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Youth Movement About This Season -- And Next

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive

January 7, 2011

Do not misunderstand Jim O'Brien's intentions here.

Putting Tyler Hansbrough in the starting lineup and activating Lance Stephenson for the first time all season on the heels of Paul George's promotion to the regular rotation might well constitute a youth movement – but not the kind that means the Pacers are playing for next season.

As was in evidence Friday against the Spurs, they're still very much engaged in 2010-11. Though they lost a gut-buster, 90-87, Hansbrough had a huge night with 23 points and 12 rebounds and the team's overall energy and productivity was way up – at least until the Spurs pulled out the defensive shackles and locked everything down in the final 13½ minutes to wipe out Indiana's 15-point lead.

"This has nothing to do, zero percent, with anything but giving our team the best chance of winning," O'Brien said. "However you want to phrase it, as long as I've been here I've taken knocks for wanting to win every basketball game. That's exactly where I am. I'll never change at all.

"What we're dealing with, when you look at the guys we're playing with, is we're getting very poor production from our front line. To go through a month like we just went through in December and not be open to changing some things up would be a mistake and a little bit hard-headed."

It's not as if the young guys are pushing key veterans out of the rotation. Solomon Jones, who was impressive for awhile but faded badly last month, was inactive Friday. Hansbrough replaced McRoberts, another young player, so not much of an experience gap there. George is picking up minutes because of the return of the small lineup.

O'Brien said before the game A.J. Price could return to the mix more regularly, as well, that either he or Stephenson would be active most nights.

Can a team really get better by getting younger? Given the talent level and hunger of the Pacers' burgeoning group of young players, it certainly seems worth a shot.