Indiana Pacers Force Lance Stephenson Out of Indiana

Over the Summer Lance Stephenson signed a three-year deal worth $27 million with the Charlotte Hornets as an unrestricted free agent in July. The choice wasn’t easy for him cause his first choice was to be a Pacer again. The Pacer aggressively went after Stephenson offering him a five-year 44 million dollar deal. Why did one of the best six men in the business leave 17 million dollars on the table.  The Pacers gave Stephenson a time period to sign which didn’t give him and his agent enough time to look at things. They went on to listen to other offers. The Pacers then signed C.J Miles after Stephenson said no to the offer. With the deal completed the Pacers didn’t have nothing in the tank to sign Stephenson.    He will return to Indiana on Nov 19th for the first time as the enemy and hopefully, he wont be blowing breezes in no ones ears. The post Indiana Pacers Force Lance Stephenson Out of Indiana appeared first on Basketball Bicker.

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NBA 2K15: Indiana Pacers Star Paul George to Play Fans Online on Opening Night

The Indiana Pacers Paul George can’t be with his team this season due to the unfortunate leg injury he suffered during exhibition games with Team USA, but he can still ball out on NBA 2K15.

He’ll do just that on Tuesday night as the NBA season opens with three games. At approximately 7 pm ET, George will hop online to play in the game’s MyPark mode to play against fans.

For those who aren’t aware of the MyPark mode, it allows gamers to take their created likenesses to street courts and the fictional Jordan Rec Center to team up and play against other members of the NBA 2K community.

On Tuesday, George will be in that number.

With three games on tap on opening night, NBA 2K/NBA fans can start their hoops day an hour early. The Orlando Magic at New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs games tip off at 8 pm ET. So that gives fans an hour to ball with George before flipping to the real action.

Obviously, everyone won’t be able to play with George, but you can still watch the game live on 2K Sports’ Twitch channel. It is expected to be a packed virtual house, so 2K is asking fans who are interested in watching to RSVP for the event here.

Game play should be smooth for the event as a patch to fix stability in the mode was released on Friday.

I spoke with social media manager Ronnie Singh aka “Ronnie 2K,” and he indicated that George’s in-game character would look exactly like him during the live stream. We’ll soon find out how much virtual game George has.

 

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Can Roy Hibbert Be the Centerpiece of the Indiana Pacers Offense?

Roy Hibbert limped across the finish line last season, bottoming out in the playoffs on an extended offensive slide that begin months earlier. It was an ugly end to the year, but each new season offers a chance for a fresh start. 

Without Paul George and Lance Stephenson, the Indiana Pacers will be looking for a new focus for their offensive attack. Hibbert has a lot to offer, but it will require changes from both he and the team to make things work.

Hibbert shot a career-low 43.9 percent from the field last season, but his efficiency was definitely split into two segments. Over his first 41 games, Hibbert shot 46.4 percent, essentially his career average. Across the last 40 games of the season he just 41 percent. 

It was a down season in several other offensive categories as well. He averaged a career-low 11.3 field-goal attempts per-36 minutes and a career-low 24.5 percent of his attempts came from within three feet of the basket, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

According to the NBA’s SportVU Player Tracking statistics, Hibbert averaged less than 10 touches per game between the elbow and the low block combined last season. These statistics are not available for previous seasons, so it’s impossible to frame that number as part of a downward trend.

Even given his struggles with efficiency, having Hibbert touch the ball in scoring zones less than 10 times a night seems like a huge missed opportunity, especially considering that the Pacers averaged nearly 95 offensive possessions per game last season.

Sometimes it was hard to tell which aspect was driving which, but there was clearly a relationship between Hibbert‘s struggles and his level of offensive involvement on the team. As he had a harder time scoring efficiently, his teammates become less likely to involve him in the offense, which dragged on his confidence, which perpetuated the cycle, ad infinitum.

