Positive Vibe Emanating From Camp This Year
One week of camp is hardly the time to start drawing conclusions about a team, at least in terms of its prospects for the season, but there has been one particularly strong impression: the vibe is much, much better -- in fact, it's been as positive as I can remember.
I'm not sure if that's due to the good health, the fresh infusion of young, upbeat personalities like Darren Collison and Paul George, or the continued emergence of Roy Hibbert as a leadership force on and off the court – probably a combination of all of the above – but this has been a noticeably more angst-free camp.
With everyone able to practice ever day thus far, Jim O'Brien and his staff have been able to move forward with installation, preparation and evaluation in a relatively seamless manner.
"It's very important to have everybody ready to go and healthy to go full-out," O'Brien said. "It's absolutely an important ingredient because you don't know what you have till you see everybody together. The other thing is they're not only healthy, they're pretty advanced from a conditioning standpoint."
The lone asterisk has been Tyler Hansbrough, who participated in practices but not the five-on-five scrimmages. He should begin scrimmaging this week.
"I'm hoping this will be the last day he won't go (five on five)," O'Brien said Saturday. "He's behind coming in because he didn't have training camp last year and missed most of the season and the more times he misses five-on-five the further behind he gets. There's no sugar-coating it. He'll begin to catch up once he's able to go in very drill that we do."
Of course, now someone will tweak an ankle and you know who'll get the blame for being the jinx.
Rave reviews for rookie class
First-round pick Paul George has quietly had a very strong camp thus far, earning high praise from O'Brien for his hustle at both ends of the court. He has been at or near the top of the team in the all-important "hustle stats" categories – deflections, steals, offensive rebounds et al – since camp opened.
But he hasn't been the only eye-opener. Lance Stephenson, while very much a work in progress on defense, has been very strong offensively. And Magnum Rolle shook off a slow start to become much more active and aggressive at both ends.
"Sometime this year we're going to look back on this and people are going to realize this is the rookie class that started to really turn this thing around," said O'Brien. "All three guys are going to be long-term Pacers and play many, many minutes for us. How soon that happens remains to be seen but we're very pleased with where all three guys are right now."
For more on the rookies, check out the video feature.
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