PUTTING TOGETHER THE PACERS PUZZLE
to do it, they just don’t care to do it. Not over and over again, anyway. All those
collisions take their toll after a while, even the virtual fender-benders.
“A lot of guys don’t want to give up their bodies,” said Pacers coach Nate
McMillan, who has seen a few picks and rolls in his 12 seasons as an NBA player
and 14 as an NBA head coach. “That’s a physical part of the game, giving up your
body and saying, ‘Run into me.’”
Kyle O’Quinn says that, in so many words at least, without flinching. Said it
in fact to president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard when they met for
dinner back in June, before O’Quinn signed a one-year contract with the Pacers.
“He said,” Pritchard recalled, “’What I really like to do is go set a screen.’ He
goes, ‘If you think Victor (Oladipo) and Tyreke (Evans) got open before, I’m going
to get them open.”
O’Quinn is listed at 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds. He looks slimmer than in past
seasons, not that anyone in Indianapolis had been intently studying his body fat
during his previous three seasons in New York, but he admitted only to losing “a
couple” of pounds.
Regardless, he’s plenty big enough to continue setting screens. That might
not sound like a topic worthy of discussion, but in today’s NBA, which is often
declared “a pick-and-roll league,” it’s nearly as important as assists and made
shots. Because so many of the assists and made shots come as the result of
The NBA has been filled with effective screeners for at least 50 years. Thick
centers dating back to Wayne Embry and Wes Unseld in the Sixties have planted
themselves near the foul line and tried to knock defending guards out of position
so teammates could find an opening. McMillan recalls classic executioners of
the practice such as Maurice Lucas, Clemon Johnson and Xavier McDaniel from
her era. Karl Malone and John Stockton were so effective with their pick and rolls
that “Stockton to Malone” became a part of NBA lingo.
Perimeter screens are a bigger part of today’s game than ever, though, and
are an essential part of any halfcourt offense. As 3-point
shooters have improved, offenses have become more
perimeter-oriented. The old inside-out attacks (such
as those the Pacers utilized with Rik Smits or Jermaine
O’Neal) in which teams dropped a pass into the low post,
tried to draw a double-team, then kicked the ball back out
to an open shooter, gradually disappeared.
It’s no wonder, with so many players shooting better
than 40 percent from the 3-point line, about as well as
centers were shooting on defended shots in the low post.
“You’ve got to guard the 3-point line like you had to
guard the post years ago,” McMillan said.
“Probably over 90 percent of your sets are going to be
starting with a screen, trying to force the defense to make
a decision somewhere.”
Screening isn’t much fun, though. Those who do it well
and do it willingly have a certain personality, similar to an
offensive lineman in football. You’re sacrificing your body
to get a teammate free to score or set up someone else to
score. McMillan tells his players that if one of them is open
everyone is open, because the defense has to scramble
to cover. And the best way to get one player open in the
halfcourt is with a bone-jarring screen.
The problem is finding someone to do the dirty work.
Domantas Sabonis established himself as an effective
pick-and-roll instigator with Lance Stephenson last season, but O’Quinn is
poised to take it to another level.
“We haven’t charted that, but guys could set 50-100 screens a game,
depending on how many minutes they play,” McMillan said. “When a guy is
running at you full-speed and guards are busting through trying to get over that
screen, or through that screen, it requires you to take that contact. And then be
able to do it again.
“He has the body to do that, he has the mindset to do that. It’s somewhat old
school, the way he plays and how physical he plays. That’s something that can
rub off on your team. We need that; we want that. We like how physical he plays
in the paint.
“We had an opportunity to see that last year in New York when we were there
and he kicked us a couple of times, and he’s certainly bringing that into our
His teammates have noticed – particularly Darren Collison, who has spent
time with NBA Hall of Famer Steve Nash the past couple of off-seasons for
tutoring on running a pick-and-roll from the guard’s perspective. Point guards
appreciate good screens more than anyone.
“I didn’t realize he was such a good pick-setter,” Collison said. “His ability to
get the guards open and his ability to pass, too, has impressed me.
“It’s a want-to. It’s a mental thing. If you want to get your guys open you’ll get
your guys open. You’ve got to love physicality. If I was a big I don’t know if I would
set that many picks.”
O’Quinn does because he has a generous nature, which can be seen in
YouTube videos from his seasons in New York. But he’s also well aware of the
subtle selfish reasons for being unselfish. Setting a good screen is an avenue
toward playing time. It’s also a way to get open for a shot if his defender leaves
to guard the ballhandler.
“The only way I can get open is if I open up someone else,” he said. “I don’t think
Coach is going to call an iso for me this season. If I screen
to get somebody open, potentially that’s my opportunity to
touch the rock.”
MOBILE MCDERMOTT HOPES HE’S FOUND
The Pacers were D oug McDermott’s favorite team as a kid
growing up in Iowa, and that’s not something he claims just
because he’s signed a contract with the Pacers. He’s got the
paraphernalia to prove it.
He had a Reggie Miller jersey as a kid, and later replicas
for Jermaine O’Neal and Austin Croshere. Had a Pacers
sweatshirt that he wore out, too. Wore wristbands the
way Miller did. Pretended to be Miller while shooting in the
driveway at home. Convinced his father to drive over from
Cedar Rapids, Iowa for a game to watch Miller play once.
Had his picture taken with Miller before a practice during
the NCAA tournament.
He didn’t dare take Miller’s jersey number, 31, though.
“That would have been disrespectful,” he said Friday,
when introduced at a press conference at Bankers Life
He’ll wear No. 20, the same number he wore last season
WE GROW BASKETBALL HERE INDIANA PACERS 2018-1 9 YEARBOOK