Feb. 2011: Caught in the Web Indiana Pacers blog by Conrad Brunner

Potential "X-factor" Stephenson begins NBA journey

Feb. 28, 2011

There is a long road to travel and many lessons to be learned but at least the journey has begun for Lance Stephenson.

The talented second-round pick made his NBA debut Sunday in the Pacers' 110-108 overtime loss to Phoenix, playing 4 minutes, 17 seconds before heading to the bench gasping for air.

"I need to get in better shape," Stephenson said. "I've got to get in game shape. I'm in practice shape right now."

Coach Frank Vogel has decided to begin Stephenson's initiation process with small steps.

"He’s getting his feet wet," Vogel said. "We’ll bring him along slow. You’ll probably see more of what we did (Sunday) till we start getting more comfortable and then we’ll decide whether next game he may play (shooting guard). … Just where we are at, just take it as it goes.

"We’ve felt all along that he can help us, that he is going to be a heck of a player, a heck of a talent. We think during this playoff stretch and in the playoffs he could be a bit of an X-factor, a sizable point guard like that or even what he could do at the two. We just thought it was his time."

At 6-5, 220 pounds, Stephenson has the size and strength of a shooting guard but the quickness and creativity of a point guard. Ultimately he could offer the Pacers an important option off the bench when they need to match up against bigger backcourts or when they need instant offense.

Big talent, however, doesn't always translate to big productivity in the NBA. Stephenson must show a grasp of the offense and a commitment to improving his defense.

"He competes really hard, like any rookie," said Vogel. "He's still picking up rotations. There hasn't been a lot of practice time since training camp so it's going to be a work in progress. He's familiar with everything we do it's just a matter of getting the reps.

"What he's got to gain is the cohesiveness with his teammates and the speed of the NBA game, which he's used to."

Stephenson made it clear that, after waiting 57 games for the chance to play at all, he's ready for whatever role Vogel envisions.

"Whenever coach wants me to play," he said, "I'm going to be happy with the minutes he gives me."

When Stephenson scored his first NBA points in a pair of free throws with 11:17 left in the first quarter, his family threw confetti in the air to mark the occasion.

The Pacers hope it was just the beginning of many more good times to come.

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After a confusing day, McRoberts glad nothing's changed

Feb. 25, 2011

Josh McRoberts was at the barber shop Thursday afternoon when his world turned upside down, if only briefly.

"I took my jacket off and didn't have my phone with me," he said with a smile. "I went to go pay and my phone was ringing – and it never really rings like that – and I had about 15 missed calls and 15 texts. I didn't even have to look at it. I knew what it was for.


Brandon Rush, Josh McRoberts happy to still be with Pacers. (NBAE/Getty Images)
"By the time I got out and made a few phone calls to my agent he told me, 'You got traded,' but someone was in the background was like, 'No, I just talked to Memphis, the deal's off.' It was only a few seconds where I thought I was traded."

For about an hour after the NBA Trade Deadline passed at 3 p.m. Thursday, it appeared the Pacers had traded McRoberts to Memphis and Brandon Rush to New Orleans in a three-team deal that would've netted O.J. Mayo, according to a variety of media sources. First-round picks also reportedly were involved, though it's not clear whether the Pacers would've been on the giving or receiving end – or possibly both.

The deal did not go through, apparently because either Memphis or New Orleans opted to back away while the team representatives were on hold waiting to announce the trade to NBA officials.

That period of uncertainty, though relatively brief, was the hardest part for McRoberts.

"You kind of have that feeling in your stomach like, 'Man, I didn't see that coming,' so it's tough," he said. "But at the same time I didn't have time for it to really register before they said it was off.

"It was more being nervous for about an hour. Is it really off? Is it going to happen? Who knows what's going to happen? That was the toughest part. I wanted to know one way or another."

Rush, who just returned to the starting lineup at shooting guard Wednesday after Mike Dunleavy was sidelined indefinitely with a broken thumb, didn't have as much to say.

