Posts Tagged ‘Chris Copeland’

Qualifying offers, 2015

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Free agency began at midnight ET on Tuesday night. When the season ended, there were 46 free agents set to be restricted free agents, where their teams could match any offer they received.

But in order for a player to be a restricted free agent on Wednesday, his team needed to extend him a qualifying offer by Tuesday. If signed by the player, that qualifying offer is a binding, one-year contract (like with Greg Monroe last year).

If the player signs an offer sheet from another team, his current team has three days to match it. If he doesn’t, he can also sign a new contract with his current team.

26 of the 46 potential restricted free agents received qualifying offers. The other 20 did not. Here’s a rundown…

Restricted

The following players received qualifying offers and are restricted free agents.

  • Pero Antic – Atlanta
  • Will Barton – Denver
  • Patrick Beverley – Houston
  • Jimmy Butler – Chicago
  • Nick Calathes – Memphis
  • Norris Cole – New Orleans
  • Jae Crowder – Boston
  • Matthew Dellavedova – Cleveland
  • Draymond Green – Golden State
  • Tobias Harris – Orlando
  • Robbie Hummel – Minnesota
  • Joe Ingles – Utah
  • Reggie Jackson – Detroit
  • Cory Joseph – San Antonio
  • Enes Kanter – Oklahoma City
  • Brandon Knight – Phoenix
  • Ognjen Kuzmic – Golden State
  • Kawhi Leonard – San Antonio
  • K.J. McDaniels – Houston
  • Khris Middleton – Milwaukee
  • Kyle O’Quinn – Orlando
  • Iman Shumpert – Cleveland
  • Kyle Singler – Oklahoma City
  • Mirza Teletovic – Brooklyn
  • Tristan Thompson – Cleveland
  • Jeff Withey – New Orleans

Note 1: Antic has agreed to a contract with Turkish team Fenerbahce, according to his agent. Even though he’s left the league, the Hawks can retain the right to match a deal should he ever return.

Note 2: The Raptors also extended a qualifying offer to Nando de Colo, who played with CSKA Moscow last year, so that they can match a deal should he ever return to the league.

Unrestricted

The following players did not receive qualifying offers and are unrestricted free agents.

  • Quincy Acy – New York
  • Aron Baynes – San Antonio
  • Bismack Biyombo – Charlotte
  • Vander Blue – L.A. Lakers
  • Ian Clark – Denver
  • Chris Copeland – Indiana
  • Gigi Datome – Boston
  • Joel Freeland – Portland
  • Justin Hamilton – Minnesota
  • Justin Holiday – Golden State
  • Bernard James – Dallas
  • Jerome Jordan – Brooklyn
  • Arinze Onuaku – Minnesota
  • Glenn Robinson III – Philadelphia
  • Alexey Shved – New York
  • Henry Sims – Philadelphia
  • Jeff Taylor – Charlotte
  • Travis Wear – New York
  • Shayne Whittington – Indiana
  • Derrick Williams – Sacramento

Injured Sefolosha briefly discusses N.Y. incident

HANG TIME BIG CITY — Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha has made his first public statement since being arrested outside a nightclub last week in New York City, following the stabbing of Pacers forward Chris Copeland. Sefolosha, who was accused of interfering with the establishment of a crime scene and resisting arrest, suffered a broken fibula and ligament damage during the incident, ending his season with the first-place Hawks one week away from the playoffs.

In a statement released Tuesday via the Hawks, Sefolosha notes he can’t discuss the ongoing case in detail, but also says his injury was caused by the New York Police Department.

Sefolosha’s statement in full …

“I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to my family and friends, the Hawks organization and my teammates. This has been a difficult time for me and I truly appreciate the support I have received from everyone. I am extremely disappointed that I will not be able to join my teammates on the court during the playoffs and apologize to them for any distraction this incident has caused. I will be cheering for them every step of the way and will be diligent in my rehabilitation.

