Pacers Still Finalizing Rotations Ahead of Opening Night

Oct. 17, 2019 - Pacers coach Nate McMillan and point guard Malcolm Brogdon give an update on the team six days ahead of Opening Night presented by Kroger.

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Pacers Still Finalizing Rotations Ahead of Opening Night

Oct. 17, 2019 - Pacers coach Nate McMillan and point guard Malcolm Brogdon give an update on the team six days ahead of Opening Night presented by Kroger.
Oct 17, 2019  |  01:23

Pacers Need More Talk, More Action

by Mark Montieth Writer

The Pacers have four new starters and nine new players, and their season doesn't begin until next Wednesday. All of that makes them difficult to analyze in the moment.

Coach Nate McMillan is certain of two things, though. His players need to get in better condition to play at a faster pace. And, they need to be more talkative.

McMillan has a reputation as a training camp task master, but the team's trip to India for two preseason games and having two more upon returning home forced him to focus more on execution. Now, with a week between the final preseason game on Tuesday and the start of the regular season next Wednesday, he'll have time to get back to the basics.

"We looked a little flat and gave up some easy things in transition, and offensively we didn't get out and run like we want to," he said, referring to the loss to Minnesota.

"Some of that is to be expected, but the message to the team was that for us to play the style we want to play, we've got to be in better condition."

Improving communication could take longer. Three starters — Jeremy Lamb, T.J. Warren, and Domantas Sabonis — are quiet by nature. Fortunately for the Pacers, Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner are more outgoing, and they play the two positions that require the most communication.

Brogdon, the point guard, will try to set an example on the defensive perimeter.

"We have to talk more." He said. "We've got a quiet team. Just be more aware, alert, have a sense of urgency every game."

Turner, entering his fifth NBA season, has improved as he's learned his responsibilities.

"He has a better feel for when to talk and what to say," he said. "A lot of that was he was growing; he didn't know what to say. Now he's more confident and understands what needs to be done."

McMillan sometimes mutes his coaching staff during scrimmages to demand more communication from players.

Big Brother is Watching – and Talking

The need for more communication and leadership has made Justin Holiday that much more important as a roster addition. Aaron's older brother is outgoing by nature and has six seasons of NBA experience to draw from.

"He feels like a really good pickup," McMillan said.

Justin Holiday's defensive versatility — he's 6-foot-6 and quick — could convince McMillan to use him as a spot defender to shut down a scoring threat on crucial possessions. That happened in the Pacers' first preseason game in India, when he was called into the game with 0.6 seconds left in regulation and again with five seconds left in overtime. He forced Kings guard Buddy Hield into a missed 3-pointer on both occasions.

Justin also appears to be a positive influence on Aaron, who is seven years younger and much quieter by nature.

"Justin knows the game and he'll get on Aaron," McMillan said. "Today Aaron was complaining about a no-call, and Justin (grabbed him) and pushed him down the floor and said, 'Play, play, play, play.'"

Rotation Still to be Determined

McMillan said he hasn't settled on the size or content of his regular playing rotation once the season begins.

Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, T.J. Warren, Domantas Sabonis and Turner will start. The most predictable players to come off the bench are Aaron Holiday, Doug McDermott, T.J. Leaf, and Goga Bitadze. McMillan usually resists the temptation to go to a 10-man rotation but allowed that as a possibility.

"Right now I can't say if we'll go nine, go eight, or go 10," he said. "All of those numbers are something we'll look at."

McMillan emphasized that the rotation is not "etched in stone" following Tuesday's preseason game in reference to the standout performance of T.J. McConnell, who is slotted as the third point guard. For now, however, expanding the rotation to 10 likely would bring Edmond Sumner into the mix. Sumner, who can play either backcourt position, averaged 9.5 points and hit 40 percent of his 3-point shots in the preseason and has more length and athleticism than anyone else currently available in the backcourt. Even then established veterans T.J. McConnell and Justin Holiday would be out of the rotation if everyone is healthy.

McMillan's stock answer is that depth issues will play themselves out. Injuries and illness will inevitably come into play, elevating some players into the playing rotation at various times.

Turner Misses Practice

Myles Turner, who had a head cold while playing in Tuesday's game against Minnesota, was still feeling ill on Thursday. He was told not to practice after meeting with a doctor, but shot around on his own in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, away from the rest of the team, before going home.

Bugs have been going around the Pacers locker room lately. Edmond Sumner had missed two practices prior to that and Aaron Holiday missed last Friday's game against Chicago.

Victor Oladipo was out of town on Thursday to have his right quadricep muscle examined. Oladipo usually practices with the team but sits out of scrimmages and drills that requires physical contact.

Burke Recognized

Dan Burke finished in a three-way tie for the best assistant coach in voting by NBA general managers. He received 11 percent of the vote, as did Chris Finch of New Orleans and David Vanterpool of Minnesota.

That didn't come as a surprise to McMillan.

"I've known that for a long time," he said. "He's beside me. I don't even call him 'DB,' I call him 'Coach.' I've always had that respect for him. He comes in every single day and he motivates you. A guy who works that hard, you can't come in unprepared."

Brogdon received 11 percent of the vote for most underrated player acquisition, and Goga Bitadze received 11 percent of the vote for biggest draft steal.

Brogdon also was voted the third-best head coaching candidate among active players by 15 percent of the general managers, finishing behind Mike Conley and Chris Paul.

Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Email him at and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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