McRoberts Looks Like Starter At Power Forward

A year ago, Josh McRoberts was battling for his professional life. With entrenched veteran Troy Murphy and high-profile lottery pick Tyler Hansbrough firmly ahead of him on the depth chart at power forward entering camp in 2009, McRoberts faced a challenge just to earn a roster spot.

Now, after the first week of his fourth NBA training camp, McRoberts is the guy at the top of the list.

"If we were playing a game tonight, Josh McRoberts would be at the power forward for 36 minutes," said Coach Jim O'Brien. "He is having that type of impact.

"I said to him (Thursday) I thought he was the best player on the court. And he's not having to do that by scoring the most. His communication on defense is great. His understanding of the game is great. He is trying to rebound every shot. He doesn't turn the ball over at all. And he runs the court."

The 6-10, 240-pound McRoberts has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. He seems much more at peace with himself and his work environment, more confident in his actions. As a result, there is a growing sentiment the power forward position isn't the problem many experts projected when Murphy was dealt to New Jersey in the three-team trade that landed Darren Collison and James Posey.

"I think (O'Brien) is more comfortable with me," McRoberts said. "This is the longest I've had a coach in my entire life so for him to be able to know what I can do, to know my strengths and weaknesses really helps. I think we're on the same page.

"Everybody in the NBA has something they do really well. Murph is one of the best shooters in the NBA, big guy or not. His percentages speak for themselves. I feel comfortable shooting the basketball but that's something that other parts of my game will set up. I don't think it will be the other way around."

Known much more for his athleticism than his shooting, McRoberts didn't make a 3-pointer in the NBA until last season, missing the first 13 tries of his career. He finished a respectable 8-of-23 (.348) and has continued to gain confidence in his shot but the centerpiece of his game is activity.

"I think it's been great growth," said O'Brien. "A couple of things maybe slowed down his development. We had a guy in front of him that was such a weapon from the 3-point line. And we also had Jeff Foster for some of that time who can back up at that position. And we were also effective with a small lineup. Because we were a spacing team, Josh put too much emphasis, as we also did, on having to be a 3-point shooter.

"He doesn't have to be that. He has to do the three things we set out as the role he was going to be evaluated on – run the court, rebound every shot and when he has the ball in his hands, and the ball is in his hands a lot, take care of it. Make simple, effective passes. He's doing all those things at a very high level."

It appears McRoberts' performance, combined with the return to health of Foster and Hansbrough and the promise of rookie Magnum Rolle, has eased the sense of urgency to make a trade for a starter.

"Jeff Foster said to me yesterday how much improved Josh is in guarding the low post," O'Brien said. "The last couple of years he couldn't guard the low post at all. He's made a commitment to certain areas of the game that he knows he has to be good at in order to get playing time. And he's doing it at such a high level that if we were playing tonight, he'd get 36 minutes."

Reggie lends helping hand to Sixers' Turner

Reggie Miller thought Doug Collins' invitation was to observe practice.

Collins had other ideas, putting the former Pacers legend to work tutoring the Sixers' prized draft pick, Evan Turner of Ohio State, earlier this week.

“I was somewhat bamboozled by coach,” Miller The Trentonian. “I thought I was coming here and observe practice ... but once I started to watch practice and saw what coach was teaching, I kind of got excited because I’m an old-school kind of guy who loves fundamentals."

Collins wanted Miller to give Turner a lesson in his specialty – moving without the ball to set up his shots.

“He’s a great player, a great shooter and a great thinker — mentally tough,” Turner said of Miller. “Coach Collins has been speaking to me about moving without the ball, so I take a lot from someone like Reggie Miller in that regard.”

Watson hopes to win with Jazz

Though he finished last season as the Pacers' starting point guard, Earl Watson was happy to sign with Utah to serve as the backup to Deron Williams because he is back with a contender.

“I was spoiled early,” Watson told The Salt Lake Tribune. “So now, going into my 10th year, it’s a chance to get back to my foundation, my roots. … Winning is key to me. You can’t replace winning. Winning is priceless.”

Watson, 31, started 52 games with the Pacers last season, averaging 7.8 points and 5.1 assists. He signed with Utah last week.

“When I’m on the court, I’m looking to enhance the lead,” Watson said. “Get into the game, and let D-Will close it out. My job’s easy.”

Previous Caught in the Webs

  • Oct. 1: Collison handling multiple adjustments
  • Sept. 29: Pacers the stuffed of legend at Bub's
  • Sept. 27: Cautious optimism the message on media day
  • Sept. 20: Hungry Hansbrough cleared to return
  • Sept. 15: Pacers get high marks for offseason moves
  • Sept. 13: Granger joins Miller as gold-medal Pacers
  • Sept. 9: Granger victim of U.S. numbers game
  • Sept. 1: Many possibilities at power forward
  • Aug. 27: Talking Turkey with Granger
  • Aug. 24: Despite struggling, Granger survives final cut
  • Aug. 20: International experience could be huge for Granger
  • Aug. 17: Collison ready to step into spotlight
  • Aug. 13: Honeycomb first of ABA Pacers to enter Hall of Fame
  • Aug. 11: Collison deal turns PG from question to exclamation
  • Aug. 11: Granger's finger injury believed to be minor
  • Aug. 10: Schedule's out, so circle these dates
  • Aug. 4: Walton puts Hibbert through personal training camp
  • Aug. 2: Banner day in a busy summer for Granger
  • July 27: After Jamaica sojourn, Hibbert back to work
  • July 22: Site still s preading the word in China
  • July 15: Bird hits the hot buttons
  • July 9: First look at rookies was an eye-opener

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