On advice of counsel, I hope you can appreciate that I cannot discuss the facts of the case. Those questions will be answered by my attorney in a court of law. I will simply say that I am in great pain, have experienced a significant injury and that the injury was caused by the police.”

Morning shootaround — April 11


VIDEO: Highlights from games played April 10

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Curry for MID award | Duncan hands Father Time first loss? | Cavs or not, Celtics can’t be choosy | Hawks’ Antic, NBPA talk N.Y. incident

No. 1: Curry for Most Improved Defender award — By now, most NBA observers expect Golden State’s floor leader and marvelous 3-point shooter Steph Curry to finish first or second in balloting for the league’s Most Valuable Player. But if you look closely at Curry’s performances on the other end of the court, listen to his coaches and study the Warriors’ numbers in thwarting the opposition, Curry might merit consideration for a wholly fictitious award: Most Improved Defender. Breaking down the components of good individual and team defense with Golden State assistant coach Ron Adams, ESPN.com’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss enumerated the many ways in which Curry has tightened up his game that way, and concluded:

The Warriors challenged their top player to get better, and it worked. They’re having the best regular season — in terms of point differential — we’ve witnessed since Jordan‘s Bulls.

The notion of Curry as defensive ace might be subversive, but perhaps not as subversive as the next statement: Curry got better not just because he wants to be the best player alive, but also because he thinks it’s within his reach.

“He wants to be the best,” [coach Steve] Kerr said. “He knew that to be the best he had to be better at that end.”

Even as Curry is favored to win an MVP award, the concept of a skinny, 6-3 point guard as league alpha strikes people strangely. That spot is usually reserved for physical freaks like LeBron James and Kevin Durant. It all just smacks of basketball heresy.

Curry’s star continues to rise in defiance of convention, though. He markets himself as “the patron saint of the underdog” for a reason. Curry doesn’t look like a good defensive player, but then again, he never looked like a Division I college player, he never looked like an NBA draft pick, and he never looked like an NBA superstar. But he has accomplished all of those things. If reputations are often based on appearances, Curry aims to forge a reputation as someone who transcends that expectation. And his aim is excellent.

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Morning shootaround — April 9


VIDEO: Highlights from games played April 8

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Mistakes spoil Rose’s return to Bulls’ lineup | Report: Copeland in ICU | Cuban bemoans state of college hoops | Noel suffers ankle injury

No. 1: Mistakes mar Bulls in Rose’s return to lineup Derrick Rose returned to the Chicago Bulls’ lineup last night after a 20-game absence and overall, he looked rusty. Still, just getting him out on the court was a net positive for the Bulls (as our Fran Blinebury noted last night). What wasn’t a positive for Chicago was how sloppy the team played against a low-level team as the season winds down. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune has more:

With minutes left in the Bulls’ 105-103 collapse to the Magic on Wednesday night, at a time he used to dominate, Derrick Rose rose from his seat on the bench and implored his teammates to communicate better on defense.

That Victor Oladipo followed shortly thereafter with a blow-by of Jimmy Butler for the game-winning layup over late-arriving help from Joakim Noah should be as troubling as another late-game fade to a sub-.500 team.

Simply put, the Bulls couldn’t follow Rose’s lead in his return from missing 20 games to arthroscopic right knee surgery, whether that be on the court in an active first-quarter stint or off it with his late words.

The loss not only spoiled Rose’s return, which featured nine points, four turnovers and two assists on 3-for-9 shooting in 19 minutes, 24 seconds, it dropped the Bulls into the East’s fourth seed with four games remaining. The Cavaliers also clinched the No. 2 seed and the Central Division title.

“We were scoring, matching them, but defensively, we weren’t getting there,” Rose said. “Communication or whatever, it just wasn’t there. Win the game on a layup so we just got to make sure we talk a little bit more and make sure that someone is over there.”

“I felt good,” Rose said. “I didn’t feel any discomfort at all, so that’s a good sign. I’m just happy to be playing.”

