Caught in the Web Indiana Pacers blog: Pacers may use practice time to tinker with zone

Pacers may use downtime to experiment with zone

Feb. 29, 2012 - With five consecutive wins by an average of 17.4 points, it's safe to say the Pacers are in a zone.

With three days off before their next game, they just might be in a zone of a different kind.

Coach Frank Vogel hinted he might install a zone defense, given the extra days of practice. At the very least, he will upgrade the system against which the team practices its zone offense.

"I'm still talking it over with the staff but that's something we could look at when you have a stretch like this when you've got three days to maybe work on something," Vogel said. "We'll certainly have something in so we can work on our zone offense. That's always something you've got to try to find time to work on that's unique to certain games. I don't know how much we're going to work on our own zone defense but it's under consideration, for sure."

The Pacers have struggled at times against zone defenses. Golden State threw them off rhythm briefly in the first half Tuesday night, putting together a 13-0 run to briefly take a 25-24 lead before the Pacers recovered and got busy on their 102-78 rout.

"When teams scout us and we had a couple of games where we struggled against it their antennas go up, 'We can't slow them down, so let's try zone,' '' Vogel said. "Lately anyone that's gone zone against us has gotten burned in a big-time way so we haven't seen much of it."

The Pacers had a light workout and extensive film study Wednesday and will have full practices Thursday and Friday before heading to New Orleans to play Saturday. In a season with a dramatically compressed schedule that has offered precious little practice time, it's a tantalizing opportunity for the coaching staff.

"We're going to try to implement some different offensive looks," Vogel said. "I've got some ideas on adjusting our early offense. We're going to fine-tune some of the things we're trying to do defensively but haven't really had time to work on them and isolate them. We'll make use of the time and just get better each day."

Mixed results from All-Star weekend

Don't get Paul George wrong: he was honored to be in the Sprite Slam-Dunk Contest. He wasn't thrilled with how things turned out.

Despite executing three dunks with an extremely high degree of difficulty -- including a lights-out glow-in-the-dark slam -- George finished third in the voting, which for the first time was exclusively in the hands of the fans.

Utah's Jeremy Evans, who jumped over vertically challenged comedian Kevin Hart, won the contest. Houston's Chase Budinger, who jumped over P. Diddy, finished second. George, who jumped over 7-2 Roy Hibbert for his first dunk, came in last.

"It was a joke," he said. "I guess whoever had the biggest celebrity involved in their dunk was going to be the winner. I guess on my behalf I should've reached out to some people."

In the aftermath of the All-Star Weekend, the dunk contest has been the subject of intense criticism in the national media, largely because the contestants for the past several years have not been marquee players. George understands the scrutiny.

"For one, you've got to bring judges back," he said. "I agree, you've got to have the faces of the league come back and be involved in it. That's what really made it big back in the day, when you had guys like Jordan and Dominique going at it, guys like Vince Carter in it. That's what I was watching -- the All-Stars and the guys that were 'the man' in the league. That's what fans want to see."

Roy Hibbert was low-key about his first appearance in the All-Star Game. He played 10 points and scored three points.

What did he take away from the experience?

"Not too much, aside from talking to the guys and picking their brains," he said. "I really didn't play too much. It was more of a small-oriented game but it was fun to watch. Obviously I didn't play and produce as much as I do here but it was fun and the guys told me I was a good player and deserved to be there and it's uplifting to hear that from your peers."

Rush making most of opportunity with Warriors

Sometimes, a fresh start is the best thing for a player. It certainly appears to be the case for Brandon Rush, who has flourished with the Warriors. He leads the NBA in 3-point percentage (.523) and has averaged 8.6 points in 24.4 minutes for Golden State.

"He's played great," said Coach Mark Jackson. "Gives us depth at the two and the three. We knew he could shoot the ball, we knew he was a very good defender, he's been great for us. The thing I love about him is he's not going to do anything out of character. He knows exactly who he is and how to be successful on the floor and have an impact. He's been a tremendous find for us."

Just before his fourth NBA season began, Rush was traded by the Pacers to Golden State for Lou Amundson. He scored 14 points in 35 minutes off the bench Tuesday.

"I haven't tried to do stuff I'm not capable of doing, just staying in my lane, playing my game," Rush said. "I've been shooting the ball pretty well and doing some of the small things to help this team out. I think I'm capitalizing on the opportunity that's been given me right now, being with this team and being able to get some big minutes, just coming off the bench with great energy and do anything we can to win."

The Pacers were in dire straits in the frontcourt at the time of the deal. Jeff Pendergraph was injured and Jeff Foster has dealt with ongoing back problems, so the only backup big man was Tyler Hansbrough. Amundson has played an important role with the second unit.

"Lou has played really well," Vogel said. "He's made things difficult on me in terms of making me consider whether he should be playing more than he's playing. We've been really pleased with what he's been bringing to the table."