Pacers take "roll-with-it" mindset into camp
Indianapolis (Dec. 9, 2011) -- Given the fluid nature of, well, everything, Frank Vogel is well aware of the need to be flexible.
"This was a roll-with-it practice, it's going to be a roll-with-it type of year," Vogel said after the first day of his first training camp as head coach of the Pacers on Friday at Conseco Fieldhouse. "We're just having fun with it. We understand there's going to be imperfections but we've got a good group of guys that like playing basketball, they like the competition, they like being around each other, so we're just going to have fun."
A total of 12 players were available for the 2-hour, 45-minute practice, including D-League signees Tyren Johnson (6-8, 224, Louisiana-Lafayette) and Darnell Lazare (6-8, 240, LSU). Two more D-League players are expected to join practice Saturday, Jarrid Famous (6-11, 240, South Florida) and Matt Rogers (6-11, 225, Southwest Baptist).
Free agent Jeff Pendergraph, the former Portland forward who missed last season after undergoing knee surgery, watched from the sideline and also is expected to join the team Saturday.
"It's imperfect but it's imperfect for everyone in the league and, to be honest with you, it's imperfect less for us than I think most teams," said Vogel. "We've got nine guys back that are very familiar with what we're doing and that type of continuity is really going to help us when you look at what some of the other teams are faced with."
Returning veterans on the floor included starters Darren Collison, Paul George, Danny Granger, Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert, draft-night acquisition George Hill and reserves Dahntay Jones, Brandon Rush, A.J. Price and Lance Stephenson. Vogel said veteran forward James Posey is not expected to be with the team for training camp.
With the potential for significant free agent signings and trades looming in this compressed preseason period, the Pacers -- like every other team -- have to be able to adapt quickly.
"It's very weird," said Granger. "We don't know who's going to be here, we don't know what free agents we're going to add. There could be trades. All this can happen before Christmas. It's kind of up in the air but like Coach Vogel told us before, we just have to go with the flow because I think every team is in the same situation.
"The five guys that started for us last year, we're all here. We have other guys that we've added who kind of know the system and they kind of know the system and that gives us an advantage."
One of the primary focuses of camp will be on conditioning. With just two weeks of camp and two preseason games to prepare -- roughly half the usual time frame -- Vogel said his biggest challenge will be to determine just how hard to push the pace.
"Managing their bodies, trying to find out where the line is between conditioning them and pushing them to get them in shape but not too far where we're risking injury," he said. "That's the line I'm going to be walking all season and that's the biggest challenge.
"… We did a lot of teaching throughout practice so there was some standing. We tried to limit it but the end portion of practice, for the last 15 or 20 minutes I wanted to intentionally not stop it. I wanted them going up and down and I wanted them to push their wind and just challenge their conditioning. It's a big challenge for us."
Granger, who said he gave the team a B for its overall conditioning level, said this first day of camp was very different from others in his career. Players and coaches were not allowed to interact prior to Friday, which meant this was the first chance for Vogel and assistants Brian Shaw, Jim Boylen and Dan Burke to communicate with the players, let alone work with them.
"It was just a totally different feeling because this was the first day we could actually talk to the coaches and get insight on what we're doing offensively and what we're doing defensively," Granger said. "The week before we would come in here and they couldn't be on the court and no one could rebound for us so we just had to play three-on-three, two-on-two, do line drills, try to get in shape. It really was an interesting situation so today was very unique."
The Pacers will practice once Saturday before their first two-a-day sessions Sunday.