“It’s upsetting,” Pau Gasol said. “There’s a time when you have to be sharp. You can’t have these type of games. We’re trying to figure a lot of things out right now with guys coming back and different rotations and guys sharing minutes. That’s what happens when you have a deep team. But we have to figure it out quickly.

“Continuity has been tough, for sure. At times, we look like we’re a little bit all over the place. That’s why we had so many turnovers pretty much all season long.”

The Bulls dropped to 15-5 in games with their starters intact.


VIDEO: Derrick Rose reflects on his return to the Bulls’ lineup

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Morning shootaround — April 8


VIDEO: Highlights from games played April 7

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Davis: Warriors called matchup a ‘scrimmage’ | Report: Copeland stabbed in NYC club | Playoff hopes dimming for Thunder

No. 1: Davis: Warriors called matchup a ‘scrimmage’ — Entering last night’s game between the Warriors and Pelicans, two things were certain — Golden State had assured itself days earlier of the Wests’ best record and New Orleans was still fighting for its playoff life. According to Pelicans star Anthony Davis, the Warriors were so confident they would prevail, one player told New Orleans’ bench the game would be like a scrimmage for Golden State. After New Orleans beat Golden State 103-100 last night, Davis recounted that tale and more to ESPN.com’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss:

Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis says a Golden State Warriors player told the host team’s bench in a spate of trash talk before a 103-100 victory for New Orleans that it would be an easy win for the West’s No. 1 seed.

“They came out and said it was going to be a scrimmage game,” Davis said of the Warriors in a TV interview after the game. “We kind of took that personal.”

In the locker room, Davis would not publicly elaborate on who the Warriors player was.

New Orleans trailed in the first half but rallied with a 60-point second half. Davis led the Pelicans with 29 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.

“We just tried to come out and play,” Davis said. “They said what they said. You try to worry about us and what we’re going to do to try to win this game.”

When asked who the specific player was, Davis responded, “I don’t know who said it.”

“We don’t want to be this pushover team, guys come in and do whatever they want. That’s how we want to look at ourselves,” Davis said of beating the top-seeded Warriors.


VIDEO: Anthony Davis elaborates on his postgame comments

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The Pacers’ plunge continues

VIDEO: Roy Hibbert leaves game early with bone bruise in Pacers’ loss to Wizards

The Pacers play the Jazz on Monday night (7 p.m. ET, League Pass) and it’s interesting that it’s Utah, because the last time these teams met, all was well with Indy.

It was last March 2 when the Pacers won 94-91. David West had a monster game with 25 points. Paul George added 21. Lance Stephenson sank a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to hold off the pesky Jazz. And the Pacers won for the fifth straight time and raised their record to 46-13, best in the East and top three in the NBA.

But life hasn’t quite been the same since for the Pacers.

What we’re witnessing is one of the most dreadful crashes of a contender in the last decade. So many things have happened, and all of them bad. Injuries, poor play, more injuries, defections and, well, the avalanche that buried the Pacers since last March is still building and adding layers.

What if you were told that, eight months later, the retooling Jazz would be the favorite and might even have the better long-term nucleus? Yep, I didn’t think so, either. But the Pacers are 1-6, their worst start since 1993-94 and could be without Roy Hibbert (bone bruise) for a spell, adding more misery to their misery.

The Pacers are probably shaking their heads and still wondering what happened, like the rest of us. They collapsed in the spring, losing four straight after that win over Utah, and closed out the regular season losing 13 of their last 23. It was an astonishing about-face for a team that had a realistic chance to make LeBron James and the Heat sweat. They had to fight off two elimination games to beat the Hawks in the first round, had to go six games against the Wizards and then went out meekly in the East finals against the Heat. All along, their play was shoddy and some of their key players slumped badly, none more than Hibbert, who found himself benched in the playoffs.

And that was the good stretch. What followed over the summer was worse: Losing Stephenson to free agency and George to a gruesome leg injury for perhaps most if not all of this season.