"It's a business and you've just got to go along with it," he said. "I'm definitely looking forward to the rest of the year."

A free agent after this season, McRoberts has been playing particularly well under interim coach Frank Vogel, averaging 10.6 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting an astonishing 75 percent (36-of-48) from the field in the last eight games. He has started the last 14 games at power forward in what amounts to a split-minutes tag-team with Tyler Hansbrough.

Though briefly shaken by the previous day's events, McRoberts was smiling and settled after the shootaround Friday morning. He'll be back in the lineup when the Pacers host the Utah Jazz tonight.

"I'm fine," he said. "I know how my teammates and my coaches feel about me and I know the things I try to do to help us win. At the end of the day I want to win no matter where I'm at – especially here. …

"It was a strange day but other than that nothing's really changed."

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Pacers-Grizzlies talks through the eyes of Twitter

Feb. 24, 2011

Just when Pacers fans thought the trade deadline had passed quietly, Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star dropped a Twitter bomb, setting off a chain reaction that caused about an hour of frenzy Wednesday afternoon

Here's how the whole Pacers-Memphis trade discussion unfolded via the world of Twitter:

Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNBA)
Pacers sending J-Mac to Grizzlies for O.J. Mayo and a 1st round pick. More details to come.

Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNBA)
My mistake, J-Mac and a 1st round pick to Memphis for Mayo.

Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider)
Hearing same as @MikeWellsNBA ... O.J. Mayo to Pacers for McRoberts and a first.

Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNBA)
Hold off on J-Mac to Memphis deal. Word is the two teams may have missed the 3 p.m. deadline.

ESPN.com (@espn)
Memphis Grizzlies trade away O.J. Mayo to Indiana Pacers, sources say.

Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNBA)
Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley confirms to Ron Tillery of the Commercial Appeal that he's not sure if deal got done in time.

Ken Berger (CBS Sports) (@KBerg)
O.J. Mayo stays in Memphis. Grizzlies and Pacers couldn't come to agreement before deadline, source says.

Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNBA)
No deal between Pacers and Grizzlies. Deal was in place, but Grizzlies pulled out at the last minute, according to a source.

T.J. Ford (@tj_ford)
Sad if the Pacers really traded my good friend "Josh McRoberts" kids playing great this yr

Paul George (@King24George)
Phewww coo we keep JMac!!! He been doin great for us wouldve been tough to lose him!

Chris Tomasson (@christomasson)
Just talked to Michael Heisley, Griz owner. He said they talked about sending O.J. Mayo the Pacers at trade deadline but didn't happen.

Chris Tomasson (@christomasson)
Michael Heisley told me it would have been a more-than-2-player deal in which Mayo went to Pacers and Griz wanted big guy but didn't work.

Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNBA)
Different stories on what happened in the J-Mac/Mayo deal. 1 side is saying Mem pulled out. Other side is saying it was missed deadline.

David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt)
Grizz owner Heisley: "Indiana was not able to get it all together." Says MEM needed 2 break up 2/3 logjam & wanted 4 to help Arthur/Z-Bo.

Danny Granger (@dgranger33)
That trade didn't go through people

Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNBA)
Call was logged at 3:01 p.m. and Orleans was involved, but they were the team that pulled out, according to a source. Rush was going to N.O.

Follow?

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Dunleavy's injury creates opportunity for Rush

Feb. 23, 2011

An injury cost Brandon Rush his spot in the rotation.

An injury has brought him back.

With Mike Dunleavy out indefinitely with a broken left thumb, Rush returns from limbo to the lineup.

"He fell out (of the rotation) pretty much just because he got hurt," said Coach Frank Vogel before the Pacers faced Detroit Wednesday in Conseco Fieldhouse. "Typically, that doesn't happen in sports but the other guys stepped up so much that it happened. He'll be back in the starting lineup tonight and we'll keep Paul (George) with that second unit that's been so good for us and hopefully we won't skip a beat."