As the Pacers offense was crumbling, Tim Donahue of 8points9seconds.com talked about how the offensive dynamic between Hibbert and the rest his teammates was contributing to the problems:

Roy Hibbert is like that guy among your group of high school or college friends who never moves beyond those years. As change happens, he becomes more and more out of his element and increasingly unhappy. As the group grows and evolves, he stays the same, becoming out of tune. Since he won’t or can’t adapt, the group is forced to either adapt to him or leave him behind, Adapting to him means limiting the possibilities and opportunities of the others and the group as a whole. This can lead to stagnation or resentment or worse.

I would argue that the issue on Hibbert‘s side is more about an inability to change than an unwillingness. Almost everything he has to offer is centered around the low post. His middling speed and coordination put a cap on his effectiveness as a screener in the pick-and-roll. He has no consistent mid-range jump shot to speak of.

Those limitations were an issue last season because George and Stephenson were growing in effectiveness and commanding a bigger role in the offense. A lot of their offensive strengths were built around the pick-and-roll and getting into the lane. Having Hibbert stationed on the block meant that there was usually an extra defender between a penetrating Pacer and the basket. 

Without George and Stephenson, there is no one on the Pacers roster with the kind of off-the-dribble game that demands to be an offensive focus. That’s a problem in its own right, but it means that shifting more touches and possessions to Hibbert on the low block is a reasonable option. 

While they didn’t work well for George and Stephenson, offensive possessions focused on the low post can be symbiotic with the skills of David West—a good mid-range shooter and comfortable passer from the high post—as well as George Hill, C.J. Miles, Damjan Rudez, C.J. Watson and Solomon Hill—all good outside shooters who are comfortable focusing on that role in an offense.

Frank Vogel made it clear in an interview with Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley that he sees Hibbert as a big part of the Pacers offense this season:

He made the All-Star team because he’s a two-way player, a dominant defensive force and a capable offensive player. He struggled a little bit on the offensive end, [but] it didn’t change anything he did on the defensive end. I thought much of the criticism was unfair, and I think he’s going to come back and pick up a little more of the offensive load while continuing to dominate the defensive end. I expect great things from Roy this year.

While a focus on Hibbert in the post is not an ideal solution (he’s simply not the talent George or Stephenson were) it may represent the best option given the pieces available.

The Pacers can help Hibbert succeed by giving him more opportunities to be in the middle of things, instead of just being a part of the picture. He can also help himself by making some simple changes.

While height is an asset, his high center of gravity means he’s not always able to gain ground by backing opponent’s down. Hibbert is most successful in the post when he’s able to catch the ball close to the basket and work quickly. That means getting himself into position quickly and a willingness to accept some cross screens and work back and forth across the lane to try to seal off his defender.

After an entry pass is made, the Pacers like to have the passer cut to the basket, trying to rub their man off on Hibbert as they go by. When it works, it works terrifically well, but it often pulls Big Roy’s focus exclusively to finding a passing angle. He then waits until the other player clears through before beginning his scoring move.

Here, Donald Sloan makes the entry pass and cuts baseline. By the time he clears through the defense has adjusted and any opportunity Hibbert had to make a quick move has evaporated:

You can see the same thing on this possession:

Sending the entry passer on a cut often brings extra defenders into Hibbert‘s proximity. If he can expand his focus a little more, seeing both his cutting teammate and the way his own defender is reacting, he may find some easy scoring opportunities waiting for him. The Pacers may also need to recognize that these cuts don’t yield enough benefits to outweigh the costs of slowing down Hibbert in the post.

While all of these things hold promise for helping Hibbert improve on his performance last season, he’s simply not the dominant interior presence who can single-handedly carry the Pacers offense. They are short offensive talent in a lot of places this season, and collectively their ceiling is low.

But the Pacers should still have a defense that is among the league’s best, and, like last season, even an average offense could carry them pretty far. Hibbert has more to provide and could be one of the pieces that helps the Pacers offense approach respectability this season.

To get there, the team will need to trust him more and have him do more to validate that trust.