It’s a good thing coach Frank Vogel received a contract extension because he’ll earn it. You hardly recognize the team that Indiana is trotting out on the floor these days. The Pacers have no choice but give extended minutes to players who ordinarily would serve lesser roles. That’s why Chris Copeland, Solomon Hill and Donald Sloan are seeing 31 or more minutes a game. They weren’t even in the rotation last March.

Eventually the Pacers will get West back from a bad ankle, and George might suit up earlier than anyone anticipated, and Hibbert’s injury isn’t serious. And yet they still could struggle to recover from a lousy start and make the playoffs, even in the East. That’s why the Pacers could be sellers at the trade deadline and dangle West and maybe even Hibbert.

Until then, we get Pacers vs. Jazz, Monday night, and my how the world has changed.

Pacers need a lift from their bench

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew previews Game 4 of the Heat-Pacers series

MIAMI — Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

The Indiana Pacers’ starting lineup has outscored the Miami Heat (by 29 points) in its floor time in the Eastern Conference finals. But when the Pacers have had one or more reserves on the floor, they’ve been pretty awful (minus-34). And thus, they’re down 2-1 with a need to get Game 4 on Monday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Yes, this is the same story as we had in last year’s conference finals, when the Pacers’ starters were a plus-49 in seven games and all other Indiana lineups were a minus-77.

With that in mind, reworking the bench was the focus of the Pacers’ summer. They traded for Luis Scola and signed C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland. But in the regular season, lineups that included at least one reserve were only slightly better (plus-2.0 points per 100 possessions) than they were last season (plus-1.8).

In February, the Pacers signed Andrew Bynum and traded Danny Granger for Evan Turner, moves that somehow threw their starters in a funk. They’ve been better in the postseason, but the bench is back to bringing the Pacers down.

The playoff numbers aren’t as bad as they were last season, but Indiana lineups with at least one reserve on the floor have been pretty dreadful offensively and have been outscored by 4.4 points per 100 possessions in 16 games. In this series, they’ve been awful on both ends of the floor and have been outscored by 30.3.

Scola scored eight straight points in the second quarter on Saturday, but has shot 2-for-11 otherwise. Ian Mahinmi has played just 23 minutes in three games. Turner has played just three, and managed to dribble straight into a triple-team upon entering Game 3. Watson has the worst plus-minus (minus-31 in 58 minutes) in the series.

The only reserve that hasn’t hurt the Pacers in this series is Rasual Butler. Meanwhile, the Heat have gotten lifts from Ray Allen, Chris Andersen, Norris Cole and Rashard Lewis, all of whom have been trusted and empowered much more than anyone on Indiana’s bench.

That’s why some of this has to come back on Pacers coach Frank Vogel. In a sprint for the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage (which they lost in Game 2) from the start of the season, the Pacers weren’t willing to sacrifice games to develop their bench. Over the last two seasons, the Indiana starting lineup has played almost twice as many minutes (3,429) as any other lineup in the league.

Part of that is health. They’ve been fortunate that none of their starters have missed more than eight games in either season.

Part of it is dependence. When the starters are much better than the reserves, teams tend to stick with them for longer minutes.

But part of it is a lack of foresight. Scola, Watson and Mahinmi had regular roles during the season, but guys like Copeland and Butler were basically used in garbage time.

And so, while the Heat can adjust their lineup however they need to according to the matchup or who’s playing well (witness Cole and Allen helping them destroy Indiana in Saturday’s fourth quarter), the Pacers are rather rigid.

When his team is struggling to match up with Miami’s small lineup in transition and David West is chasing Allen around multiple screens, there’s little Vogel can do. He isn’t going to take West off the floor, because he’s his most stable and dependable player. If he benches Roy Hibbert, Vogel has lost his rim protection against the best rim attacker in the league.

