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Mark's Mailbag: Coaches' Offseason, Contracts, Filling the Roster

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

August 20, 2013, 11:40 AM

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Q. Hey Mark, the Pacers have a great young team. It’s easy to see how the players can work to improve in the off-season. The Pacers also have a great young coach in Frank Vogel. It’s much more difficult to see exactly what he does in the off-season to improve as a coach. Can you give Pacers fans any insight into what the coaches do in the off-season to improve?

- Greg

A. Coaches are more limited than players in finding ways to improve, it seems to me. They can go to clinics and learn a new drill or out-of-bounds play, they can watch endless hours of video to get to know their team better and they can always talk with other coaches to get ideas. But the game isn't so complicated that it requires that much study each summer. As any coach will tell you (or should, at least), no amount of strategy will overcome lack of talent.

Still, NBA coaching is increasingly becoming the domain of the nerds, who love nothing more than locking themselves in a dark room and watching video. That's not a bad thing, unless it leads to over-coaching. There are more and more coaches like Frank Vogel emerging from those video rooms with bloodshot eyes and a brain full of Xs and Os, ready to go to war. If a head coach doesn't come from that sort of background, he needs to have assistants who do.

Vogel and his staff sometimes get out to meet with college coaches or watch their practices, but that's difficult to do during the season. They did some of that during the lockout two seasons ago, when they had nothing else to do.

Q. The way I read cbafaq.com Lance is not eligible for an extension until next summer because he isn't on a rookie contract.We may have no choice but to let him become a free agent and test the market. You might check that out.

Also, there is a difference of opinion on the internet as to whether Scola's contract is partially guaranteed or became fully guaranteed when he went through the amnesty waiver process. If you can get the official word and slip it into a story, it would be appreciated.

- Frank

A. Lance is eligible for an extension now, but with a second-round contract he can only get a raise of 7.5%. It wouldn't make sense for him to sign that contract. If he continues to make the kind of improvement he showed last year, he'll be able to command much more than that. So much, in fact, that it might be difficult for the Pacers to re-sign him.

The final year of Scola's contract is partially guaranteed. It's a great deal for the Pacers, because he's also getting $5.7 million this season from Houston, who amnestied him a year ago. In fact, Scola will be Houston's third-highest paid player next season, although he'll be playing for the Pacers.

Q. Hey Mark, I did not hear much about the Pacers search for a new bench coach. However, I thought the team might look to a former player to fill the role. Did Fred Hoiberg, to help coach the shooters, or Jeff Foster, to help coach the bigs, get any consideration?

- Greg

A. As you know by now, the Pacers hired Popeye Jones to fill the spot boldly vacated by Jim Boylen. I don't believe they reached out to Hoiberg or Foster. Hoiberg seems entrenched as the head coach at Iowa State. I don't see him leaving that job unless it's for a head coaching position in the NBA. Foster has expressed no interest in coaching.

Q. Do you see the Pacers making any more moves this summer? Do you think they'll carry 13 or 14 players on the roster?

- Jack

A. The Pacers have 13 players under contract, but I believe they'll carry 14 next season. They don't have much money left to spend without going over the luxury tax threshold, so the most likely scenario is for them to bring some players into training camp on non-guaranteed deals and see who can help.

There's never a shortage of decent young players looking to get into the league, or veteran players hoping to hang on. The Pacers merely need someone who will work hard in practice and won't complain about playing time to fill the role, as Ben Hansbrough did last season. Rasual Butler, who played on their summer league team, fits the job description, although the Pacers already have plenty of forwards.

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