Notes and quotes from the Pacers’ end-of-season press conference

Kevin Pritchard, Nate McMillan, Pacers

The Indiana Pacers’ 2017-18 season ended in dramatic fashion, down to a seventh and final game of a first-round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but LeBron James’ sheer brilliance was too much, again.

So with just six players brought back from last year’s roster, the Pacers won 51 games, including the postseason, earned the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, and was prominently shown on national TV for all seven playoff games. (That’s six more appearances than their entire 82-game slate.)

On Tuesday, Pacers President Kevin Pritchard and coach Nate McMillan met with reporters to wrap another year. The highlights are below.

Kevin Pritchard

  • Opening comments: “This really was a remarkable year. Sometimes words can’t express how much gratitude we have for this team and there are so many thanks to go around because, from top to bottom, there’s some people that made some major sacrifices.”
  • He was worried about the fans at the beginning of the season, considering all the changes, but he felt their impact. He heard their impact.
  • In July, he presented owner Herb Simon with possibilities for them to tank, more focused on the future. But he was instructed by Simon to put together a legitimate team that the fans could rally around. And he hit a home run.
  • “Victor is a superstar player.” Pritchard then praised Oladipo for his ability to start fresh each day, hitting the reset button.
  • Pritchard concluded his opening remarks by praising Nate McMillan: “I feel myself getting a little emotional. … There is no job more difficult in this league. … I couldn’t be prouder to work beside a man like this.”
  • He continued: “I saw a different Nate this year. I challenged him on a couple things each week, and that was to try to enjoy the process.”
  • At the beginning of the season, they didn’t set a goal for wins. Instead, they were focused on laying the foundation and setting the culture. Pritchard is a big culture guy who closely evaluates players based on fit, probably more than any other franchise. And it paid off big time.
  • “In days of major contracts and big business, we asked our players to put all the egos and selfishness and come together to a team and overachieve, because nobody thinks you can do it.”
  • Pritchard says he plans to take a day or two to sit back, drink a glass of wine (or two), and reflect on the season — something he has never done before.
  • In addition to McMillan and Pritchard, owner and alternate governor Steve Simon addressed the team after their Game 7 loss. And the players were “hurt to their bones” that the season was over, noting that many were sad and in tears. They believed they should have moved on.
  • On Thad Young and Cory Joseph: “They’re core to what we do. … Those two really start our decision-making process.”
  • Oladipo was at the practice facility by 8:30 am Monday morning, the first day of the offseason. Pritchard estimated that he put up 200 shots and was “getting after it” in the weight room.
  • “His positivity pulls everybody up.” Oladipo is the foundational piece of a franchise, he says.
  • On Turner and Sabonis: “The ceiling is really high and we think they can complement each other.”
  • On Bojan Bogdanoivc: “We knew that he had more on the offensive end, but Nate and Dan Burke and the defensive staff felt like there was something on the defensive end, maybe we wouldn’t have to hide him.”
  • On Damien Wilkins: “We got completely lucky in knowing that we had the best locker room person already in the building.”
  • He called Al Jefferson the most important piece to the roster, knowing his role, how to motivate the guys, and being the best mentor he could be. “I’m suited for this,” Al told KP in his exit interview.
  • Pritchard challenged Oladipo during his exit interview: Are you a one-hit wonder? His response: “No, I’m more Michael Jackson.”
  • Both Pritchard and McMillan emphasized the importance to keep the focus on this year and their special season. They’re not thinking about summer changes and next year — not yet. (But the questions kept coming.)
  • They’ll look to add shooting to the team, as well as versatility, guys that can defend spots 1, 2, and 3.
  • Pritchard believes the trade market could be robust since many teams lack cap space and will seek relief.

Nate McMillan

  • Nate thanked the fans, specifically after the Paul George trade. “The only support I felt was from this community. You guys have been on board with what we’re doing all season long. That was the only support we had going into the season — and really was all we needed.”
  • “We have a good foundation, now we’ll enjoy it..”
  • On Myles Turner: “I’m happy with what he is doing and how he is playing.” He still needs to get strong, more confident. “Myles’ ability to pick-and-pop, roll, handle the ball … is just as effective as having a low-post center play in the center five, ten years ago.”
  • “I love what that kid brings to the floor.”
  • He made a point to express his frustration with only appearing on national TV just once. “You got to earn it. That’s what this team has been about all season long.”

The entire press conference can be view below (via @Pacers on Facebook):

Stay tuned. More to come from this press conference.

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