Posts Tagged ‘Indianapolis Star’

George Is A Perfect Fit For Pacers





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Paul George‘s birth certificate confirms what everyone already knows: he’s a Southern California native through and through, something the Indiana Pacers’ young star is extremely proud of. But he couldn’t be more of a Hoosier if he tried.

From his relentless work ethic to his off-court sensibilities (fishing over, say, celebrity party hopping), George is the ideal face of the franchise in Indianapolis, where the excitement and expectations surrounding George and the Pacers for this season are already off the charts.

That’s what makes the reported $90-plus million extension George and the Pacers are closing in on prior to the start of training camp the biggest no-brainer to date. George couldn’t have found a better fit — an up-and-coming franchise for an up-and-coming superstar — and the Pacers couldn’t have found a better ambassador for what should be their most promising team in a decade.

Pacers president Larry Bird told Pacers.com that the deal isn’t done yet, but expects it to be soon:

When asked whether the reported terms were accurate, Bird said, “I never heard that number. I wish it was my number instead of [Paul's].

Although a new deal isn’t complete just yet and George hasn’t signed on the dotted line, everything is expected to be resolved this week.

“I know Paul’s worth,” said Bird. “I’m not banking on what’s going to happen in the future, even though you do somewhat. It’s what he’s accomplished now and that what we’ll go off of.

“It’s always good to have the leverage but the number has got to be a number we both like. And that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about money. Yes, he wants to be here. He’s told me that a million times. We want him here so let’s just find a number that works for both.”

Bird, a Hall of Famer, completely understands George’s mindset.

“Well back when I played, if they brought me in and was talking to me, I wanted to get it done before camp,” he said. “So I know it’s important. Security is always the best thing to have in this league.”

With a new contract, there’s more to it than just the length and value of the deal. There’s all the legal items, player or team options, and more that goes into it.

“If you come to the number first, then all the other things sorta fall in place.”

I lived in Indianapolis and covered the team the last time the Pacers entered a season with a budding young superstar (Jermaine O’Neal), a deep roster and championship ambitions. Things are going to get even crazier for George at home than he probably realizes. O’Neal was a fabulous player then, and like George, was a somewhat underrated talent coming into the Draft. He outworked and eventually outplayed that profile and blossomed into an All-Star with the Pacers. The same is true for George.

A city and state that loves its basketball like no other has embraced George in ways it never did O’Neal, who led the Pacers to the best record in the league during the 2003-04 season. Pacers fans always seemed a bit indifferent to O’Neal, who had the misfortune of having to assume leading the team while Reggie Miller was still the franchise’s true face and Ron Artest was in the midst of his most tumultuous time with the franchise. Pacers fans don’t appear to have any such reservations where George is concerned.

They saw as George went toe-to-toe with LeBron James and the Miami Heat during Indiana’s run to the Eastern Conference finals last season. They saw George shine on the biggest and brightest stage alongside David West, Roy Hibbert and the rest of a rugged Pacers team that pushed the Heat to a Game 7.

They know that they have the genuine article in George, whose meteoric rise in three seasons has been nothing short of remarkable. His impact on this team last season, while Danny Granger was sidelined with injury, is well documented (courtesy of my main man and numbers guru John Schuhmann of NBA.com).

It’s a testament to the work Bird (as well as Donnie Walsh and Kevin Pritchard) have done in rebuilding the franchise that George is stiff-arming the free agent process (and the lure of his hometown Los Angeles Lakers) that so many of his contemporaries would chase if they were in his shoes.

The best part for the Pacers is that they’ll have George locked up for what should be the prime of a superstar career. George is a true two-way player (not every All-Star plays defense as well as they do offense) on the short list that is headlined by James.

George is far from a finished product, another huge positive for the Pacers, and he understands that. He talked about it repeatedly in July during his time with the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team and their mini-camp. How he and Granger co-exist will go a long way in determining just how successful a season the Pacers can put together.

