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Mark's Mailbag: April Edition

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

April 15, 2013

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

Hey Mark, what gives with Tyler’s lack of playing time.? He started a game and had 19 pts and 10 boards. Then, nine minutes against Boston. How does he ever get any type of rhythm or timing with Vogel’s sporadic use of him. Does he want to be traded or is he gonna just go with the flow for now? I think it is a pitiful misuse of him as a player. He could be a starter if he had the confidence he was gonna play regularly. I hate to see him waste away his career with a coach who doesn’t appreciate his value as a player. I would love to see him in a situation where his hustle and energy would be valued. Like all players, he wont be the shooter he could be until he regains his confidence. Probably won’t happen with Vogel.

— Barry

A. Barry, you just provided a classic example of taking something out of context. The nine-minute appearance against Boston is the only game of the season Hansbrough has not played double-figure minutes and came well after his 19-10 game. His playing time has been consistent, except for the increase he got when David West was injured and he became a starter. He's averaging 16.7 minutes per game, down three minutes from his career average.

Hansbrough obviously plays better when he starts, but it's awfully difficult to make an argument for starting him ahead of David West. As always, the question that must be asked when someone promotes a player for more playing time is, who plays less? Do you want David West to play less? Most consider him the most consistent, and perhaps most important, player on the team. He's certainly the best leader.

Hansbrough has been honest about his preference to start, and you can't blame him. He's a three-time All-American (four, if you include The Sporting News' inclusion of him as a freshman). I wouldn't be surprised if he wants to leave when he becomes a free agent if he doesn't see a starting opportunity with the Pacers, but that's for later. Don't worry, the Pacers value his hustle. For now, however, it will have to be valued as a reserve. He'll still get plenty of minutes, and there might be times when he and West can play together. That happened, for example, in the fourth quarter of the win over Cleveland on Tuesday.

Q. Are you serious about blending in Granger? They should trade him. Chemistry is obviously better without his ball-hogging selfish brand of play. Hansbrough should ask for a trade. It's ridiculous. Starts and plays great. West comes back and it is back to the bench for all of 13 minutes of play. West drags around like an old man and must have the ultimate green light. Last guy down the floor almost every time.

— Barry

A. This came in before Granger was declared out for the season and had surgery. We'll have to agree to disagree on West and Hansbrough. Both are important, but West has earned his starting spot. As mentioned in your earlier comment, it's an unfortunate situation for Hansbrough, but the NBA is rife with players who want to be starters. Some of them will become starters when they get in the right place at the right time, but it's a good thing for the Pacers to have a player as capable as Hansbrough coming off the bench. It's up to him to adjust to the situation. It's very difficult to make a cogent argument that Hansbrough should start in front of a former All-Star who has been the team's most consistent player and is a much better shooter than Hansbrough. You'll notice that while Hansbrough has made it clear he would like to start, he has not said he deserves to start on this team.

As for trading Granger, what would the Pacers get for a player coming off knee surgery who is owed $14.2 million next season? Either another player with a huge contract and a bad knee, or a player with a contract that matches Granger's and has several years remaining.

Q. I really enjoyed your article on Orlando Johnson because I was able to work with him a bit in college. Thanks for the great article, but can you correct it from Cal-Santa Barbara to UC Santa Barbara? Thank you!

— Bob

A. My bad, Bob. The authorities have been notified. You were not the only proud UC Santa Barbara fan to make this request.

Q. Just a quick note from the Pacers' biggest fan in Madrid...

Congratulations on your writing contributions this year, a great improvement over previous years. I really appreciate your perspectives and style.

That Pitino-Vogel piece today is outstanding! I did not know the whole story.

Seriously, I do not understand why Frank is not at the top of the "Coach of the Year" discussions. What a great coach!!! From the very moment he took over it has been a different team, and it seems to keep (getting better).

— Greg

A. Thanks, Greg. Vogel will be considered for Coach of the Year honors. As always, however, there's at least a handful of good candidates. The award usually goes to the coach of the team that improved the most, or was the biggest (pleasant) surprise. The Pacers' poor finish obviously doesn't help Vogel's “candidacy.”

The leading candidates, in my opinion, are, in alphabetical order, Golden State's Mark Jackson, Denver's George Karl, San Antonio's Greg Popovich, Miami's Erik Spoelstra and New York's Mike Woodson. Coaches of teams such as San Antonio and Miami usually face a disadvantage, because they were expected to be good and there's a tendency to think anyone could have coached them. Voters usually look for the “good story.” Remember, Slick Leonard won three championships in the ABA and is the league's all-time winningest coach, but was never voted Coach of the Year. That's because the Pacers were regarded as one of the league's most talented teams throughout most of the history of the ABA.

Q. Why have the Pacer's front office not been more aggressive in bringing in some help for the second unit, someone like Tracy McGrady? Our front office seems timid in pursuing a championship.

— Ted

A. McGrady stirred up some conversation when he was here for the game against Cleveland, but he's not coming back to the NBA. He was in town on other business. You have to judge him based on what he's done most recently in the NBA, not what he did in his prime, and it's highly unlikely he could help a team today. He averaged 5.3 points for Atlanta last season.

The question that must be asked is, who do you want the Pacers to sign? Who is available that would be better than a player already on their roster? The best argument could be made in favor of a point guard more experienced than Ben Hansbrough in case George Hill or D.J. Augustin are not available, but I don't know who that might be. There's also something such as the “perfect last man” on a roster, a guy who's just happy to be there and gives maximum effort in practice.

The Pacers have added players after the trading deadline in years past – Greg Kite, Lester Conner and Tim Hardaway, for example. Hardaway joined the Pacers at the end of the 2002-03 season. He played in 10 games and averaged 4.9 points. I recall a regular season win in New York in which he played a major role, as well as a playoff win over Boston.

(In fact, I just looked up the box scores of those games to confirm my memory. Today, April 15, happens to be the 10-year anniversary of his game against the Knicks, when he came off the bench to scored 12 points and pass out four assists in a 109-93 victory. He hit all four shots, three of them three-pointers. He also scored 13 points in Game 5 of the playoff series against Boston, with six assists. Other than that, however, he had little impact on the team, and didn't even play in some games.)

Usually, however, there's a reason a player is available this time of the season, and to integrate someone into a system at this stage would be difficult.

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