Nate McMillan’s season wrap-up press conference

McMillan met with reporters for 25 minutes on Thursday to look back on the 2016-17 season.

Four days after the Pacers’ season came to an end, Sunday afternoon in a Game 4 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, head coach Nate McMillan spoke with reporters about his first season has head coach here.

McMillan answered questions for 25 minutes, with questions ranging from team identity, leadership, and what went wrong during the 2016-17, to their needs going into next year and what exactly individual players must work on.

Just before the press conference began, Tamika Catchings, the newest member of the front office at Pacers Sports & Entertainment, entered. She observed from the back of the room.

Scroll down to the bottom to listen to the entire press conference.

Key points and quotes from the press conference are below:

  • Like the players, McMillan sat down with Larry Bird to discuss his first year as Pacers head coach. “Just talked about the season and a little bit about what we would like to do this offseason. It was a good conversation.”
  • Capsule of the season: Need to be more consistent, tougher, improve rebounding and maturity.
  • McMillan is open to Lance Stephenson be the starting shooting guard next season. “I’m certainly open to trying to balance our roster depending on who we have on our roster next season.”
  • When asked about the team’s identity and style of play for next year, he says a lot is going to depend on the roster and how free agency goes. “We have a couple guys who are free agents that I’m sure we’re going to be looking to sign. We have a few guys that have option years that they may opt out. If they do that, can we bring them back or do we replace them with another player?
  • McMillan says he is planning for next season with the belief that Paul George will be here. “Paul is under contract and I had a good conversation with Paul during our meeting. He wants the same thing that I want, the organization wants — and that’s to win. He is under contract so my plans are that we will be back with us.”
  • Jeff Teague, who will be an unrestricted free agent, expressed that he really wanted to be back, according to McMillan. “After having him for a season, as I told him, he needs to be better. I think I can make him better.”
  • During exit interviews, McMillan wants to hear feedback from the players. He wants to hear what worked, how they felt about his coaching, the assistants, and more. “The number one goal for us was to make the playoffs. This was not a rebuild, it was more of a reload.”
  • McMillan also goes through what he wants each player to do in the offseason and how they can come back better players.
  • He didn’t want to pigeonhole Myles Turner to the four or the five. “I think he can play the four and the five. Is there room to bring another big in, like we played him two seasons ago with Ian Mahinmi, a bigger center? I think that’s a possibility. But I think he has the versatility to play both positions.”
  • The number one thing for Turner this summer is to work on his strength.
  • He understands the issues in defensive communication. Six new players, a new coach, combined with quiet personalities did not bode well. “When you’re out there, you can’t assume that your teammates are going to read your mind. You have to communicate all actions out on the floor. It seems like a simple thing, but (for) so many teams that’s a challenge.”
  • McMillan wants his guys to be better conditioned from Day 1, and now having to play their way into shape. He thought after a historic first half in Game 3, that his team wore down. “We may have left it all in that first half.”
  • On conditioning he added: “You might think you’re tired. Mentally, you have to find ways to get past that in order to win games this time of the season.”
  • On their road woes: “We just didn’t have that mental toughness and focus that you need to win ball games. We were playing those games without the urgency, and at times, without the respect of our opponents.
  • Adding Stephenson to the roster was good because the team needed a boost, that energy and that kind of passion. “All season long I was pretty much working with somewhat of a quiet group that needed someone to lift that passion on the floor.”
  • He said the assumption is that Paul George is the leader. “I think he tried to be more vocal during the start of the season, but what you saw at the end of the season it was by example. And I thought the players followed that.”
  • McMillan said he does believe George is the leader of this team, noting that teammates follow his actions. “When he has been good for us, we have won games.”
  • Can Paul George play all season like he did the final month and a half of the season: “That was part of our conversation. …
  • McMillan stressed how it takes time to learn how to play with everyone out there. Teague is ball dominant, Thad Young was new for the team at the four, and Turner at the five. He felt that guys came in and tried to feel out the situation. “It got to the point where Paul said, ‘Look, I got to take my game to another level.”
  • If George can consistently play at that level, McMillan told him that then we’re talking about MVP.
  • He was comfortable with playing Glenn Robinson III, whether it was at the two or three. Glenn played his way into the rotation. “I like his talent, I like what he brought to the team. I felt like every time he got a chance to play, he gave us something good.”
  • “I thought Glenn has a great summer last year. He was in great shape when he came into camp. There was a challenge put out to him that he had to come in and earn the right to be on the floor. There’s a similar challenge presented to him this offseason to work hard and improve his game, improve his shooting, improve his strength, to be able to get minutes next season.”

Larry Bird, the Pacers’ President of Basketball Operations, is scheduled to meet with the media on Monday at 11:00 am.

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