Indiana adds recruit to newest freshmen class

Hoosiers announce Emmitt Holt is newest addition to freshman recruiting class

      
 

 

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Indiana, Purdue open league play on New Year’s Eve

Hoosiers, Boilermakers will open Big Ten conference play on New Year’s Eve

      
 

 

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Indiana Men’s Basketball 2014-15 Big Ten Schedule

Indiana Men’s Basketball 2014-15 Big Ten Schedule

      
 

 

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Early Predictions for Indiana Pacers Starting Lineup Next Season

Predicting the Indiana Pacers staring lineup for the 2014-15 NBA season is an emotional task for any Pacers fan. 

There will be no Paul George

George “suffered an open fracture of the tibia and fibula bones in his lower right leg” during an Aug. 1 Team USA scrimmage game in Las Vegas, per the Indianapolis Star’s Candace Buckner. Buckner adds “it’d take at least six months for George to get back on his feet and longer to return to the court.” 

Ouch. 

In spite of the downgrade, the Pacers starting lineup for next season will prove to be competitive to the very end. Take it from team president Larry Bird, per Pacers.com’s Mark Montieth:

We think we’re going to put a competitive team out there. We think we’re going to play hard and develop our young guys. Everyone’s going to get an opportunity to show us what they can do. I think we’ll be an exciting team. We have a lot of things to look forward to. My goal is to win as many games as we possibly can and get in the playoffs.

No Paul George. No franchise player around.

Doesn’t matter. This group of Indiana Pacers will rally behind their fallen comrade and give their fans plenty of reasons to be optimistic, no matter what the odds are.

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Adjustments Indiana Pacers Will Have to Make Without Paul George

The departure of Lance Stephenson in free agency already left a big hole in the Indiana Pacers‘ starting lineup, but the loss of Paul George to a gruesome leg injury during a Team USA scrimmage will prove even more devastating. 

While Stephenson certainly provided some offensive punch with his unorthodox style as a ball-handler and distributor, George was the offensive fail-safe. Any time a possession broke down, it was George’s responsibility to create a scoring opportunity for himself or a teammate. In close games, the ball was in his hands. 

Yet even with George and Stephenson, Indiana hovered near the bottom in offensive rating—22nd in the league for the season overall, according to NBA.com, and 29th after the All-Star break.  Heading into the 2014-2015 season with an even more limited offensive team, it was clear the Pacers offense would struggle once again. 

So George’s absence on the offensive end will likely only bump Indiana down from a below-average offense to a bottom-of-the-barrel unit. It’s as a defender—one who matched up well with LeBron James and could operate on an island without help—that George will be missed. 

No NBA team is full of great defenders from top to bottom. Most players come with certain skill sets and lack others, and it’s up to an NBA general manager to piece together these parts without leaving too many gaping holes.

Because defense is a significantly less skill-based asset than offense, teams will focus on the offensive end and trust a coach to instill the type of work ethic and discipline that factor into playing great defense. 

What’s more is that individual defensive deficiencies can be masked by a team’s ability to move in tandem, coupled with two stellar defensive players—ideally an elite rim protector and a lengthy wing player capable of guarding multiple positions. 

This wing player is especially crucial because his versatility can mask the flaws of other players through cross-matching: Poor defenders can guard lesser threats, while versatile and more skilled defenders will pick up the opponent’s most dangerous player, regardless of position.

For Indiana, George was that player whose assignments varied on a nightly basis. One night he would be guarding James, the most physical and talented player in the entire league whose pure power is a nightmare to handle.

The next night he might find himself on James Harden, a quicker, smaller guard with unlimited range. Because of George’s athleticism and defensive acumen, he could adjust his guarding style to handle whatever type of offensive threat he was facing on a particular night. 

Luckily for George, the emergence of Stephenson as a defensive force meant he didn’t have to guard the opponent’s best wing on every possession of every game. They often switched off to give the other breaks, as both had large responsibilities on offense as well.

But Stephenson’s decision to sign with Charlotte Hornets and Indiana’s decision to replace him with a mediocre defender in C.J. Miles placed the defensive-perimeter burden squarely on George. And even if Miles doesn’t start, other starter possibilities in Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Watson don’t provide much in terms of defensive prowess.

But now there’s no Stephenson and no George, which means Indiana can no longer be comfortable isolating any of its perimeter defenders—so there will be no one-on-one defense without help creeping over from the weak side. Notice how Roy Hibbert, an elite rim protector in his own right, doesn’t even have to slide over because George has everything covered on his own on this play against Harden.

Hibbert has succeeded in the past in part because he could stalk from the weak side without overcommitting. If an offensive player generated nothing in one-on-one against George, he couldn’t just whip the ball over to the other side of the floor and catch the defense leaning too far toward the ball side: The entire defense, backed by Hibbert, was waiting over there already.

George’s absence means Hibbert will have to take a more proactive role as a help defender, which means his lateral mobility will be tested. Notice the difference between the play above and the one below, in which Hibbert gambles a bit more by straying farther from his man. 

Above, Hibbert is just hanging out and waiting: He rightly trusts George to shut down Harden and will only sprint over to the strong side of the rim in an emergency. Here, however, Luis Scola is guarding Anthony Davis at the free-throw line.

Scola is not exactly going to lock anyone up, so Hibbert compensates by sliding over all the way to the middle of the paint, essentially ignoring his man. Because he’s in the right position and Davis doesn’t consider passing the basketball, Hibbert easily swats the shot away.