Foul trouble is another problem. With George Hill and Paul George forced to sit extra minutes in Game 3, the Pacers’ defense didn’t hold up. Lance Stephenson was forced to play all of the final three quarters and looked gassed as the Heat pulled away in the fourth.

In its last six wins, Miami has outscored its opponents in the fourth quarter by an average score of 26.5-19.5. The Heat haven’t been superb all game, every game, but they get it done when they need to.

Might the Pacers’ starters be able to hang with the champs better in the fourth quarter if their reserves had given them a little more production and rest earlier in the game?

That question may still linger if Indiana doesn’t turn this series back around on Monday. To do that, they’ll need more production from the bench.

Forget style points, Pacers get where they hoped to be

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com


VIDEO: Hawks vs. Pacers: Game 7

INDIANAPOLIS – Maybe this is how it’s going to go for the Indiana Pacers.

No “A” game, no style points, no drive-by games or series. Real skin-of-their-teeth stuff.

No collapses either, though, not in any complete or fatal sense. Stubbed toes, sure, but no missed steps. No coach or teammate thrown under the bus, even if Frank Vogel and Roy Hibbert had a few telltale scuff marks from getting kicked briefly to the curb.

The Pacers, the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, dispatched their first-round opponents with a decisive 92-80 beating Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, advancing to the East semifinal round against the Washington Wizards. That represents everything they could have done to this point, right? There was no bye available to skip directly to the East finals, no bonus to be had (beyond a few extra days off) for doing in four or five games what they accomplished in seven.

Then again, it took Indiana the maximum to get past the No. 8 seed, a sub-.500 entry whose best player (Al Horford) hasn’t played a lick since December due to injury. The Pacers were pushed to flex their home-court advantage about a month earlier than they’d planned and even then, they only went 2-2 at BLFH in the series.

Even then, it took the Hawks missing 59 of 79 3-pointers (25.3 percent accuracy) in Games 6 and 7 combined for the Pacers to put them down. Atlanta shot 38.5 percent in the series, 30.4 in the clincher. Indiana did block 13 shots (six by David West, five by Hibbert and a breathtaking snuff at the halftime horn by Ian Mahinmi against a dunk-minded Jeff Teague), but it was clear the Hawks felt they misfired way too often on their own.

“I think it’s always important,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said, “to give the defense credit when we don’t shoot well, but … I thought we had some good looks at the rim, some good looks in transition. We had some good looks at three’s.”

In other words, no disrespect to the Pacers but Paul Millsap (6-of-21), Teague (5-of-16), Mike Scott (5-of-14) and the rest would like a few of those looks again, please.

All of which is to say, Indiana got done what it was supposed to and, frankly, what it had to do to avoid a summer of a thousand cuts. People have been poised to either proclaim the Pacers back or pronounce them dead, and here they are, two weeks into the postseason, right where they and everyone expected them to be.

Mission (gasp!) accomplished.

Dominant? No. Despite Paul George‘s huge game (30 points, 11 rebounds) and series (six double-doubles) and some early-season defensive stats, most inside and outside the Pacers’ circle have been fooled too often by false starts – vs. Chicago, vs. Miami, vs. OKC – to claim they’re back-back.

But disqualified? No, not that either. They remain somewhere in the middle, not exactly who they’d been but stirring a bit from what they had become. No longer headliners, not yet flatliners.

Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel couldn’t lie when asked if the mood in his locker room afterward was more elation or relief. “I don’t know, maybe a little of both,” he said.

Vogel has been the guy with his fingers in the dyke as Indiana, so stellar in the season’s first half, sprang leak after leak after leak. Defense, confidence, George’s shooting, chemistry, Hibbert’s emotional state and so on – Vogel was on the verge of doffing a shoe and a sock, the way the leaks kept opening.

“I don’t feel like we ever strayed that far from who we are, especially on the defensive end,” Vogel said, resolutely half-full vs. half-empty.

