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Ask Montieth: Crunch Time, Practice, Freddie

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

November 30, 2012

Editor's Note: Have a Pacers-related question for Mark? Want to be featured in his mailbag column? Send your questions to Mark at askmontieth@gmail.com.

Q. The Pacers have been in close games night after night and it appears to me that the plan at the end of games is to let George Hill have the ball and let him make the decision to shoot, pass to West, or hit one of the shooters on the perimeter. After the shots he hit to steal wins at Toronto and at LA, do you think he will continue to be the go-to guy at the end of games for the Pacers? What about when Granger comes back, will George still have the ball in his hands with the game on the line?

– Alex

A. I believe Frank Vogel will always want the ball in George Hill's hands at the end of a close game. Coaches don't like to mess with success, and Hill is proving himself as a reliable go-to guy. It's interesting, because he has said he's still adjusting to playing point guard, and admitting that he's not completely comfortable there yet.

When Granger comes back, he will provide another option for Hill to make a play. Granger has hit a few game-winners in his day, so that would make three good options for Hill. He can look for Granger, for West or take the shot.

Q. Mr. Montieth: I just finished reading your Freddie Lewis jersey retirement piece on pacers.com and just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed it and the work you have contributed since joining the site.

I was born and raised in Indy for my first 23 years before moving to Houston in 1982. So while I have been a Rockets fan longer and my daughters as natives here put the Rockets first, my ultimate loyalties still go back to the Pacers so I have kept up through your sites on an almost daily basis for years. The Lewis discussion brought me back to the ABA days when as a kid I often got into trouble by listening to radio broadcasts in my room on a transistor radio when I was supposed to be asleep on a school night. Tonight I was quite pleased with myself when I stopped at the end of each of your 4 player summaries and correctly identified who you were referring to.

Without disparaging previous contributors, I also wanted to note what I view as the upgrade that has occurred on the site.

– Gary

A. Thank you, Gary, appreciate the feedback. A lot of kids in Indy back in the ABA days had transistor radios by their pillow when the Pacers were on West Coast trips. (Now they just turn on the flat screen TV in their bedroom and watch the game.)

Maybe sometime you can regale your daughter with your knowledge of Houston's first professional basketball team, the ABA Mavericks. They were so popular you could literally count the fans in attendance—often under 100. Their best player was Willie "No-Neck" Somerset.

Q. Just wanted to say you do a great job. Just had a quick question about Granger, have not heard in a long time how his knee is doing. Is he on schedule, ahead of schedule, is there an actual date they thinking he might be back?

Thanks so much for your time, look forward to hearing back from you!

– Tommy

A. Tommy, Granger was on crutches when he attended practice last Sunday, but walking well the next day. He has accompanied the Pacers on the current road trip, and was working out lightly after the game against the Lakers. It's too early to know if he's ahead, behind or on schedule, but so far there's no reason to believe he won't be able to return around the end of January.

Knees are tricky things, though, so it would be dangerous to predict.

Q. How has DJ Augustin looked in practice? I see him as the only true point guard on the roster and was wondering why he hasn't been playing more? I envision a Travis Best/Mark Jackson scenario where each guard would play alternating quarters. How do you think starting Augustin at point, Hill at shooting guard and work a three guard rotation with Gerald Green would work, if at all?

A. Augustin struggled early, but has played better lately. You're right, he's more of a "true point guard" than George Hill, but the Pacers have avoided drowning here in the early going by playing very good defense, and Augustin is a liability there. He might be a true point guard, but he's not the team's best point guard.

I do think Augustin and Hill could play together in the backcourt. As I mentioned in an earlier answer, Hill still wonders if he's best-suited to play point guard, so against some teams he and Augustin might be the team's best backcourt.

I'm skeptical of matching up too often against other teams, however. The best teams have well-established lineups and substitution patterns. The Pacers teams that included Mark Jackson and Travis Best were predictable, but guys knew when they were going to play and could prepare for that. Basketball is largely a game of chemistry, and teams that are always switching lineups to match up with opponents don't have good chemistry.

That reminds me of a story related to Freddie Lewis, who was referenced in an earlier question. He started on all three of the Pacers' ABA championship teams, in 1970, '72 and '73. Players from those teams believe they would have won the title in 1971 as well if Lewis had not been pulled from the starting lineup in the playoff series with Utah in an attempt to "match up" better with the Stars guards. Billy Keller and Warren Armstrong played well in the series, but the chemistry for the Pacers had changed.

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