Nate McMillan
NBAE/Getty Images

Olympic Experience Helping McMillan Ready Pacers for Restart

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

Nate McMillan has faced this kind of challenge before. Not the suspension and resumption of an NBA season because of a global pandemic, but the need to assemble a team and prepare to play several pressure-packed games in a relatively brief time period.

McMillan was an assistant coach for the United States teams in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and remembers the accelerated pace by which those teams had to prepare. The Pacers, like the other 21 teams that will go to Orlando to resume the season on July 9, are at least familiar with one another. But they have not played a game since March 10 and will not be allowed to have a practice involving all the players and coaches until July 11 or 12.

They resume their regular season on Aug. 1 against Philadelphia. The playoffs, for which they have already qualified, will begin on Aug. 17.

"It can be done," McMillan said. "The Olympic team does it all the time. So, it can be done. It will be up to me to explain to give them the road map we're going to follow to have a successful summer."

PHOTO GALLERY: Pacers Prepare for Orlando with Individual Workouts »

The Pacers had won eight of their previous 11 games when the season was postponed on March 11. They lost their game to Boston the previous night, 114-111, after a dramatic comeback from a 16-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter fell just short but played that game without two injured players: starting point guard Malcolm Brogdon and rotation forward Doug McDermott.

Both are expected to be available in Orlando, although Brogdon has tested positive for COVID-19.

"I liked where we were at and what we were doing," McMillan said. "We were playing good basketball and still didn't have our entire roster. I'm anticipating going into this restart healthy and with a full roster."

McMillan has spent much of his time off from the season reviewing video and having breakdowns sent out to the players for review. The team has sent equipment to players to help with their individual training, as needed.

He's also appreciated the opportunities to speak with them as a group via online video conversations for the past couple of months. Those haven't been as valuable as addressing the players in person, but better than an audio conference call.

"It's been really cool to have the Zoom calls because I can see their faces," McMillan said. "I hadn't seen their faces in a month or so when we began the Zoom calls."

His primary emphasis in those conversations has been conditioning. Not just shooting, but getting their legs in shape to be ready for fullcourt action in Orlando, where each team will have three scrimmages to help prepare for the regular season games.

McMillan said the players are nowhere near game shape now, nor did he expect them to be. He won't conduct a conditioning test in July as he does in normal training camps, but generally has been satisfied with what he's seen in their individual workouts.

"They look pretty good," he said. "No one is in near the shape they need to be in, but...all the guys have been in the gym working extremely hard.

"Once we commit to going to Orlando, we have to have both feet in."


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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 Amazon.com.

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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