Hibbert’s big fade late in the season was blamed on fatigue. His near-disappearance in this series got attributed to a “matchup challenge,” Atlanta’s “stretch five” attack stranding him in no man’s land defensively. While there was considerable truth in that, the 7-foot-2 center and the guys who play around him were relieved that he roused from the slab in Game 7.

He’d been no factor in the previous three, totaling six points, five rebounds and four blocks in 49 minutes. But he topped that in just 31 this time: 13 points, seven rebounds and five blocks. Vogel gave Hibbert credit for 4-for-6 shooting in the first half and the big guy tied for the game’s top plus/minus with 16. He’d been minus-12 in a mere 12 minutes in Game 6.

This was a man who finally could exhale. And look forward to a foe in the next round with some legit bigs (Washington’s Marcin Gortat and Nene).

“Despite what everybody says, we know we’re a good team,” Hibbert said. “Nobody said it was going to be easy. One thing Coach talked to us was, when the Celtics won their [2008] championship, they got taken to seven games by the Atlanta Hawks [in the first round]. So I’m sure people were talking about them as well.”

Uh, not like this.

But that’s where Indiana is at now, the what crowding out the how as they try simply to win four more in the next seven.

“I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t concerned. Of course,” forward Chris Copeland said. “I hate to get into that. I believe it feeds negativity. I don’t like to acknowledge anything other than the success we’ve had. For me, we should just keep looking up.

“When you keep looking back and saying, ‘We’ve had struggles, and this and that,’ I think it brings on second-guessing yourself. Are we back? You start to question.

“Everything to me, despite the bumps in the road, has gone fine to this point, when you really think about it. Where did we go? We went to the next level. Now we’re 0-0 just like we would like to be. Let’s just keep it moving.”

Maybe it goes like this for Indiana, grimier, less convincing, for another round. Or more.

Blogtable: The Vogel dilemma

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Winners, losers so far | The Vogel dilemma



VIDEO: Inside the NBA looks at the Hawks’ last win over the Pacers and the rest of the series

> We’ve asked before, but it’s critical now: Is there anything Frank Vogel can do?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: It’s awfully late, perhaps too late for Vogel to make a bold move and stop his team’s freefall. But the straw he can grasp at is sitting down Roy Hibbert completely for what’s left of the Atlanta series. The big fellow has a bad matchup defensively vs. Pero Antic in the Hawks’ “stretch 5″ attack and doesn’t have a comparable edge at the other end because he’s not a go-to low-post guy. Get Chris Copeland or Luis Scola in there and see what happens, Hibbert’s fragile confidence be darned. Vogel soon enough will have either a new series – or a long offseason – to rebuild it.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Vogel could take one of those hammers out of the bag from my previous answer. Or he could try to find a jersey that would fit 57-year-old Larry Bird. Or call the bowling alley for Andrew Bynum.  It’s not exactly the time to turn the season over to Ian Mahinmi. All you can do is appeal to their pride and their professionalism — if there’s any left — and go back to the fundamentals of training camp.

Frank Vogel (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Frank Vogel (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: I’m not a religious man. But I pray.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: No, it was critical before. We know this with hindsight because whatever funk the Pacers fell in, they never really came out. An occasional good moment, a lot of bad moments as the problems lingered. As for now, I would obviously consider a lineup change. That’s the natural reaction, and it’s not like I would have anything to lose at this point. Keep digging for answers.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: He has to play small and short. By “small,” I mean that he should play David West at center, give Chris Copeland some playing time, space the floor, and defend the floor-spacing Hawks. By “short,” I mean to limit the rotation to guys that might actually contribute in a positive fashion. Play George Hill, Lance Stephenson, C.J. Watson and Paul George on the perimeter, with West, Copeland and Luis Scola up front. Evan Turner’s been as much of a disaster defensively as Roy Hibbert has been offensively.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Critical? How about a Code Red? If you’re Vogel, all you can really do is pray the Hawks stop knocking down 3-pointers. Seriously, I don’t think there is any coming back from the humiliation that the Pacers are drowning in against the Hawks. Vogel is a good man, a good coach and probably doesn’t deserve everyone piling on him right now. That said, it’s ultimately his responsibility to make sure his team is prepared for the challenges of the playoffs. And the fact that the No. 1 seed Pacers cannot solve the No. 8 seed Hawks speaks volumes about the disconnect between Vogel and his locker room.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball Blog: As a lifelong Hawks watcher, the most chilling thing to me was at the end of Game 5 when Vogel finally put in Chris Copeland and the Pacers suddenly looked alive. He’s had that option tethered to the bench most of the season — playing smaller and creating more drive-and-kick space. But that mostly requires Hibbert on the bench. Maybe they stumbled into it, but the Pacers seem to have found a lineup concerned with action than reaction. Whether or not Vogel can commit to go small and seat franchise center Roy Hibbert on the bench the rest of the way against the Hawks is another matter altogether.

