Agness’ Observations: Pacers Training Camp 2015

Pacers camp opens with 17 players.

Pacers camp opens tneth 17 players.

The Indiana Pacers have a completely new look and feel to this year’s team. Just eight players are back from last season’s group, with starters David West and Roy Hibbert the two key pieces no longer around.

The Pacers have 17 guys in for training camp, which opened on Tuesday, Sept. 29. 15 guys have this upcoming season fully guaranteed in their contracts; Toney Douglas has a partial guarantee and C.J. Fair is back for the second consecutive fall on a training camp deal.

The two biggest changes to be implemented in camp, in addition to teaching the new pieces (plus three rookies), include a quicker style of play and spacing the floor with four shooters always in rather than two traditional big men.

[Pacers Podcast: Ep. 1 — Recapping a busy offseason]

The team is currently scheduled to have three two-a-days in the first week, a more are expected the following week. (Session two is not open to the media.) Their first preseason game is on Saturday, Oct. 3 at 7:00 p.m. vs. the New Orleans Pelicans. Their 82-game regular season schedule begins on Wednesday, Oct. 28 across the border in Toronto.

[Pacers Media Day in Full — Let’s get running, Paul George’s new role, George Hill as a sex symbol]

In addition to my stories throughout camp, I’ll share my daily observations from practice below. This is my third year in a row posting daily practice observations. [Last year’s notes.]

Tuesday, Sept. 29 (AM) — Practice No. 1

+ “It’s a big change,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said after the first official practice. He intends to run the guys more in this year’s camp as they move to a more uptempo style of play. It’ll obviously some time to teach what they want to do at both ends. Like when you played as a child, Vogel even broke down the simplest things on the first day … such as the steps to defending in transition.

+ Vogel: “This is a whole another level what we’re asking for them to do. Not just running, but with spacing. Having more of a spread offensive mindset versus a smash-mouth basketball mindset. … Where we are spacing on the court is the biggest thing.”

+ As usual, the team ended practice by completing a full-court layup drill. The goal continues to be 82 layups in two minutes, or 41 in one minute. Then, they each had to make 50 free throws before coming together at mid-court to conclude practice.

Rookie Myles Turner was a popular man after his first practice as a Pacer.

Rookie Myles Turner was a popular man after his first practice as a Pacer.

+ First-round pick Myles Turner, who participated in everything except for conditioning due to minor soreness: “Day 1, I’m just excited to be out here.”

+ Paul George talked again at length with reporters and said his first impression was that the perimeter felt crowded, but in a good way. That will improve in time.

+ George was surprised to learn this summer that he’s (fifth) cousins with rookie Joe Young. “We’re not blood cousins. … He calls me big cuz and that’s little cuz. He’s family regardless.”

+ George Hill said that he and his longtime girlfriend, Sam, are expecting their first child, a boy.

+ Vogel on Glenn Robinson III: “We brought him in here as a guy that’s probably going to spend some time in the D-League, but a young talent that we’re excited about his upside. What he did in September (during pickup games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse) is show me that he was for real. He’s not a couple-years-away guy. … There were a lot of days in September when he was the best player on the court. And that was very, very impressive to me.”

+ All ten of the team’s scouts are in town — as usual this time of year — for camp and meetings. Fort Wayne Mad Ants newly-named General Manager Brian Levy, who has been around a lot over the last month, was also on hand.

+ The Pacers held a press conference to announce that, as the result of a partnership with Teachers Credit Union, the practice court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse had been renamed TCU Court.

+ Single-game tickets are expected to go on sale in mid-October.

+ Pacers fans will really like the local television coverage of games. An official announcement will be made on Wednesday.

Wednesday, Sept. 30 (AM) — Practice No. 3

Turner picked up doughnuts on the way to practice Wednesday.

Turner picked up doughnuts on the way to practice Wednesday.

+ The Pacers third preseason game was moved from Oct. 9 to Oct. 8 due to a conflict with the Fever hosting Game 3 of the WNBA Finals.

+ Myles Turner had some required rookie duties before the first practice of the day on Wednesday.

+ “I’m seeing the team take shape,” said coach Frank Vogel. “It is very early, obviously, but we look dramatically different than what we’ve looked like the last couple of years. The speed is what’s exciting me. Speed at all positions.

+ Ian Mahinmi has ran with the first team in practice and impressed through three practices. “He’s one of the guys in the first two days that’s looked the best,” Vogel said. He’s mostly gone up against Jordan Hill.

+ As for the play of the big guys, how they play and are utilized will look very different than in previous seasons. Sure, there will be some back to the basket stuff, but mostly the coaches want their center, the only “big” on the floor, to space the floor, roll off screens, and work the baseline.

PG and Turner watching their teammates complete the '82 in 2' layup drill.

PG and Turner watching their teammates complete the ’82 in 2′ layup drill.

+ Paul George, who, along with Myles Turner, sat out the end of practice when the media was allowed in, a conditioning portion, has no restrictions, Vogel reiterated. As of Wednesday, there’s no minute restrictions or plan to keep him out certain preseason games. Turner entered camp with some soreness, but nothing to be concerned about.

+ In the stands: ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla, the new Mad Ants staff, and Jim Jones, Larry Bird’s high school coach (Spring Valley).

+ The date for the team’s annual FanJam has been set.

Thursday, Oct. 1 (AM) — Practice No. 4

+ Now several practices in, the Pacers are playing more to get reps with the schemes that are being installed. “These guys are feeling it, I hope,” coach Frank Vogel said.

+ Typically the coaches implement defense first at the start of camp, but this year they began with fast breaks. “It’s part about the running game, part about the spacing game and half court, and how we’re going to space because it’s new to everybody,” said Vogel.

+ Media was allowed in for the final five minutes or so and witnessed Monta Ellis and Ian Mahinmi run a nice pick-and-roll that resulted in a Mahinmi flush (see video below).

+ Ellis has gone through everything in camp, according to Vogel, but his backed flared up at the end of practice when he was using a screen. “I haven’t given the blue team a lot of subs,” Vogel said. Rodney Stuckey (a little stiff), Shayne Whittington (shoulder), Myles Turner (knees, limited), Joe Young (groin) also missed some time. All minor bumps and bruises.

+ Turner practice for about an hour and 15 minutes, but the training staff wants to rest his knees (soreness). He was, however, the last one off the floor shooting free throws. Vogel instructed him to leave to get off of his feet ahead of their second session at 6:00 p.m. (Watch my complete interview with him below.)

+ Vogel on their first preseason game Saturday: “Everybody’s going to play. No one will play a lot. It will almost like just getting another practice in. We’ll practice what we’re working on. … It’s really just working on the details and the fundamentals we’re trying to build.”

+ The team brought in two local officials, primarily because it allows the assistant coaches to focus on coaching and not worry about making calls.

+ The team will have another session Thursday evening. The focuses in the P.M.: Conditioning, shooting, shell defense against coaches and 5-on-0 (skeleton) offense.

+ Hall of Famer and Pacers radio analyst Slick Leonard visited camp, and Fever star Tamika Catchings spent some time watching.

[Pacers Podcast: Ep. 2 — Camp Begins, Conversations with Joe Young, Shayne Whittington, Jordan Hill]

+ For the first time in franchise history, all 82 regular-season games will be televised … on FOX Sports Indiana. They will also televise two preseason games, Oct. 15 at Cleveland and Oct. 22 against Charlotte in Fort Wayne.

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