Rush was playing regularly until going down with a sprained ankle in late January, missing 10 straight games. In his three games since returning, he has totaled just 32 minutes and 11 points. He was the last man to play in the Pacers' 113-96 win in Washington Tuesday.

Dunleavy's injury occurred in the first quarter Tuesday. He initially thought it was jammed and returned to the game, playing just under 23 minutes. But further examination revealed the break.

"It's obviously a very tough loss,"said Vogel. "He's been playing great for us, especially since the coaching change. It's just a big loss. You lose his shooting, his cerebral approach, his player leadership out there on the court and he's probably our best team defensive player.

"So it's a tough loss but I've said all along we've got great depth, in particular at the wing position. I feel like we have five wings that can flat-out play and Brandon Rush is going to get his chance to get back in the rotation."

Rush had 13 previous starts this season, averaging 14.0 points and 4.6 rebounds, shooting .444 overall and .385 from the 3-point line. He started 64 games last season when he posted career highs of 9.4 points and 4.2 rebounds while leading the Pacers in 3-point accuracy (.411).

"It's really an easy decision because Brandon Rush can play," said Vogel. "He's been a starter for us a lot of times over the last couple of years, he's a knock-down 3-point shooter, a lock-down defender. It's really going to be a good thing for Brandon."

Dunleavy had played in 54 of the Pacers’ 55 games this season, starting 44. He was averaging 11.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.

With Dunleavy joining T.J. Ford and Solomon Jones on the inactive list, rookie Lance Stephenson will get a shot on the active roster, although it remains to be seen how much playing time might open up. Vogel said he would be in the third point guard, typically a little-used slot this season.

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Offense, rotations solid, so time to tighten defense

Feb. 21, 2011

Phase 1 of the Frank Vogel Transition Program is complete.

The offense has been restructured and streamlined, its emphasis shifted from the perimeter to the paint.

The lineup and rotations have been established with clearly defined roles.

And the Pacers, not coincidentally, have gone 7-3 to push their record to 24-30 and their standing to eighth in the Eastern Conference.

As they emerge from the All-Star break this week, however, the Pacers must get busily to work on Phase 2:

Defense.


Frank Vogel offers instruction to Paul George (NBAE/Getty Images)
In their last six games, the Pacers yielded an average of 107.8 points on 47.4 percent shooting. Getting torched by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (who each put 41 on the Pacers within eight days) is one thing. Submitting to 115 points and .515 shooting by Detroit, which happened in the final game before the break last Wednesday, is quite another.

"I knew the risk of restructuring our offense and neglecting the defensive work that we needed to be a good defensive team and I knew it was going to bite us sometime," Vogel said. "… We just aren’t as tied together defensively as we need to be right now and that is on me and part of the process.

"Defense involves repetition and hard (work) and most of our practices have been restructuring our offense and working on reads and becoming a more efficient team. I understood there was going some slippage on the defensive end."

The biggest adjustment will be in mentally tying together the five players on the court.

Too many times in recent games, there has been little or no help coming once a perimeter player is beaten. The Pacers need to regain their willingness to step up and take charges, to rotate and defend the rim. They were among the league leaders in blocked shots through 44 games (6.11) but have dropped by two per game in the 10 since.

It must begin with mindset because there will be precious little time to make substantial schematic changes. The Pacers have 22 games in the next 5½ weeks, with seven sets of back-to-backs. Practice time will be scarce.

This team has a habit of coming out of the break with renewed vigor. In the past three seasons, they went 44-43 (.506) after the break, compared to 60-99 (.377) before.

So if they can keep the offense rolling and tighten the screws just a bit on defense, the talk will not just be of making the playoffs but climbing as high as the sixth seed.

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Turns out, there's a day for fools in February, too

Feb. 18, 2011

Did I oversleep? Is this April 1?

I look outside and see the sun shining, the birds chirping and neighbors walking their dogs without ice skates, so I guess it's possible.