Pacers’ Game 7 Quest A Worthy Goal


VIDEO: Paul George scores 36 as the Pacers take down the Clippers

Be careful what you wish for.

As adages go, it’s not the most inspiring, right? Chase your dream, go for it, you only live once, flyin’ high now … except maybe you’ll regret it later. It’s the kind of conflicted message that, imparted at just the right time in a person’s life, keeps the shrinks’ and therapists’ kids in private schools.

The Indiana Pacers aren’t worried about all that. They want what they want. And they want home-court advantage in the NBA playoffs, specifically in the Eastern Conference finals (should they manage to get there).

They want it for the same reason they’re supposed to want Andrew Bynum – so the Miami Heat can’t have it. The value of being at home for the ultimate game in a best-of-seven series was seered into the Pacers’ brains June 3 – Miami 99, Indiana 76 – and has been the clearest, most shining goal in their tear through the season’s first half with the league’s best record.

The obvious downside, potentially, is that chasing that regular-season goal might sabotage the Pacers in their pursuit of the bigger prize: the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Coach Frank Vogel, breakout star Paul George, center Roy Hibbert – the ViceRoy of Verticality – and the rest have been asked about the potential for stubbing their toes almost as much as they’ve been asked about the championship itself.

Yet here they sit, nearly halfway through the grind, with a 3.5-game lead over the Heat and 1.5 over San Antonio and Portland in the Western Conference. None of the Pacers has broken down, no one has come up lame. They open their longest trip of the season Monday night at Golden State, a five-gamer bouncing through the West, showing no signs of flagging or peaking too soon.

Indiana targeted its brass ring for the season and methodically has gone after it. It has given them an identity and a purpose, and imposed some order on what – for the best teams, the ones likeliest to be playing in June – can be an amorphous and ponderous six months.

This has not been a burden, George said Saturday after a 106-92 victory over the Clippers.

“Not really. I don’t see it within this whole locker room,” the Pacers’ All-Star guard said. “It feels great going out there. I really don’t see it draining us. We just want to build habits for our team right now.”

The Miami Heat can scoff, wag a finger and remind the Pacers and their fans that one false move in a Game 1 or Game 2 come springtime – a squandered lead, a fluke play late – can flip the home-court advantage back to them. The two-time defending champions also can talk ominously about burnout, overuse injuries or other ills that could befall Indiana as a result of pushing so hard through 82.

Now, the Heat didn’t much heed such talk when they were winning 27 in a row last winter. But they have earned the right to “manage” the schedule and, given Miami’s roster, discretion rather than over-exertion is the better part of valor. The same might hold for San Antonio with its wrinkled wonders, though pacing the Spurs through the regular season hasn’t brought a ring home lately. The last time San Antonio won (2007), its main guys still were relatively teething.

