Pacers Unveil A New Look

Training camps come and go, and before you know it, you're feeling a little out of sorts when you look around the locker room.

David West, veterans of 11 NBA seasons and 34 years of life, knows that feeling.  

“Some of these guys are a bit young,” he said following practice on Monday. “I think Adonis (Thomas) wasn't born when I was in high school. That's a little weird.” 

West could be excused for feeling a little strange when he takes the floor on Tuesday for the Pacers' opening pre-season game, too. Two new starters will join him, bringing notable change to a group that reached the Eastern Conference finals each of the past two seasons.

Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles are likely to replace Lance Stephenson and Paul George, joining West , Roy Hibbert and George Hill. Their positions are hardly certain, but coach Frank Vogel is taking the most logical approach for now and going with experience. Stuckey's position is likely safe, given the lack of competition at his position, while Miles could be threatened eventually by Solomon Hill or Chris Copeland.  

Regardless, the chemistry experiment will take time. Nobody is anticipating a solution after the first exhibition game, or perhaps all seven. The lineup changes will require most sharing of the ball on offense and more cooperation on defense, to make up for the loss of the dynamic abilities of George and Stephenson.

“We're doing some learning and teaching,” West said. “Trying to get our system set defensively more than anything, making sure guys understand rotations. We're going to have to be a better help defensive team, even more so than the last couple of years. We have unproven wing defenders at this moment. We feel Solo is going to be tough on that wing, particularly on defense, but we … have to make sure we can contain wings and scheme to stop people.

“We're going to have to be a scrappy group. We're still trying to figure out our identity. But we've got to step on the floor with confidence. Confident to make plays, attempt to make plays, and look to be a competitive basketball team.”

Vogel is pleased with the early returns in practice, and his players support the claims of improved ball movement. And whiles one of the off-season goals was to improve the team's three-point percentage, the ultimate desire is for more free throw attempts.

The Pacers averaged 23.3 foul shots last season, which tied them for 15th in the NBA. The loss of their best one-on-one players, George and Stephenson, will require ball movement and drives to the basket to get to the foul line. If that approach also creates three-point opportunities, all the better.

“I don't want to s hoot more threes to shoot more threes,” Vogel said. “I just want to be more efficient.”

Vogel plans to go with a 10-man rotation most of the regular season, and will play at least that many in pre-season games. The returning starters – West, Hibbert and Hill – likely won't play more than a quarter against the Timberwolves. C.J. Watson is out with a sore foot, and Ian Mahinmi is questionable with a sore shoulder.

That should leave ample opportunity for rookie Damjan Rudez and some or all of the free agents who do not have fully guaranteed contracts: Shayne Whittington, C.J. Fair, Chris Singleton, Arinze Onuaku  and Thomas, the 21-year-old who actually was born when West was in high school, but still has the knack for making him feel old. 

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.