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Notebook: Media Day Reunites Team, Provides Answers

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

September 27, 2013

Sporting fresh haircuts and their home white uniform, Pacers players made their way through the event level of Bankers Life Fieldhouse Friday afternoon, stopping at each of more than a dozen stations for media day – the official start of a new season. And with media days comes answers, some that we’ve waited nearly four months for.

WATCH: MEDIA DAY RECAP & HIGHLIGHTS

Danny Granger isn’t quite 100 percent, but he has made great strides. One week from now will mark six months since surgery, and Granger says he’s ahead of schedule. His biggest challenge will be regaining confidence in his knees. He expects there to be a moment where his confidence level is restored.

Granger was diligent with his work this offseason, working hard than ever before. Unlike previous seasons, he spent most of his summer in Indianapolis for rehabilitation purposes.

“He was here more than anyone on our team,” head coach Frank Vogel said. “By far.”

Next on the list of questions is forward Chris Copeland, who had his left knee scoped on Aug. 2. He, too, isn’t completely healthy. Certain movements are still painful but he expects to be good to go when the regular season tips in just over a month.

Roy Hibbert got the day started just before noon, and first discussed his increased weight. He’s up to 290, 30 pounds heavier than he is listed on the team’s official roster. His focus during the summer months was his legs and upper body. He believes his additional size will help to wear opponents down and lead to more offensive rebounds.

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When it was David West’s turn on the platform, he once again stressed the importance for this team to have home court advantage throughout the playoffs so that should they need a Game 7 (like last year), it’ll be on their home floor. Coach Vogel kept in touch with West all offseason long, even gauging his opinion on the coaching hires and team moves.

Vogel and the rest of the team understand that this is their window of opportunity. Every starter is returning, the front office bolstered the bench, Granger is said to be back to his old self and the guys all have another year of experience under their belt.

"This is a go-for-it time in Indiana Pacers history,” Vogel said.

The keys for the season, according to president Larry Bird, are avoiding major injuries, how the new guys (including coach McMillan and Jones) blend in and how much Granger can provide.

“Well, in Boston, you couldn’t even walk in this place because there’s so many media,” he said with a laugh when asked what he recalled about this time of the year. “It was out of control.

“You’re always excited about getting back, getting practice started and getting some kind of rhythm. I know as an ex-player that it always took me five games in the regular season to get where I wanted to be as a player with my conditioning.”

Throughout the flurry of activity that included interviews, taping of the in-house video introduction, various photo shoots, and autograph signings, it was obvious that the guys were happy to be back together and that basketball was back.

Expectations going into the season are high. The upgrades to the bench could potentially be exactly what the team needs to make their second finals appearance in franchise history and possibly win it all.

“I think we got a chance to really do something special so I can’t wait (to get started),” Copeland said with a smile.

Pacers pass on ‘The Association’

The Pacers are doing all they can to limit distractions. As one of the top teams in the NBA, more people want in on what’s going on here. Take today, where more than an estimated 50 media members showed up – double last year’s attendance.

One request the Pacers received earlier this summer was from NBA TV’s ‘The Association,’ a documentary that goes behind the scenes to chronicle all that’s happening with one team. Previously, the Denver Nuggets and Brooklyn Nets have been featured. Some players wanted it while others did not and Hibbert said Friday that Bird made the final call.

“I think it was best for us to just stay focused and not have cameras around all the time,” Hibbert said.

When asked if he nixed the idea, Bird had no problem having it pinned on him.

“I can take the heat,” he remarked. “I don’t think this year we need many distractions. I think these players do well staying together, doing the right things. We do have some young kids. I think it’s a little early for all of that.”

There’s a lot of good that can come out of it, like greater exposure and a detailed look at what the Pacers are all about. Most of all, fans of the game would have seen how likeable this entire team is. It makes more sense for them to turn it down, however, because the bad outweighs the good that could possibly come from it.

Text to West

Paul George’s last nine months have to be a whirlwind for him. In that time, he recorded a triple-double, locked down some of the best scorers in the NBA, was named to his first All-Star game, won the league’s Most Improved Player award, and played a big part in the team’s playoff success. As a result, he was rewarded this week with a new maximum contract that keeps him with the Pacers for years to come.

“I don’t think any of the things that have happened with him over the last year or so are going to change him,” West said.

In late July, while George was out in Las Vegas for minicamp with the US National Team, West looked at his phone and saw the following text from one of the coaches that was working with George: “Paul is a top-five talent in the league. He can be an MVP.”

Despite West’s unwillingness to reveal who was behind the text, it was a telling message as it came from one of the top coaches in the country.

Noteworthy items:

  • The Pacers added 34-year-old Rasual Butler and Hilton Armstrong to the roster, so the team will open camp with 17 players.

  • Going against his old philosophy, Vogel confirmed that the team will play zone defense at times this season.

  • Rookie Solomon Hill received high marks from his teammates. West, who won’t blow smoke, said “He’s going to be able to help us this year." Paul George said Hill plays beyond his years and should be a Pacer for a while.

  • The team doesn’t need any motivational tactics this year. George Hill: “We were one game short last year and to go [through] an entire summer with that bitter taste in your mouth isn’t good.”

WATCH: MEDIA DAY RECAP & HIGHLIGHTS

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