NBAE/Getty Images
Because there's really no other rational explanation for the reports circulating that Reggie Miller did not make the list of finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Swirl that one around in your brain for a minute. This wasn't about making the Hall of Fame itself. This was about making the list of finalists for the Hall of Fame.

The selection process has long been cause for debate because it is so secretive. The names of those who cast the ballots are not made public. But when Reggie Miller does not make the list of finalists, there is something very, very wrong.

You want to debate whether he belongs in the Hall itself? We can do that later. This is about a process that denies him a place on the list of finalists, which means he isn't even a candidate for enshrinement.

Granted, I make no claim to objectivity on this subject, because I was there for every one of his moments. Eight points in 8.9? Check. Twenty-five in the fourth quarter? Check. The fallaway game-winning 3-pointer over Michael Jordan? Check.

In my eyes, Reggie cemented his Hall of Fame status not in Madison Square Garden but in the New Jersey swamps. His performance in Game 5 of the first-round series against the Nets in 2002, was to me the greatest example of his will and heart.

First came the ridiculous turnaround 3-pointer from near midcourt that forced overtime. Then came the drive through the heart of the New Jersey defense for a dunk that brought about a second overtime. That they lost the game was almost incidental.

I can't begin to fathom the logic the voters used in denying Miller a spot the list of finalists. Argue numbers all you want but the Hall of Fame is not about statistics alone, it is about greatness.

In the NBA, there is no greater measure of greatness than performance in the crucible of the playoffs. Did he win a ring? No. Did he lead a previously moribund franchise into the playoffs in 15 of his 18 seasons? Did he lead said franchise to the conference finals six times and the NBA Finals for the only time in its history? Absolutely.

If the ring's the thing, Reggie could've chased one by coming out of retirement and joining the Celtics in 2007. Had he made the leap, maybe he gets the jewelry, maybe he makes enough 3-pointers to keep Ray Allen in second place on the all-time list, and maybe the voters don't hesitate to place him on the list of finalists for the Hall of Fame.

If he is to be punished by the voters for doing the right thing, the noble thing, the honorable thing, and allowing his career to stand on its own merit rather than trying to piggyback on others, that says all that needs to be said about the flaws in the selection process.

So Reggie now joins the Pacers' Legion of Snubbed.

Slick Leonard: 529 wins, three championships.

Mel Daniels: two-time MVP, three-time champion, career averages of 18.4 points and 14.9 rebounds.

Roger Brown: before Miller the greatest clutch scorer in franchise history, possibly in ABA history, also a three-time champion.

George McGinnis: six-time All-Star (three in each league), two-time champion, career averages of 20.2 points and 11.0 rebounds.

I turn to the calendar on my computer for confirmation. No, it's not April Fools Day.

Turns out, there's one in February, too.

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Fans give Pacers a taste of playoff atmosphere

Feb. 15, 2011

Frank Vogel's pregame message was straightforward.

"This," the coach told the players, "is your playoff experience right now."

To be sure, the Pacers' game against the Miami Heat had a postseason feel. Conseco Fieldhouse was sold out and rowdy. The opponent brought such star power the entourage was a circus unto itself.

And Vogel was right in setting that tone because the Pacers are remarkably young and thus inexperienced in the ways of the playoffs. They needed this chance to at least get a little taste and, though they wound up losing 110-103, it wasn't all that bitter.

Much like the Pacers' last meeting with the Heat in Miami, in which their second and third quarter dominance was sandwiched by first and fourth quarter frustration, thjavascript:%20submit()e players did gain something from this. They fully believe they can beat this elite opponent, should a playoff matchup come about in April. But they must also learn from the lessons of these games if they are to put that belief into action.

"We've proved we can play with them," said Tyler Hansbrough. "Now, we want to prove we can beat them."

What the Pacers have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt is their bench is their single biggest advantage against Miami. The scoring was lopsided again, 53-14 Tuesday night, bringing the season total to 137-42.

