O'Brien Looking Forward To "Interesting" Team
We all have our opinions, when it comes to the 2010-11 Pacers.
Some, however, are more informed than others.
To that end, I thought it would be a good idea, rather than telling you what I think about the key issues facing the team has it heads into the season, I'd ask Jim O'Brien.
Our conversations on the following topics actually took place over several days, though they are presented in Q&A format purely for organizational purposes.
Q. It's important for every team to start the season well. Is it moreso for this Pacers team because there are so many young players?
A. No. Certainly, you'd love to get off to a good start but I believe this team will grow consistently throughout the year. In the last six weeks of the season, if we're in the playoff race, I believe we'll be hitting our peak – if we are a healthy basketball team.
Q. Looking back on the preseason and ahead to the regular season, what conclusions have you been able to draw about your team?
A. I think we can be a pretty interesting team. I think we can put a lot of pressure on our opponents when we have the basketball in our hands. Our point guards are probably as deep of a group as we've had. We have a nucleus of players that have played together for a couple of years which is very important. We have the ability to space the court and also attack the basket. If we can solve the challenge of taking care of the basketball and making sure that we do not turn the basketball over I think offensively we'll be fine.
I like the unit of Danny (Granger), Mike (Dunleavy), Josh (McRoberts) and Roy (Hibbert) defensively right now because they're tied together, they have a pretty good understanding of how to play together as a group. We're trying to grow some newer people like Darrin (Collison) into that group and I think we can be a solid defensive team. I don't know how good of a defensive team, certainly one of the top 10 field goal defenses in the league. It's a good group and a team that will consistently grow as the year goes along.
Q. Is Granger showing signs of emerging as a leadership figure as well as the face of the franchise?
A. Danny is doing a good job of leading on and off the court. The other night he had a barbecue for the whole team. I think that's a great form of leadership, getting everybody together off the court in a family event. He's been our best defensive player and I think that's a form of leadership. I think he's rebounding the basketball. His assist-turnover ratio is coming back. I've been very happy with his leadership.
Q. How is Darren Collison making the adjustment to being able to comfortably and confidently run this team from the point guard position?
A. He's starting to get a feel for attacking with the basketball and also understanding there's a time to give up the basketball and create movement. When we create that movement it will make him a different kind of threat. We certainly know he can use the pick-and-roll. Defensively, point guards in the league are not accustomed to guarding point guards that do a lot of moving so when Darren gets to the point when he can attack off the dribble and attack when he doesn't have the basketball I think he'll be where we need him to be offensively.
Defensively he has to consistently pressure the basketball. Defensive mentality starts at the point guard position and whoever we have at the point in any period of time has to be a guy that will pressure the ball and give us a disposition.
Q. Statistically, Roy Hibbert had the best preseason on the team, averaging 17.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.29 blocked shots. How do you assess his performance?
A. Roy did not score well in the low post in the preseason. I don't think he put himself in a position to distribute the basketball enough at the elbow. He shot the ball well facing up. He just has to find a balance and realize there are a number of ways where a center with his skills can beat the opponent. It doesn't have to only be in the low post. It can be as a passer at the elbow in our passing game and can also be in a pick-and-pop type of mentality. Once he understands that we're going to play through him at different areas of the court, he'll hit his stride.
Q. A number of key players that had been battling significant health issues – Mike Dunleavy, Tyler Hansbrough, A.J. Price and Jeff Foster – all are healthy now. What do you expect from each of those players?
A. Until T.J. (Ford) gets healthy, A.J. is going to play. Mike is the healthiest he's been since I've known him. He is doing things that he couldn't do when he averaged 19 points a game. He's much further a long physically because he's not playing in pain. He's leaping, he's a factor on the glass, so I'm going to have Michael on the court for 30-plus minutes every game. Tyler has missed such a large body of work and he doesn't have Jeff's experience so Tyler is in a situation where he missed a year's training, he wasn't comfortable last year in the minutes he was getting, missed most of the five-on-five of this training camp and I just don't think he's far enough along offensively or defensively to be a rotation guy right now. I think Jeff can get stronger than he is right now and he's going to need to get stronger in order to be a factor.
Q. First-round pick Paul George has struggled with his shot but you've been pleased with other areas of his game to the point that the rookie will open the season in the rotation. How has he impressed you?
A. Paul George showed me a lot. He showed he can impact the game at both ends of the court and on the glass every night out.
Q. What are your biggest areas of concern heading into the season?
A. There are a lot of concerns but I expected that. Any time you have a major change at the point guard spot, that is the quarterback position, the team has to find a rhythm that is not only unique to the team but takes advantage of the strengths of the guy that's going to be running the team. So that's one of the concerns.
I thought we'd be further along from the standpoint of taking care of the basketball. I'm not happy with that area of the game and we cannot be a very good basketball team unless our players take pride in taking care of the rock. Defensively I think the guys that have been here a couple years are tied together. We just have to make sure the guys that are joining the team this year continue to understand the defensive schemes and execute them on a night-in, night-out basis.
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