nickname: “L.A.”
Oddly enough, the Turner and Allen took over the lockers (as seen above) previously held by Granger and Orlando Johnson.
Pacers Featured in GQ
The Pacers are featured on a couple of pages in the March edition of GQ Magazine. 24 pages are focused on the NBA, which the magazine calls “the red-hot center of style.”
Miami star LeBron James, a four-time MVP, graces the cover. In his cover story, James talks about slapping hands with Paul George. After George threw down a dunk, James responded with a triple. A timeout was whistled and the two slapped hands at mid-court.
“I’m very good at knowing talent, I guess,” James said of their relationship in the magazine. “I knew he could be really, really good. I had a couple of conversations with him. I just see talent in a guy…. I’d do it for anyone. But if someone reaches out to me for advice how to get better, I’m doing it. I can’t tell what I said. My secret words.”
[GQ photo by Finlay MacKay]