Hansbrough continued to vex Chris Bosh, who guards him as one would a hive of angry bees -- tentatively and from a distance – and racked up 16 points in 27 minutes. Paul George scored 14 and earned the second-half start to match up against Dwyane Wade, who racked up 31 in the first half but added just 10 more. A.J. Price orchestrated a remarkable comeback from a 24-point first-quarter deficit.

But the first and fourth quarters, when Miami has won these games, typically belong to the starters and the Heat's big three has proven too much to overcome. Wade (41), LeBron James (27) and Bosh (22) combined for 90 of Miami's points, including the first 21 of the fourth quarter.

"We've got to stay locked in for 48 minutes," said Price. "In Miami we had a terrible fourth quarter. Tonight, it was a terrible first quarter. Until we play 48 minutes like we did the first time we beat them (93-77 in November) it's going to be tough to hold them off."

Come April, every game will be like this. The opponent will be mighty, the fans stoked. Every possession will bear the weight of history. If this was the first step of the preparation of these young Pacers for what awaits, it wasn't a leap, but neither was it a tumble.

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Pacers, Heat could see each other again in April

Feb. 14, 2011

I'm pretty sure the concept of the Cinderella team is reserved for the college game.

But the Pacers are quickly becoming the NBA equivalent -- the team in the bottom half of the bracket nobody wants to play.

Which brings us to Tuesday's rematch with the Heat in Conseco Fieldhouse. The teams have played twice, both in Miami. The first was a 93-77 rout by the Pacers on Nov. 22, a loss that shook the Big Three. The second was a 117-112 Miami victory last Tuesday.

That second game might've made a bigger impression than the first. Back in November, Miami was a team still trying to find itself and the Pacers weren't the only team to take advantage of the early vulnerability. Last week, Indiana faced an opponent very much on a roll, riding a six-game winning streak, and the Heat still needed a big fourth-quarter rally to pull out a narrow victory.

"That’s a good basketball team, and they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now," said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra after the game. "They can score the ball. They play quick as you can see. They never let you jog back, even on makes, misses or even on dead balls. They play a frenetic pace. We got caught up a little bit in that pace in the first three quarters. We got a little bit more down to our game defensively there in the fourth, and we were able to pull it out.”

The only loss in eight games under Frank Vogel might've been the Pacers' most impressive performance. Playing against a highly motivated elite opponent on the road, Indiana led 94-81 in the third quarter and 105-100 with seven minutes left but Miami's defense took over. The Pacers missed nine shots in a row as the Heat rallied.

“This team is scrapping and playing their hearts out for that last spot," said Spoelstra. "It’s a competitive conference right now. This is a good basketball team. They have some unique talent. They have a lot of speed. They have guys that can shoot the ball, and they defended well for a majority of the season. They’re playing at a great confidence level right now."

As things stand, the Pacers and 76ers are dueling for seventh and eight, while the Celtics and Heat are fighting over the top two. A first-round playoff matchup, then, is well within the realm of possibility.

“Any time that you play a potential playoff matchup it’s always important and it just seems like when you have a chance to gain ground on other teams it’s always the toughest game to win sometimes because you play a scrappy team like Indiana and they are a playoff team and are probably going to be there," said Bosh last week.

"We have a chance (of) playing them, so I think we need to keep that in mind next time that we play them. Next week in Indiana will be a tougher game, so we need to learn from today’s experience and see where we can help ourselves and keep them out of the paint.”

Tuesday is the final meeting of the regular season, but there's every possibility we haven't seen the last of these teams this year.

Maybe then, it'll be time for the glass slippers.

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Rush eager to get back in action with new-look Pacers

Feb. 11, 2011

Brandon Rush could hardly contain his smile.

Returning to full health is part of the reason for his good mood. The bigger factor is the desire to get a piece of the action with the new-look Pacers, who are surging under Frank Vogel.

"I'm definitely anxious to get back in there," said Rush after today's shootaround as the Pacers prepared for tonight's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. "It's looking like a whole different type of team we have now with everybody being involved and everybody getting the chance to have the ball in their hands and make plays.

