The Most Improved Player from last season is looking to get even better. And while Victor Oladipo seeks a higher profile off the court -- changing management and hiring a PR firm -- basketball remains priority No. 1.
The Indianapolis Star's J. Michael traveled to Miami, where Oladipo built a gym in a strip mall, and went long on the MIP's summer work ...
What made him special en route to a career-high 23.1 points last season was an uncanny ability to accelerate in the open court to drive back his defender, decelerate upon that separation, elevate, stay on balance and drain the pull-up jumper. That's not easy.
Oladipo shot 46.6 percent on pull-up 3s (48 of 103). He was 36 percent on step-back 3s (9 of 25). On his regular jump shots, Oladipo shot just 34.1 percent overall (145 of 425) and 34.4 percent from 3 (104 of 302).
There's plenty of room to get better.
"It's starting to get difficult to challenge him just because he's so far along in our process with the skill-set stuff," Stanhope says. "He's getting everything. We'll throw something new at him, one rep to adjust and he'll go. Even with just his energy in the gym it never changes. He's one of the more remarkable players I've seen with his focus. It's crazy."
When Watson notices Oladipo is lagging, he utters four words to re-energize him.
"He wants to be great. It doesn't matter where we're at, his obligations, he wants to work out," Watson says. "Everything is scheduled. He's not about partying. Sometimes I can see he's kind of slow-motioning it and I'll say, ‘What would Kobe do?' Then he's at a whole other level."
The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn, meanwhile, spoke with Pacers coach Nate McMillan about how last season's most surprising team gets better as a group ...
The Eastern Conference will be even more competitive with LeBron James now with Lakers. The Celtics are favored, but the Pacers won twice in Boston last season.
"Our approach has always been work on us and not be concerned about what is happening in the league," McMillan said. "The people wrote us off last season, and now people are going to write Cleveland off. We won't do that. We know that team is still going to be competitive. Boston is going to get all of their guys back and they're deep. Toronto is hungry after the season that they had, so the East is going to be very, very competitive.
"Is it open? With LeBron [out]? Yes. We're happy that he's gone west. But we know that it's still going to be a challenge and we have to make sure we work on us and not assume anything. It's going to be a challenge for us to do the things we did last season and do it better."