But those are issues Pacers coach Frank Vogel and his staff will gladly sort through with George as the centerpiece of a team that should compete at the highest level for the foreseeable future.

In fact, none of those lingering issues seem terribly unsettling when you’ve got a perfect fit between a franchise and the (new and) true face of said franchise.

Real Lakers, Pacers Need To Stand Up

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With fifteen combined losses, a coaching change and plenty of issues still needing to be resolved, it’s safe to say that both the Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers have begun this season in ways no one expected from either of these supposed contenders.

Their struggles, both on and off the court, could be construed by some as character-building hurdles for teams on their way to bigger and better things. On the flip side, the flaws we’ve seen through this first month of the regular season could also be a preview of what’s in store for two teams that need to reveal their true identities before the calendar flips to 2013.

Tonight’s matchup between the Lakers and Pacers in Los Angeles (10:30 ET, League Pass) could be billed as the disappointment bowl, what with the Pacers (6-8 and losers of seven of their last 11 games) dragging themselves across the country to face a Lakers team (7-7) fighting to stay around the .500 mark as they transition from Mike Brown‘s Princeton offense-based system to Mike D’Antoni‘s up-tempo attack.

How these two teams reached this point of the season with such underwhelming results is a bit of a mystery given all of the expectations heaped upon both of them. The high expectations for Indiana were forged after its near breakthrough effort against the Miami Heat in the East semifinals last season. For L.A., the expectations grew after its summer acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.

Neither team has been able to harness the momentum needed to push their way into the elite category this season. The Lakers blew things up after five games and still can’t decide if they’re going to get serious about becoming a championship team or continue clowing around as if all they need is a little more time — and a healthy Nash back in the lineup — to correct whatever is wrong.

Still, the Lakers appear to have an easier road back to respectability. When Nash returns, D’Antoni will have his favorite trigger man at the controls of his offense, theoretically making life better for Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and everyone else. They’ll have a chance to find a comfort zone throughout the holiday season while getting all their big stars aligned and in a collective groove.

The Lakers have actually played winning basketball without Nash, going 7-5, but his absence has had a significant impact on the progress (or lack thereof) this team has made since training camp. D’Antoni acknowledged the dilemma to ESPNLosAngeles.com‘s Dave McMenamin:

“We’re doing it without (Nash), who is kind of the engine that is going to drive us forward,” D’Antoni said. “So we’re going to have some bumps along the road.”

Steve Blake (strained abdomen) did not practice. He continues to be listed as day-to-day.

Nash and Blake have been ruled out for Tuesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers.

“I told (Nash) and I told Steve Blake … we’ve got 68 games left,” D’Antoni said. “I’d rather them play (the) 61 final games instead of them playing six and then missing 20 and then playing the rest of them.

“It’s important that they keep progressing. Whether they play Tuesday or Friday or next Saturday, it doesn’t really matter where (they come back). It’s that when they play, the rest of the time they’re ready to roll.”

Things aren’t quite as simple for the Pacers, who not only have to play without Danny Granger (knee) for three months, but also have to contend with one of the league’s toughest early season schedules. Twelve of their first 18 games will be played on the road, a factor coach Frank Vogel is working hard to manage for a team that seems a bit shell-shocked that at their struggles thus far.

“I encouraged our guys to keep any frustrations in perspective and understand we play 41 at home and 41 on the road,” Vogel told the Indianapolis Star. “We’re weathering the storm of an early tough part of our schedule … Just manage it, stay in the hunt and we’ll have our run. It could happen now; it could happen later.”

The Pacers were supposed to have a clear path to the Central Division title after the Bulls lost All-Star point guard Derrick Rose for the majority of the season due to his ACL injury suffered in the 2012 playoffs.

The Bulls have done their part, but it’s the Milwaukee Bucks, not the Pacers, who have stepped into the void early on.