"You can definitely see it in Roy (Hibbert)'s face. Roy's a lot happier now and everybody else is happy, too. We're just playing ball. … I think the same thing that goes for Roy goes for me, being confident, being in a good atmosphere."


Brandon Rush (NBAE/Getty Images)
Just exactly what role awaits Rush remains to be seen. In the seven games Rush missed with a sprained right ankle, Dahntay Jones has re-established his value off the bench, averaging 7.3 points on 14.0 minutes in playing the last six in a row. Jones had languished on bench under Jim O'Brien, appearing in just nine of the first 44 games – and one in the 15 before the coaching change.

Vogel is hesitant to mess with success, as the Pacers have won five of six.

"(Rush) will be active tonight. I'm not sure yet if he will play," Vogel said. "I'm probably leaning more toward not rocking the boat. We're playing well.

"I want to have him available. He could step in and play 30 minutes and we wouldn't skip a beat. We'd improve in some areas. I've got great depth at the wing and he'll be active but I'm not sure yet how I'm going to use him."

Rush is the team's fifth-leading scorer (10.9) and is first in 3-point percentage (.417). O'Brien used him as a part-time starter against teams with tougher defensive matchups on the wings. Rush averaged 14.0 points and 4.6 rebounds in 13 starts but the Pacers went 4-9.

"I'm hoping (to have) the same role I had at the beginning of the year," Rush said, "coming off the bench and giving us a spark."

He may have to wait a bit to get fully back into the swing of things.

The way things are going at the moment, after all, there's no rush.

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Reggie ready to pass 3-point crown to Allen

Feb. 9, 2011

Tireless worker. First one on the court, last one off. Never satisfied. Leads by example.

Reggie Miller. Ray Allen.

Small wonder Miller has no problem passing his NBA 3-point crown to Allen, as the two followed the same grueling path to the mountaintop.

"Look, all records are made to be broken," said Miller on NBA TV's Game Time earlier this week. "People say, 'Aren't you a little upset or hurt?' Absolutely not. … The guy is showing up 3-4 hours before tip, he stays late after practice to get his shots in. These are things people really don't see, the common person does not get a chance to witness. …

"I hope there are young kids out there that are watching our network or ESPN or whatever it may be and they're going to see when the record goes down but they're going to have to understand how long and how hard Ray took this path to get to this record, the time in the gym, staying late, that's what I appreciate about it. That's why I have no qualms about it at all because I know how much time and sweat and late hours he put into the gym to get to where he is."


With 2,559 career 3-pointers made, Allen is one behind Miller and almost certainly will pass him Thursday night when the Celtics host the Lakers. As fate would have it, the game is televised by TNT and Miller will be in attendance as one of the analysts.

"At times you hear players and announcers talk about the ‘basketball gods’ (and I think) there is such a thing," said Miller on TNT's All-Star conference call Tuesday. "We had this game on the schedule for Steve (Kerr) and I to call months ago. Now who would’ve thought that it would come down to Ray Allen being able to tie and break the record in our presence? "

Miller said he and Allen share more than work ethic and prolific 3-point shooting.

"Our 3-point shooting really set up the rest of our game," he told Game Time. "Defenses had to play us obviously out to the arc but it was really, to me, my mid-range game that was probably more dangerous than my 3-point shot. Yeah, I made a lot of big threes throughout my career but it was the 3-point shot that allowed me to maneuver inside the paint, post-up, mid-range game and so forth.

"That's what made Ray so dangerous. And look how he has evolved his game. He was the man in Milwaukee and Seattle. He comes to Boston and really the focus is Paul Pierce is your closer, K.G. is your defensive stopper and Ray, we'll run a couple of players for you here and there. He had to kind of change his game a little bit but to me he's been one of the most consistent players since the big three arrived in Boston."