Biggest difference, DefRtg vs. league average
Team Season DefRtg Lg. avg. Diff.
Indiana 2013-14 92.6 102.9 -10.3
Boston 2007-08 96.2 104.7 -8.6
San Antonio 2003-04 91.6 100.0 -8.5
New York 1992-93 97.1 105.3 -8.2
New York 1993-94 95.8 103.6 -7.8
Detroit 2003-04 92.5 100.0 -7.5
San Antonio 2004-05 95.8 103.1 -7.3
San Antonio 1998-99 92.1 99.2 -7.1
Chicago 2010-11 97.4 104.5 -7.1
Chicago 2006-07 97.0 103.7 -6.7
Since turnovers started being counted in 1977-78
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Developing habits, throwing victories on the pile and working game-by-game through the schedule as if building something magnificent brick-by-brick suits these Pacers. They’re young enough: George and Lance Stephenson are 23, Hibbert just turned 27, point guard George Hill is 27, and they’re the only guys averaging 30 minutes or more. They’ve been healthy: with the exception of Danny Granger, Hill (three) is the only member of their top nine who has missed more than one game.

Besides, it’s not as if they’re going to suddenly decide: “Nah, never mind. Not worth it.” Indiana is 21-1 at home this season. The Pacers have had a home-court edge like few teams, dating back to before several on this season’s team were born: 25 consecutive winning seasons in Indianapolis.

Bankers Life Fieldhouse was packed and crazed Saturday, on a snowy January night despite whiteout conditions on the highways leading downtown. And before Game 7 last June, there was Game 6, a blowout Pacers victory in which LeBron James was a minus-22.

By the way, in that game, Indiana’s reserves chipped in just eight points on 3-of-5 shooting. But that was then – this season’s bench is one reason Vogel and the Pacers feel they can push hard and go deep. Where once there was Tyler Hansbrough, D.J. Augustin and Sam Young, there is Luis Scola, C.J. Watson and Granger, renewed after his knee and calf layoffs.

Scola is shooting 50.2 percent and matching his career best of 10.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. Watson has been shooting 51.3 percent in fourth quarters, including 43.9 percent from 3-point range, with 46 percent of his makes coming in that quarter. Granger patiently probed the Clippers defense Saturday, gave Doc Rivers‘ crew another threat to account for and wound up with 12 points, scoring in double figures for the ninth time in 14 games back.

“We’ve got a lot of weapons in this locker room and we’ve always had a next-man-up mentality,” said power forward David West, who seemingly put Indiana in harm’s way Saturday with his flagrant-2 foul on Blake Griffin at the end of the second quarter. “If a guy goes down – like tonight, I got ejected, or a guy gets injured – the next guy’s got to be ready to step up.”

Every team and coach in the NBA says that, and it’s easy for the ones that have stayed healthy. Then again, real depth is real depth.

“I think we wear teams down,” backup forward Chris Copeland said. “We go as-many-players-as-you-want deep. Every lineup, every unit that [Vogel] puts on the floor is dangerous.”

Pretty much: Of Vogel’s top 10 heavily used lineups, only one (Hibbert, George, Hill, Scola and Orlando Johnson) has been “underwater” with a 79.9 offensive rating vs. 107.6 defensive rating. And they’ve been on the floor together just 30 minutes out of 1,877 this season.

Otherwise, the Pacers have been taking names and kicking rears. They have lost two games in a row only once so far, and of their seven defeats, five have come on the second night of back-to-back games. And guess what? There are no back-to-backs in the playoffs.

Look, be careful what you wish for isn’t bad advice. At its core, it suggests a cautious approach while, y’know, still wishing for something big. Literature, film and TV are rife with examples of great quests that end without payoff: The Maltese Falcon that inspired so much skullduggery ends up being a fake in the end. The ark that propelled Indiana Jones across continents is crated and warehoused by the end of Raiders. Don’t even get me started on Moby Dick.

But the Pacers’ hearts want what they want, and there’s no putting them off that goal now. If they get it, and even if Miami or someone else snatches away the home-court advantage early in a series, Indiana still will have at home – where its players, coaches and fans believe it matters – any Game 7 it faces.

That is worth chasing.