PUTTING TOGETHER THE PACERS PUZZLE
BY MARK MONTIETH
Building an NBA team is like trying to solve a gigantic puzzle. “With 100,000
pieces,” said Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard and he
probably isn’t joking.
Pritchard is the man responsible for putting together the Pacers’ puzzle. Each
year, and even throughout the year, he and his staff must look at all the pieces and
try to figure it out. Think about it. You have your roster that is already assembled;
you have a draft of college players (following pre-draft camps and pre-draft
workouts); summer league; then there’s free agency (which contains its own
Rubik’s Cube called the salary cap); there are expiring contracts, contracts to be
extended; looking at all this there are background checks, personal interviews,
medical records to be checked; what players fit into the system/culture. Oh, and
don’t forget the February trading deadline. There’s more but space dictates to
keep this list under 100 pages.
It seems 100,000 pieces sounds about right. Since he took over Pritchard
has been pretty good with the puzzle. In 2017, he acquired Victor Oladipo and
Domantas Sabonis from Oklahoma City for Paul George. Oladipo became an All-
Star and the NBA’s Most Improved Player. Sabonis, in just his second season,
is one of the NBA’s best Sixth Men and could be destined for the All-Star game
as well. Pritchard also signed free agent point guards Darren Collison and Cory
Joseph, making that position as solid as it has been in years, and free agent
forward Bojan Bogdanovic, who provided a 3-point shooting threat. The result?
48-34 record, No. 5 seed in the East and a push-to-the-limits seven-game playoff
loss to Cleveland. This from a team that was projected to win around 30 games.
This summer, it was back to the puzzle box. Would Joseph and Thad Young
opt in on the last year of their contracts (they did)? Lance Stephenson went to
the Lakers, bring in Tyreke Evans; Al Jefferson, a valuable backup center and
presence in the lockerroom, went to China, bring in Kyle O’Quinn. More 3-point
shooting needed, bring in Doug McDermott. Myles Turner faced restricted free
agency next summer, bring in an October contract extension. How these pieces
fit this season remains to be seen. But Pacers.com writer Mark Monteith, took a
look at some of these key pieces below.
OLADIPO READY TO MAKE HIMSELF HEARD
You always know when Victor Oladipo enters the room. He doesn’t wait to be
noticed, doesn’t wait to be talked to, but rather announces his presence for all
“Hi, everybody!” he shouted as he entered the interview room reserved for
Pacers Media Day on Monday. He then held up his cell phone and began recording
video of the reporters awaiting him.
“What’s up, y’all!? Y’all good!? Everybody good!?” he shouted again as he took
a seat at the table on the raised platform. “Testing!” he added, leaning into the
Always upbeat, always clowning, always assertive, Oladipo has left no doubt
about his place on the Pacers. He might not be their only leader but he’s clearly the
leader, having leapfrogged older players such as Darren Collison and Thaddeus
Young and more tenured players such as Myles Turner. It wasn’t a coincidence
he was the one placed in the middle of the group photos that followed, the one
holding the basketball.
He’s two years removed from being traded by Orlando to Oklahoma City. He’s
one year removed from being traded by Oklahoma City, where he had been an
also-ran complement to Russell Westbrook, to the Pacers. Now he’s the most
popular Pacers player since Reggie Miller, who retired 13 years ago, and the most
influential team member on and off the court.
All because he’s had the willpower to make himself noticed.
“He’s the reason why the whole team is so positive,” Collison said out on the
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