 

All statistics from NBA.com/Stats, unless otherwise cited

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Indiana Pacers vs. Charlotte Hornets 10/23/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Indiana Pacers looked to find a rhythm in their preseason clash on Thursday night against the Charlotte Hornets. The Pacers had struggled through their first six preseason games, and faced a tough test from a Hornets squad looking to prove that their postseason appearance last season was no fluke. 

Watch the video for full highlights.

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Indiana Pacers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves 10/21/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Indiana Pacers looked to get their preseason back on track on Tuesday when they faced the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Pacers looked to find a rhythm without star Paul George, and they faced a talented young T-Wolves squad, led by Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.

Watch the video for full highlights.

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Dallas Mavericks vs. Indiana Pacers 10/18/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Indiana Pacers looked to use their stalwart defensive rotation to shut down a revamped Dallas Mavericks squad Saturday night in preseason action.

Check out the full highlights.

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The Reinvention of George Hill Is Critical to the Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers are facing a steep challenge at the offensive end this season. Scoring efficiently will be an uphill battle that requires big contributions from some of their new additions and some big changes from point guard George Hill. 

The Pacers’ offensive challenges begin with the enormous hole they dug themselves last season. From January first onward they scored at an average rate of 100.1 points per 100 possessions, trailing only was the JV roster of the Philadelphia 76ers. Roy Hibbert went in the tank. Paul George stopped hitting his mid-range jump shots. Any semblance of a system broke down, and they basically just alternated isolations and pick-and-rolls to nowhere as they limped into the playoffs.

As one illustration of the team’s struggles, here’s Roy Hibbert‘s shot chart from last season, showing points per shot.

From that enormous disaster, the Pacers now need to find a way to rebuild an functioning offense. They’ll also have to do that without their two best offensive players from last season—Paul George and Lance Stephenson. 

George is expected to miss the entire season with a catastrophic leg injury suffered this summer in a Team USA scrimmage. Stephenson took advantage of unrestricted free agency and found himself a new home with the Charlotte Hornets.

The Pacers have acquired some reasonable pieces in their stead—Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Miles, Damjan Rudez—but no real offensive game-changers. If they are going to build a respectable offense it will have to come from rapid player development or a burst of organizational creativity. In either case, they will probably have to accomplish with it with the underwhelming offensive talent they have.

However, George Hill stands apart as a player who has shown much more offensive potential than what was asked of him the past few seasons. If there is a player who can assume a larger share of the scoring responsibilities this season, and do it in a successful way, Hill is the most likely candidate.

Pacers Head Coach, Frank Vogeltalked recently with NBA.com’s Jeff Caplan about what the team needs from Hill this season:

He’s just going to have the ball in his hands more, have his number called a lot more. We’ve always wanted him to be aggressive, but I think he understands that that’s needed more than ever. Years past he would be aggressive at times, but the ball would be in Lance and Paul’s hands a lot. So a lot of times he was the secondary option; most times he was the secondary option. He’s going to be more of a primary option this year.

His peak offensive season came in 2009-2010, when he played 29.2 minutes per game for the San Antonio Spurs as an offensive spark plug, moving between the second unit and the starting lineup. That season, he posted per-36 minute averages of 15.2 points and 3.6 assists, shooting 47.8 percent from the field and 39.9 percent on three-pointers.

Over his three seasons in Indiana, Hill’s field goal and three-point percentages have been almost identical each year—right around 44 percent from the field and 36 percent from behind the arc. The career-low 11.6 points per-36 minutes he averaged last season were mostly a function of his decreasing role in the offense as George and Stephenson blossomed.

During his first three seasons with the Spurs, Hill was seen as a combo guard who’s natural tendencies leaned more towards scoring. Hill and the Pacers had to work together to bring the “floor general” point guard experiment to fruition. Now it seems the Pacers may need to have him turn back the clock to the type of player he was when he entered the league.

This graph shows just how much Hill’s offensive role has changed since his time in San Antonio. The black and yellow lines, representing his time with each team, show his ratio of scoring chances (shot attempts plus trips to the free throw line) to assists. 

