Pacers Having an Upbeat Training Camp

December 5, 2020: Doug McDermott, T.J. McConnell and head coach Nate Bjorkgren discuss the atmosphere during this season's training camp.

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Pacers Having an Upbeat Training Camp

December 5, 2020: Doug McDermott, T.J. McConnell and head coach Nate Bjorkgren discuss the atmosphere during this season's training camp.
Dec 5, 2020  |  01:57

Jeremy Lamb on Rehab, Changes to Diet

Dec. 4, 2020 - Pacers guard Jeremy Lamb gives an update on his rehab and shares details about changes he has made to his diet in recent months.
Dec 4, 2020  |  01:57

Bjorkgren and Warren Discuss First Practice, Relationship

Dec. 4, 2020 - Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren and forward T.J. Warren discuss Indiana's first practice and their relationship dating back to their time together in Phoenix.
Dec 4, 2020  |  02:23

Brogdon on Continuity & Coach Bjorkgren

December 3, 2020: Malcolm Brogdon discusses the importance of the Pacers' continuity heading into the season and his excitement to play for Nate Bjorkgren.
Dec 3, 2020  |  01:52

Turner is Excited for New Style of Play

December 3, 2020: Myles Turner talks about his offseason training regimen, team defense and his excitement to play in a new offense.
Dec 3, 2020  |  02:08

Oladipo on His Health, Coach Bjorkgren & Upcoming Season

December 1, 2020: Victor Oladipo provides an update on his health and discusses his relationship with Nate Bjorkgren, as well as his excitement for the upcoming season.
Dec 1, 2020  |  02:10

New Coach, New Feel to Pacers Training Camp

by Wheat Hotchkiss Writer/Editor

Pacers training camp has a different vibe this year under new head coach Nate Bjorkgren. There's music blaring, open competition for playing time and roster spots, and a championship belt awarded at the end of every practice.

"This is the most fun I've had in a training camp in my career," seven-year veteran Doug McDermott said Saturday.

"It's just non-stop energy," sixth-year guard T.J. McConnell added.

Energy seems to be the buzzword at the Ascension St. Vincent Center these days. Nearly all of the 10 players who have spoken to the media over the first week of workouts has used the word when describing the 45-year-old Bjorkgren.

Saturday was just the second day of full-team practice for the Pacers after three days of individual workouts, but Bjorkgren has already made a quick impression with how he operates.

Players described practice as brisk and upbeat, moving quickly from one drill to the next. Bjorkgren said "95 percent" of the focus in Friday's first practice was on the defensive end. McDermott said Saturday that they've practiced "switching everything" — a marked departure for Indiana's previous defensive schemes — and being "really disruptive" on the defensive end.

Fourth-year guard Edmond Sumner was rewarded for his disruptiveness after Friday's practice, as Bjorkgren handed Sumner a WWE championship belt for tallying the most deflections in practice, an honor that was documented on the Pacers' social media channels.

Bjorkgren said the belt is something he has handed out in previous coaching stints and decided to implement in Indiana. He said another player was awarded the belt for a different reason following Saturday's practice.

"Every day it could change," Bjorkgren said. "It could be something on the defensive end, it could be something off the court, it could be something on the offensive end. It constantly changes. I don't know if I'll do it every day, but most days I enjoy doing that at the end of practice."

One purpose behind the belt is to increase competition in practice. Bjorkgren is also doing that by mixing up teams in scrimmages. While in past training camps the "blue" team would consist of the intended starting five and the "white" squad would be the second unit, Bjorkgren said Saturday that he is entering camp with a different approach.

"I don't have starters yet," Bjorkgren said. "I haven't designated a starting five. So what I do in training camp is I mix up the teams every day. Today only being day two, they were different blue and white teams than they were yesterday.

"I look for a lot of competitiveness. I want guys guarding each other and pushing each other and fighting for spots."

Among the players fighting for minutes are McDermott and McConnell, two key pieces on the Pacers' second unit last season.

In some ways, Bjorkgren's style should benefit both players.

McDermott is the team's best shooter. He ranked fifth in the NBA in 3-point percentage last season, shooting a career-best 43.5 percent from beyond the arc.

The former Creighton star focused on fine-tuning his strengths during offseason workouts in the Phoenix area. McDermott's drills emphasized shooting off the move and demonstrating patience utilizing his pump fake instead of rushing shots when defenders close out on him.

He also put a lot of emphasis on his conditioning, knowing that Bjorkgren wants to play faster offensively.

"I think it will benefit me a lot, just with the pace he likes to play at and the type of shots he likes to get," McDermott said of Bjorkgren's system. "I think he really emphasizes either getting all the way to the rim and getting a rim attack or getting a three."

When it comes to pushing the pace, perhaps no player on the Pacers roster enjoys that more than McConnell. The 6-1 guard quickly became a fan favorite in his first season in Indiana for his all-out hustle and he may have found a kindred spirit in Bjorkgren.

"He's very energetic and excited and I feel like that's the way I play," McConnell said.

"He wants me to be disruptive on defense, picking people up full court, and offensively, just push the pace like I did last year. He doesn't really want to overcomplicate it."

But Bjorkgren's focus on increased 3-point attempts is a bit of departure for McConnell, who prefers to operate in the mid-range offensively. In 71 games last season, McConnell attempted just 17 shots from outside the 3-point arc.

"I think I'm kind of picking my spots with the mid-range," McConnell said. "I'm not hunting them as much. Coach isn't saying, 'We're not taking (any) mid-ranges.'

"I think for me it will be good to have someone to kind of expand my game and force myself to shoot the ball from confidence from three."

Lamb's Rehab Progressing

The only player unable to fully participate in practice so far has been shooting guard Jeremy Lamb, who continues to rehab after tearing his left ACL in Toronto on Feb. 23.

But Lamb is on track to be back on the court soon. Pritchard said last week that they hope Lamb will be cleared for full practice sometime in December with a targeted return to game action as early as mid-January.

"There's nothing that I can complain about," Lamb said. "It's been smooth, I haven't had a lot of setbacks. Right now I can play one-on-one, but I'm not quite cleared yet to play two-on-two, three-on-three, and of course, five-on-five. I've got a little ways to go, but it's going great right now."

As he works his way back, Lamb has also focused on improving his diet. While in the past he ate a lot of burgers and fries, the 6-5 guard said his meals now consist of "lots of veggies" alongside salmon, chicken, or the occasional steak. He also has tried to cut down on his consumption of his guilty pleasure, candy.

"I always tried to work on my body in terms of (weightlifting) and hydrating, but I haven't really focused on what I eat," Lamb said of the change, which he hopes will help cut down on the amount conditioning needed to get him back into game shape.

McConnell Excited for Fatherhood

McConnell announced on Instagram in September that he and his wife, Valerie, are expecting their first child in early 2021.

On Saturday, the 28-year-old shared his excitement for fatherhood and noted one area in which he has tried to prepare ahead of his child's arrival.

"I'm just trying to get as much sleep as I can right now," McConnell joked. "Other than that, I'm just blessed, happy, excited for me and my wife.

"Basketball has always been my life (for) my entire life, but I think being a dad will be the best and most rewarding job I'll ever have."

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