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New look Pacers moving to up-tempo game

POSTED: Oct 16, 2015 7:52 PM ET

By Steve Aschburner

BY Steve Aschburner

NBA.com

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Some teams wait until June to get serious about next season, only revving up as the draft and free agency approach. But Indiana got busy as soon as the ink dried on its final box score in April, with President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird vowing a dramatic shift in style. Everything he, coach Frank Vogel and the Pacers have done since then has serviced that vision. But will they all end up blinking?

ICYMI

The Pacers' first preseason game gave Paul George his first taste of power forward, and it wasn't all that palatable to him. George sounded frustrated after the loss to New Orleans with the defensive demands of that position and still feels like a wing player. ... At least one observer close to the scene, Indianapolis Star columnist Gregg Doyel, sees a similarity in undeveloped Glenn Robinson III with Paul George and former Pacer Lance Stephenson. Like them, Robinson has caught Larry Bird's eye with his raw potential. Bird signed the Big Dog's pup to a three-year deal and immediately hooked him up with a shooting coach. ... Bird also considers rookie big man Myles Turner to be the Pacers' best shooter, no small feat on a team heavy with wing players. Indiana's president continues to boost the confidence of his youngsters, that's for sure.

THREE POINTS

1. A team built on defense and baseline size has transformed itself (or is trying to) into one that relies on offense and quicker, smaller matchups. That means a big adjustment by coach Frank Vogel, who made his NBA bones with a premier rim protector in Roy Hibbert, sturdy big David West and savvy Luis Scola. It's been four years since Indiana ranked higher than No. 20 in offensive rating.

2. Myles Turner has the skills, including enough range on his jump shot to impress Larry Bird, and the enthusiasm to suggest he'll be a steal at the 11th player drafted in June. But the young big man from Texas has to attend to some of the game's grittier parts, if he's going to help the Pacers as much as he'd like as a rookie. "He's got to be a good screener," teammate Paul George said in camp. "We've been in his ear on how he separates and comes off screens. It's going to dictate how he progresses offensively."

3. George Hill has gone blond, a showy dye job at odds with Hill's public persona as a pretty shy and retiring type. What matters most to the Pacers is his ability to impose order on a wing-heavy rotation. Having Monta Ellis aboard might scratch Hill's itch for not having to run everything like a traditional point guard, but if Vogel is going to be kept happy, results approximating Hill's 23-13 record as a starter last season are desired.

MAN ON THE SPOT

Let's see, all Paul George has to do this season is a) make a full recovery from the horrific double leg fracture that waylaid almost his entire 2014-15 season, b) embrace a position (power forward) that's foreign to him, c) still guard the other guys' most dangerous scorer, d) step into the leadership void gouged when veterans David West in particular and Roy Hibbert vacated the locker room and e) live up to his own expressed ambition to be the NBA's Most Valuable Player this season. Yes, that would qualify as being "on the spot."

STARTING FIVE

George Hill | 16.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 5.1 apg
His numbers were great, his injury absences (only 43 appearances) not so much.

Monta Ellis | 18.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 4.1 apg
Fourth team in past five years for ball-centric, shot-making free-agent pickup.

Ian Mahinmi | 4.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 0.8 apg
Out of Roy Hibbert's shadow, a good fit if he can avoid fouls and make FTs.

C.J. Miles | 13.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.1 apg
Career-best scoring average, though shooting slipped to 39.8 percent.

Paul George | 8.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.0 apg
Six measly games in 2014-15 but just seeing him on floor buoyed team, fans.

KEY RESERVES

Rodney Stuckey | 12.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.1 apg
Willingly slipped into Sixth Man role, seems to thrive there.

Myles Turner | Rookie
No. 11 pick showed instant promise averaging 18.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg in summer league.

Jordan Hill | 12.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.5 apg for Lakers
Most productive of six NBA seasons, ready as traditional PF behind Paul George.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The Pacers did well to break above .500 last season with George sidelined, but getting back there if he's out of sorts over being out of position will be too difficult. It's probably expecting too much for all the roster and stylistic changes to propel them so soon back to the playoffs.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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