Flipping that ratio back towards scoring is going to be crucial for the Pacers this season. It also means Hill will need to do a lot more creating for himself. His remarkable passivity in pick-and-rolls, often looking exclusively to pass even when driving lanes were available, was an enormous drag on the Pacers offense last season. 

The percentage of his field goals which were assisted on last season was a career-high 52.9 percent. That number will need to come way down as a Pacers offense with very few avenues of attack will need to him to drive the basketball looking to score for himself.

In the article mentioned above, Caplan also pointed out how much the Pacers need from Hill in terms of breaking down the defense off the dribble:

He [Hill] ranked 96th in the league, according to NBA.com’s player tracking data, in number of drives to the basket. To put that low number in some perspective, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook registered 99 more drives to the basket even though he played in 30 fewer games.

Hill is capable of playing a much more central, attacking, scorer’s-role. We saw him succeed in that style for three seasons in Indiana, albeit under slightly different circumstances. While there will be much more pressure in Indiana, and much less support around him, the Pacers desperately need him to shift his mindset this season.

 

All statistics from NBA.com/stats, unless otherwise noted 

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Indiana Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers 10/15/14: Video Highlights and Recap

Two of the Eastern Conference’s top teams squared off on Wednesday, when the Indiana Pacers faced the Cleveland Cavaliers in a preseason matchup in Cincinnati.

The Cavs’ new-look lineup jelled against a stingy Pacers squad, winning 98-93.

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How the Indiana Pacers Can Remain in the Eastern Conference Playoff Picture

No Paul George. No Lance Stephenson. No good for the Indiana Pacers.

Only a year after finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference, Indiana would find itself fortunate if it were playing in May. Injuries and general roster attrition have seemingly killed the Pacers’ season, but in a weak conference, it’s too soon to count the team completely out of the picture.

It almost feels like the basketball gods have banned Indiana from the East’s top eight with the same vigor as the Soup Nazi would reject a loud customer.

No playoffs for you.

And unfortunately, the Pacers didn’t even get to pull a Constanza and leave last season on a high note, losing to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals after dropping 13 of their final 23 regular-season games.

The aforementioned basketball gods seemed to have it out for Indiana over the summer. The Pacers lost All-Star Paul George for the season when he broke his leg during a Team USA scrimmage back in August. But not all of the 56-win Pacers’ summer downfall was due to bad luck. At some point, the organization has to take on blame.

The Pacers didn’t exactly put themselves in the best situation for the upcoming season when they let Lance Stephenson walk to Charlotte for only $27 million over three years. You get the feeling, though, that ridding themselves of Stephenson wasn’t completely a basketball move.

The 23-year-old may have vastly improved in each of the past couple seasons, but he hasn’t necessarily shed his abrasive reputation, which helped him earn far fewer dollars on the open market than he could’ve if he were known for a more peachy personality.

So now, Stephenson heads to the Hornets to make up an all-NYC backcourt, and the Pacers are stuck with a George Hill-Rodney Stuckey tandem capable of throwing up so many bricks that “the Commodores” are already starting to write songs about it. But even with the potential to be the worst-shooting team in the league (yes, there’s certainly a real possibility of that after losing its two best wings), Indiana still has an outside shot of sneaking into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

It is, after all, the Eastern Conference. When we talk about the “picture,” this isn’t exactly an Annie Leibovitz. It’s more of an unwanted selfie from that vain girl who made you follow her on Instagram. You know, the one who literally can’t even believe she took such a gorg pic.

Like the ones on Facebook or the insufferable Snapchat, we don’t really care about the Eastern Conference playoff picture. In today’s NBA, it’s all about the West. But sadly, that’s exactly why the Pacers have a chance.