Time could be on the Pacers’ side, however, especially if they do what Vogel said and survive this current crisis, highlighted by Curt Cavin of the Star:

Indiana (6-8) has a four-game homestead in January and a five-game stretch in February, part of a 9-of-11 run in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

That could coincide with the return of Danny Granger, the 6-8 forward who is out three months with a knee problem.

George Hill said all of that could help the playoff push.

“In a perfect world we wish we could come home and play (now),” he said. “I feel like we haven’t been home for two or three games.

“That part (stinks), but it will be a lot better once we hit February and we’re not traveling a lot. I’ll take the lumps and bruises now.”

Much like the Lakers, the Pacers need to be careful assuming that time will heal whatever ails them now. Sometimes lumps, bumps and bruises leave scars that never go away.

And sometimes, expectations have a way of devouring a team from the inside and turning what was supposed to be in what never was.

Bird Leaving Pacers … Walsh Returning





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The Indiana Pacers’ continued return to prominence will go on without the man who served as the architect of the project.

Hall of Famer and reigning NBA Executive of the Year Larry Bird is leaving the organization, per Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star, a move that opens the door for Bird’s predecessor and former boss, Donnie Walsh, to return to Indianapolis as the franchise’s new boss.

Unspecified health issues are reportedly among the reasons Bird is “100 percent sure” he will not stay on president of the team after meeting with Pacers owner Herb Simon today:

Bird, who is dealing with some health issues, will likely take a year off before deciding if he wants to return to any sort of front-office position.

His departure comes just three days after The Star reported that Bird’s predecessor, former CEO Donnie Walsh, is expected to return to the franchise in some capacity. There’s a possibility Walsh will take Bird’s title of president.

Simon always has respected Walsh, who spent 24 years with the Pacers before leaving to become president of basketball operations with the New York Knicks in 2008.

Walsh, who took last year off, attended several of the Pacers’ pre-draft workouts at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Kevin Pritchard, the team’s current director of player personnel, will likely work with Walsh as the team’s new general manager. Bird pushed for Pritchard to become general manager, citing Pritchard’s basketball knowledge.

David Morway, who had been the Pacers’ general manager, is no longer employed by the franchise, according to a source.

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Hang Time Podcast (Episode 79) With Mike Wells And Chris Webber

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Come playoff time, the name on the back of a NBA jersey is just as important as the name splashed across the front of the jersey.

Careers are made in the playoffs. Legends are made in the playoffs. And if you’re not careful, they can be broken in the playoffs, too.

That’s why the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, teams filled with stars whose names reverberate throughout the basketball world and beyond, are in our crosshairs this weekend.

Both teams are locked in intense battles in their respective conference finals series, the Lakers against the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Heat against the Indiana Pacers. Slip up here and the view of the stars on some of these teams is altered forever. Come back from the abyss, and that view takes a decidedly different turn.

But it’s all up to the men in those jerseys, the ones with the names on the front and back, as our good friend, five-time All-Star and NBA TV and TNT analyst Chris Webber explains on the latest Episode 79 of the Hang Time Podcast, which includes a first course from our main man and Indianapolis Star Pacers’ beat writer Mike Wells.

Check it out on Episode 79 of the Hang Time Podcast featuring Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star and Chris Webber of NBA TV and TNT:

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Lang Whitaker of SLAM Magazine and Sekou Smith of NBA.com, as well as our superproducer Micah Hart of NBA.com’s All Ball Blog and the best engineer in the business, Jarrell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

Verbal Shots Fired, Again! Vogel: Heat “Biggest Flopping Team In The NBA”





HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – Have we learned nothing from the verbal transgressions of others, Frank Vogel?

Did you not see what Kevin Garnett did to the Atlanta Hawks after their co-owner took shots at him on the eve of their Game 6 showdown last night in Boston?

Vogel, the Indiana Pacers’ coach, lobbed the first stone in his team’s Eastern Conference semifinal against the Miami Heat by telling reporters in Indianapolis that the Heat, in so many words, take flopping to artistic levels.

Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star has the goods:

“They are the biggest flopping team in the NBA,” Vogel said. “It’ll be very interesting to see how the referees officiate the series and how much flopping they reward.”

The Heat, who eliminated the New York Knicks on Wednesday, were fourth in the league in points allowed and fifth in the league in field goal percentage defense during the regular season. They like to swarm to the ball when it’s in the paint.

“Every drive to the basket, they have guys not making a play on the ball,” Vogel said, “but sliding in front of drivers. Oftentimes they’re falling down even before contact is even being made. It’ll be interesting to see how the series is officiated.”

The Heat roster does boast the league’s master technician at drawing offensive fouls, Shane Battier. But to suggest that they have the most accomplished group of actors in the league on that one roster is a bold statement.

Surely, Vogel’s statement was intended for the ears of the officials more than it was a direct shot at the Heat. At least we hope that was the case. We’ve all seen the results of bulletin-board material in these playoffs so far … Lakers center Andrew Bynum said something about close-out games being a breeze and the Lakers have lost two straight games since then.

Then again, Vogel’s team has nothing to lose. Most folks don’t have them upsetting the Heat anyway, so if this is his way of raising the stakes a bit for his team, well, more power to him. (With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and crew waiting, the Pacers know they have their hands full.)

As long as he knows what he’s getting his team into!

Pacers’ West: Time To Keep It Real!





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The Pacers acquired David West for more than just his abilities on the basketball court. They added the veteran power forward for his presence, leadership and penchant for staying calm in the midst of a fuss.

A four-game losing streak for an upstart crew like the Pacers would qualify as a mini-fuss, at least. So it should come as no surprise that West spoke up after the Pacers’ latest setback, an ugly loss in Orlando.

He addressed the Pacers’ struggles against playoff caliber teams and reminded his teammates publicly that if they are serious about contending this season, they have to realize that good teams don’t get their doors blown off the way they did against Orlando, telling all that and more to Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star:

“We beat up on bad teams, but just can’t compete against the good teams,” West said. “Games we’ve had against playoff-caliber teams, we’ve lost to them. That’s the measure to where we are. We just have to be real about it.”

Yes, the Pacers have impressive road victories over Boston, Orlando, the Lakers, Dallas and Chicago this season.

But all those wins happened by Feb. 3.

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About Last Night: Pacers Shock

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Did you miss the fireworks show in Los Angeles last night?

And we’re not talking about Blake Griffin‘s vicious 35-point, 14-rebound, seven-assist effort in a losing effort against the Utah Jazz. No, we’re talking about the surging Indiana Pacers — yes, that’s surging — and their upset of the Los Angeles Lakers on the two-time defending champ’s home floor.

The Pacers have notched wins over the Lakers and Heat and have won six of their past 10 games. If that doesn’t qualify as surging, we’re not sure what does.

The Prime Minister is certainly feeling good about “his Pacers” getting things going. He’s already begun the chatter about Pacers center Roy Hibbert sneaking his way onto the Eastern Conference All-Star team (with Dwight Howard getting voted in as the center, he figures Hibbert can battle Al Horford and Joakim Noah for a reserve spot). You already know about our grassroots campaign for Josh “McBob” McRoberts to make it to All-Star Weekend for the slam dunk competition.

But there is more going on with these Pacers, as my main man Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star explains:

Danny Granger said he hopes the rest of the league is taking notice of what they’re doing.

Kobe Bryant (season-high 41 points) is definitely taking note. He called the Pacers a playoff team.

“We’re not sneaking up on anybody anymore,” Roy Hibbert said. “We are a very talented team. You know we got guys that can shoot and I’m trying to put in work down there in the post. Only good things can come if we keep working and communicating.”

One of the most impressive things about the Pacers’ victories at Miami and the Lakers is that they built a double-digit lead against both of those teams and fought off the runs they made on them.

I’ve talked to a number of scouts around the league over the past few weeks and they’ve all said the Pacers are a dangerous team. Hibbert is getting rave reviews from so many people.

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