Agness’ Observations: Pacers Training Camp 2016

Training Camp, 2016.

Training Camp, 2016.

For the fourth consecutive year, VigilantSports.com proudly presents: Agness’ Observations.

The offseason moves have been made — plenty of them, in fact — and now it’s on the coaches and players to get prepared for the 2016-17 NBA season.

This team unquestionably belongs to Paul George. He’s the face of the franchise, he’s the star, and he’s the leader. No longer does he have David West, Roy Hibbert, or George Hill to share in those duties.

It’s also the start of the Nate McMillan Era. He’s beginning his 13th NBA season as a head coach, now leading his third different team. (Previously: Seattle and Portland.)

LISTEN: Five minutes with Nate McMillan before camp

The Pacers went 45-37 last season and fell in Game 7 of the first-round of the playoffs to the Toronto Raptors. The core of these team now centers around veterans, been there and done that type of guys. Veterans like Al Jefferson, Aaron Brooks, Thad Young were drawn to the Pacers for their sustainability, competitiveness, and an opportunity to win an NBA title.

The Pacers will play six games in the preseason, but only one at home. That will come on Thursday, Oct. 6 against the Chicago Bulls. FanJam is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 23 and then their season opener will be at home on Wednesday, Oct. 26 against the Dallas Mavericks.

[Click here for a breakdown of Indiana’s regular-season schedule]

In addition to my stories throughout camp, I’ll share my daily observations from practice below. This is my fourth year in a row posting daily practice observations.

Previous editions:

2013  | 2014  |  2015

Monday, Sept. 26 — Media Day

+ Nearly everyone is healthy. Myles Turner suffered a “mild” concussion last week and has entered the NBA’s concussion protocol. Jeremy Evans, who had offseason surgery, is limited.

+ Goals are high from the beginning — and why not?

“Our first goal is to win the Central, and to win the East,” said McMillan. “That’s what we’re preparing for. … We want to win and we want to win big. That’s the goal.”

“Jeremy Evans is still rehabbing and is not on the court playing right now. It’s a possibility that he may not be ready to, certainly he won’t be ready for training camp, and I would say maybe not even ready for the start of the season. So we are still rehabbing him and his situation.”

PHOTOS: Best dozen snapshots from media day

+ McMillan says that members of the team must be willing to reinvent themselves.

“We have to reinvent how we play. Monta Ellis – managing his minutes won’t be a problem because we have the depth to do so. His game used to be attacking. A lot of these guys are not comfortable shooting the three. Well, you have to change your mindset. You have to shoot the three, that has to be a part of your attack now because the way the defense are playing you.”

Paul George is beginning his seventh NBA season.

Paul George is beginning his seventh NBA season.

+ Coach does not plan to manage the workload of Paul George, because of his participation in the Olympics, more than any other player.

+ We already knew this, but McMillan said the starting lineup is set: Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, Paul George, Thad Young, Myles Turner.

+ McMillan plans to play a nine-man rotation, and he would be open to ten guys if another player plays so well that he can’t keep him out of the rotation. (Looking at you Lavoy Allen, Glenn Robinson III, and Joe Young). The second unit will consist of Aaron Brooks, Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Miles, and Al Jefferson.

+ McMillan said that he views Paul George as a three (small forward). “A versatile three.”

+ The 19-man roster includes nine players from last year’s team that had unfair expectations to play much faster. That’s not the case after Larry Bird make significant moves over the summer.

McMillan: “I’ve seen what he has tried to do and the direction that he wants to go with the roster. He has now done that. He has brought in the players I think that can play style now.”

+ Al Jefferson said the opportunity to compete for a championship with the Pacers was key in his decision to sign with the Pacers.

+ Aaron Brooks said he doesn’t feel any pressure living on one-year contracts. He knows his role, and teams know it.

+ I got Lavoy Allen to be serious in an interview. Huge accomplishment. Blog on him to come.

+ Talk about burying the lede, an extended interview with Monta Ellis was enlightening. Coach McMillan hit on the players needing to reinvent themselves, and that’s exactly what Ellis discussed doing.

Last year was challenging for the 30-year-old as he was finally hit with the realization that he was older and would need to mange his body and health even more. Eat better, take the weight room seriously, and, as simple as it sounds, get plenty of sleep.

I appreciate Ellis sharing with us. More on him in a future story.

Tuesday, Sept. 27 (AM) — Practice No. 1

Pacers have 19 players in camp, including 16 with guaranteed contracts.

Pacers have 19 players in camp, including 16 with guaranteed contracts.

+ Nate McMillan emphasized defense at his first practice as head coach. That sets the tone for the new season.

“We’ve been talking about pace and style of play; it starts with the defensive end of the floor,” McMillan said. “You got to make sure that you guard, you rebound that ball before you can run with the ball.”

The focus was on understanding assignments and getting the basics in during this practice. Being a small team will require the five players on the court to work together to play team defense with a lot of help off of the ball.

+ McMillan says he plans to install fewer sets than in the past. He wants to be more trusting of the guys to play more of a read-and-react style of play.

“We won’t be giving these guys a lot offensively because, really, this year is about trusting the team to be able to go out there and play without stopping them or slowing them down, calling a lot of sets.”

+ Myles Turner remains in the NBA’s concussion protocol program. He was at the Fieldhouse Tuesday, but then was sent home by the medical staff. He was not there when the media was allowed to watch the final 10 minutes of practice.

“We’re going to have to be patient with him,” McMillan said. “We don’t expect him to be here tomorrow. It’s going to be a day-to-day situation with him.”

+ The dreaded conditioning test will be held later tonight during practice no. 2.

+ Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird was at practice Tuesday with a walking boot on his right foot. Once practice ended, he walked out with a crutch under his right arm.

+ Butler head coach Chris Holtmann was in the stands for practice, along with Fever assistants Gary Kloppenburg and Carlos Knox.

[VIDEOS: Nate McMillan, Paul George, Jeff Teague after the first practice]

+ One of McMillan’s talking points: Don’t mess around trying to make something happen when two or more defenders are there.

“We don’t play in traffic, we don’t throw in traffic, we don’t dribble in traffic. That’s a turnover,” he instructed. “… If there’s two people there, give up the ball. Simple game.”

+ Despite several players wearing headbands at media day, like Jeff Teague, Lavoy Allen, and Myles Turner, nobody wore one at practice.

+ Jeremy Evans rode a stationary bike.

2 Responses to Agness’ Observations: Pacers Training Camp 2016
  1. Mjt-cpa
    September 28, 2016 | 8:27 am

    Great job! First day, new players, new coaches, new style. Busy time. Thanks for the hard work.

    • Scott Agness
      September 28, 2016 | 10:56 am

      I appreciate it. You are right, there’s plenty for fans to be excited about regarding the make up and potential of this team. Thanks for commenting.

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