38 wins got the Atlanta Hawks the No. 8 seed last season. Even if there’s been an infusion of talent at the top (the Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors all have good chances to improve), the depth of the East is still relatively nonexistent. The bottom feeders are as present as the annoying Instagrammer

The losses of Stephenson and George won’t exactly help an offense that finished 22nd in points per possession last season. But we are missing one major point: Even with all their struggles down the stretch, this was still the NBA’s top-ranked defense a year ago.

Of course, George and Stephenson were tremendous contributors to Indiana’s success in preventing points, as well. Those guys are two-way players. And both of them mastering the über-aggressive closeout has done wonders for Frank Vogel‘s defense, which calls for taking away the long ball, running opposing shooters off the three-point line and funneling them in toward the league’s best rim-protector, a guy who conveniently still plays for this organization.

That’s right. Roy Hibbert still exists. Shocking, I know. 

How quickly we forget where Hibbert finished in Defensive Player of the Year voting last year (second, and deservingly so). He’s not the style defender of Joakim Noah or Marc Gasol. Hibbert is a stationary guy who does stationary things. That’s part of what makes the wing defenders so important on this team.

That “funneling” strategy the Pacers have performed so well the past few years—it’s completely predicated on Hibbert‘s strength: defending the rim. But even though the Indiana center has become one of the league’s premier defensive players, Hibbert has his fair share of weaknesses.

He doesn’t move quickly laterally. He doesn’t defend the perimeter. He just kind of stands there and does his “verticality” thing. And in that respect, he’s brilliant. He’s probably the best in the league. But this year, it’s going to be harder than ever for the Georgetown alum to implement his greatest attribute.

Without the wing defense Stephenson and George provide, the Pacers may not be able to properly funnel guys to the middle. That would lead to open shots near the basket, forcing Hibbert to stray from the paint without the quickness to recover. If people were worried about him during the Miami Heat playoff series, when the sharp-shooting Chris Bosh found himself with loads of open looks, there’s reason to fret this year, as well.

So, what needs to happen? Hibbert has to adjust. From the outside, we haven’t necessarily seen how change will occur, but an intelligent and talented defender can evolve and adapt. Now, it’s Hibbert‘s turn, and it’s possible the transition will be slightly easier for him than it would for another big man who might be changing teams and schemes.

Defense has as much to do with personnel continuity and coaching as anything else. Just look at the NBA’s best defensive teams. They’re all squads who have been together for long enough to develop some semblance of chemistry.

The Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder all have consistent cores who know each other’s tendencies. 

Chicago’s Taj Gibson heads toward the outside to defend a ball-screen, and Joakim Noah intuitively understands exactly how to recover. Zach Randolph of the Grizzlies beats up opponents in the post with such physicality because he knows that Marc Gasol will be right behind him to clean up any potential messes. When OKC’s Russell Westbrook jumps passing lanes, it seems like Serge Ibaka almost moves to recover for him before Russ even takes off for the attempted interception.

That’s partly on the fact that those teams all have good-to-great defensive schemers on the bench. Tom Thibodeau, Gregg Popovich, Dave Joerger and the lot know what they’re doing when it comes to putting together defensive sets. But it’s also because those guys just know each other. They know everything about each other. And that’s not something which can be contrived. It can only happen over time. That’s it. 

The Pacers have that time. And they have that coach in Vogel. They still employ Hill, David West and Ian Mahinmi among others who have worn blue and yellow in the past. That’s hardly an All-Star lineup, but it does breed some sort of familiarity. That’s a trait which, with some help from other teams expected to finish ahead of it, could bring Indiana up to a possible No. 8 seed.

Because of that, in an Eastern Conference that is improved but still weak, the Pacers have the potential to finagle enough victories to squeeze themselves into the playoff hunt, even if the chances are slim.

 

Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade but maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at WashingtonPost.com or on ESPNTrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are current as of Oct. 10 and are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com

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Orlando Magic vs. Indiana Pacers 10/10/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Indiana Pacers looked to score a preseason win Friday when they faced the Orlando Magic. The Pacers were looking to jell despite the absence of injured star Paul George, and their clash with Orlando’s rebuilding roster provided a good chance to do just that.

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