This much is for sure: we won't be seeing this record fall again any time soon. Among active players, the only guy with a shot is 31-year-old Rashard Lewis (1,667), who could approach the mark if he stays healthy and productive for five more seasons.

Of course, there's one other challenger on the horizon. Danny Granger just became the only Pacers player besides Miller to make at least 100 from the arc in five straight seasons, and had more in his first five seasons than Miller (651 to 550).

Now, if he can only match Miller's streak of 15 straight seasons with at least 100, we can have this discussion again in a decade.

Better put the reminder in my cell phone now.

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Vogel draws inspiration from interesting sources

Feb. 7, 2011

Three times in the past 23 years, circumstances have caused me to miss a Pacers game I otherwise would've covered. The first was to attend my best friend's wedding. The second was to be present for the birth of my second child. The third was Friday, when I loaded up the family and drove to Atlanta in order to host a joint birthday party for my parents, who both turn 90 this week.

Nothing against mom and dad but, man, I wish I'd been there Friday -- not so much for the solid victory over Portland, but Frank Vogel's postgame press conference, which ranks among the most interesting in franchise history.

Turns out, it isn't just a rotation tweak here, a playbook trim there. Vogel has much more ambitious plans for his tenure.

Like, for example, giving the team an entirely new identity.

"Optimism, positive energy, enthusiasm, hard work, blue-collar smash-mouth basketball, old-school basketball," he said. "I'm the youngest coach in the league but we're an old-school team now. We're simple. We win the war in the trenches with defense and rebounding."

For inspiration, Vogel has turned to two rather divergent sources: Hubie Brown and Apollo Creed.

Brown was pushing 70 and had been out of coaching for 15 years when he stepped in as the Grizzlies' head coach in 2002. Vogel, an assistant with the Celtics, was in charge of scouting the opposing team's play calls. When it came time to break down the Grizzlies, Vogel was taken aback.

"I remember the first time we played them, I'm responsible for the other team's calls and I'm looking at their play sheet and there's about five plays," Vogel said. "They were the simplest plays, there was no action to them, just spacing, simple pick-and-roll, simple post-up.

"What did he do with that team? He took them right to the playoffs and they were a factor every year he was there. That team influenced my approach to this team."

The Grizzlies won 50 games under Brown in 2003-04, which remains the best season in franchise history.

Endeavoring to illustrate the mindset he wants from the players, Vogel showed the team a clip from Rocky II when Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), who struggled to beat the unknown Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) in the original movie was preparing for a rematch.

"It had to do with the fear that can be generated by a relentless underdog," Vogel said. " … (The trainer) looked him in the eye and said, 'I seen you beat that man like I never seen no man be beat before and that man kept coming after you.'

"No matter who we play, up 20, down 20, tied, we're going to keep coming after them. When we get in the playoffs, that final week or two of the season, all the (top) seeds, Boston, Miami, Orlando, they're not going to want to play this basketball team. That's what this is about."

The players clearly have responded to Vogel's approach.

"He’s young, he’s enthusiastic, and he’s having fun with his job and he’s trying to help us with our job," said Dahntay Jones. "That’s what was missing, just that little spark, a little confidence."

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McRoberts, Hansbrough dig in at power forward

Feb. 3, 2011

They are as different as Carolina and Duke, but those two shades of blue fit nicely into the Pacers' new spectrum.

One of the first moves Frank Vogel made when he took the reigns as interim coach was the installation of Duke's Josh McRoberts and North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough as the tag-team rotation at power forward, and the shelving of the small lineup that had wreaked havoc with the Pacers' frontcourt rotations.

"I've got a great deal of belief in Tyler Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts and they're going to own the power forward position," said Vogel. "They're going to use their energy, their intensity, their passion, their speed, their athleticism to really make that a position of strength of ours.

"They're young. They're going to make mistakes. But they're going to make mistakes hard, going hard and I can live with those mistakes. That's going to be one of the biggest changes in the identity of this team."

Dividing all 96 available minutes in the first two games (58 for starter McRoberts, 38 for backup Hansbrough), the two have combined for 37 points and 26 rebounds in victories over the Raptors and Cavs.

So far, so good.

For McRoberts, who had been largely banished from the rotation by the small lineup, the change has breathed life back into his season.

"I feel good about it. I feel confident," he said. "I know Frank has a lot of confidence in all of us and I think I have a great relationship with him just from being here, working with him a lot over the last three years. …

"I think we bring different things. Tyler's definitely a better scorer than me, a better mid-range shooter looking more to score, where I'm looking to probably facilitate more, get Roy (Hibbert) the ball, get Danny (Granger) the ball. We're definitely going to bring different looks."

Hansbrough also welcomes the change.

"Before, we didn't really know what was going on and now that Frank has come out and kind of clarified everything for us it's (a matter of) us going out there, trying to improve and doing what we can do to try to help the team," he said. "I think it's great. Josh does a lot of things, he's a really good passer, which I'm trying to improve that area to bring it to my game, so it's good to throw a different mixture in there."

McRoberts will remain the starter for the time being. The Pacers are 13-10 with the lineup of Darren Collison, Mike Dunleavy, Granger, McRoberts and Hibbert, so breaking up that combination would be a risk. And Vogel likes having the more offense-minded Hansbrough coming off the bench to provide scoring punch to the second unit.

"I don't know if it's going to stay that way," Vogel said. "We'll just see how it's going to go but those two guys are going to own the power forward position."

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Pacers relatively undisturbed by Icepocalypse

Feb. 2, 2011

Icepocalypse 2011 didn't really have an impact on the Pacers' travel plans. For their visitors from the north, however, it was a much different story.

The normal schedule – practice Tuesday, then fly to Cleveland – was altered for a couple of reasons: the funeral Tuesday of Indianapolis police officer David Moore in Conseco Fieldhouse, and an attempt to get out of town ahead of the storm.

Both the Pacers and Raptors hoped to fly out after Monday's game. But the storm hit a little harder a little sooner than expected and both were grounded. The Pacers' traveling party checked into a downtown hotel, intent on trying again Tuesday morning, while the Raptors returned to their hotel.

The Pacers headed to the airport a little earlier than the Raptors Tuesday morning, which proved to be a fateful decision. We'll let Raptors radio voice Paul Jones tell the rest of the story in an article he posted to Canada's Sportsnet Website.

"It took the maintenance crew some two hours to get the Pacers plane ready before they were able to get off the ground. De-icing the Indiana plane along with other aircrafts trying to get off the ground to beat the deteriorating conditions put the valuable de-icing fluid in short supply.

"By the time the Air Canada jet started to be prepared for flight, the maintenance crews had run short on the liquid allowing only half the plane that was to transport the Raptors to be cleared. When the trucks were able to refuel, the declining weather conditions had the pumps frozen and the skies unfit to fly.

"So after sitting on the aircraft for just a few minutes shy of five hours, the Raptors checked back into the downtown Indianapolis hotel for a third time."

The Raptors finally were able to leave today for their game tonight in Atlanta.

FAST BREAKS:

  • James Posey is on track for a place in the NBA record books. Of the veteran forward's 210 field goal attempts, 187 (89 percent) have come from the 3-point line. According to research by The Cincinnati Enquirer, the current record is 76 percent, set by Cleveland's Damon Jones in 2007-08.
  • Ryan Wittman, son of former Ben Davis, Indiana University and Pacers player Randy Wittman, was signed Tuesday by the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. The younger Wittman, a 6-7 guard from Cornell, was averaging 14.5 points in 14 games in an Italian pro league before signing with the Mad Ants. He is expected to debut Thursday against the Austin Toros.
  • Former Pacers guard Orien Greene, who has been tearing up the D-League, signed a 10-day contract with the Nets Tuesday. Greene, 28, averaged 18.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.0 steals in 24 games with the Utah Flash. of the NBA Development League this season. Greene played 41 games with the Pacers in 2006-07.

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