The problem presents itself when the ball gets swung to the weak side. Remember that with George, Hibbert was already patrolling the weak side in anticipation of a ball swing. Without him, he can’t be as daring and has to be in full-throttle rim-protection mode at all times. In a similar play to the one we just watched, Hibbert is cheating the three-second call as best he can. 

When he sees Stephen Curry beat George Hill off the dribble, he only has to slide over a few feet to the block because he’s anticipating the help. But once he greets Curry with a double, Curry is able to sneak a pass by Hibbert to Andre Iguodala on the perimeter.

Iguodala subsequently blows by his man and draws Hibbert‘s help. This leads to another pass, this time to David Lee under the rim. Hibbert has been rotating so much at this point that he loses track of his whereabouts. Amidst the chaos of that initial Curry kick-out pass, Hibbert overhelps on the Iguodala drive—David West already has it covered.

Yet Hibbert abandons Lee, who is ready to receive the ball from Iguodala and lay it in. Hibbert, who is now well out of position, can’t use his patented vertical-armed jump to protect the rim. He flails a bit and commits the foul. 

All of this starts because of Hibbert‘s extra concern for the Curry-Hill matchup, and it’s plays like these which could spell trouble for Indiana. Though Hibbert is great at defending the rim, it was George’s presence that limited his need to do so. Fewer collisions at the rim naturally meant fewer fouls, and it’s why Hibbert seemed so good at defending without fouling.

Next season, he’ll be facing a greater onslaught around the basket thanks to George’s absence. The opponent’s best wing player will not be shut down automatically, and Hibbert will have to pay special attention to him. 

It’s possible that with increased responsibility, Hibbert will step up his defensive game even more. But if he doesn’t, Indiana will have to make some serious defensive adjustments to fill George’s crucial role. 

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Oden to appear in Indiana court on battery charges (Yahoo Sports)

Former NBA No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden is due in court on charges alleging that he punched his ex-girlfriend in the face during a fight. The free-agent center was scheduled to appear in a Marion County court Wednesday on charges of felony battery resulting in serious bodily injury, misdemeanor domestic battery and misdemeanor battery resulting in serious bodily injury. An affidavit says a witness told police Oden had punched the woman in the face, drawing blood.

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How Far Will Indiana Pacers Fall Without Paul George?

Unrestrained optimism is no match for the Paul George-less Indiana Pacers.

No matter how his absence following an open tibia-fibula fracture is spun, no matter what context it’s put in, there is no bright side. The Pacers are going to stumble, slip and ultimately fall without him. There is no preventing it, only making it easier to deal with. 

All of that is a given. And with regression unavoidable, there’s no use entertaining the question some will try so hard to ask: Will the Pacers survive without George? 

Not at all. Not in the way they’re accustomed to surviving and competing. 

Struggle is the only certainty. And figuring out how deep the Pacers’ collapse will stretch is the only issue worth debating.

 

Loss Upon Loss

Replacing George isn’t possible. It never could be.

What he can do for the Pacers won’t be found anywhere. His 21.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game were indispensable. He gave the Pacers 36-plus minutes of quality effort every night on both ends of the floor.

Opponents converted just 38 percent of their shots against him, according to Synergy Sports (subscription required). He assisted on nearly 18 percent of the Pacers’ made baskets when on the floor, the third-best mark of anyone who appeared in at least 30 games for them. Their 22nd-ranked offense was even worse with George off the floor. 

What are they supposed to do now? Rely on someone else? If so, who? 

Not Lance Stephenson.

Losing Stephenson to the Charlotte Hornets further compounds the Pacers’ bleak situation. Their ceiling would always be lower without George, but at least with Stephenson they would have a potential star and someone to headline a typically anemic offense and staunch perimeter defense.

They don’t have that now. 

George and Stephenson were the Pacers’ two best players. That is not up for debate. 

When they were on the floor together, the Pacers outscored opponents by 8.3 points per 100 possessions. They combined to assist on 38.9 percent of the team’s assisted field goals. They accounted for 35.5 percent of the Pacers’ total points scored last season. 

This is a huge deal. The Pacers don’t know what it’s like to soldier on without them. 

Only two of their 25 most used five-man lineups didn’t include George or Stephenson. The one that saw the most time—a quintet of Rasual Butler, Ian Mahinmi, Luis Scola, Donald Sloan and Evan Turner—logged a not-so-whopping 28 minutes together and was outscored by an average of 26 points per 100 possessions. 

One was rarely playing without the other. More importantly, the Pacers were hardly ever playing without both.

Of the 1,058 total minutes the Pacers played without George last season, Stephenson was on the floor for 717 of them, or 67.8 percent. Stephenson was on the bench for 1,203 minutes; George was on the floor for 863 of those (71.7 percent).

Almost nothing about the Pacers’ circumstances will be familiar next season. Their rotation will seem foreign when it’s no longer anchored by George and/or Stephenson. That’s going to hurt.

Statistically and psychologically, it’s going to hurt.

 

Who Will Step Up?

In lieu of an actual George replacement, different players will need to step up.

Who will those players be? 

If only the Pacers knew. That’s most of the problem moving forward: They don’t know. The rest of their squad is largely unpredictable compared to George (and Stephenson).

Will it be the going-on-36 David West? The ever fickle Roy Hibbert? The marginalized George Hill? The inbound castoff Rodney Stuckey? 

There aren’t a whole lot of options for the Pacers. And the ones they have are either shouldering all they can (West) or complete and utter wild cards (Hibbert, Stuckey, Chris Copeland, etc.). 

Hitting the free-agent market also won’t yield some instant cure-all. 

Shawn Marion is the best realistic free-agent option available, and the Pacers are neither willing to spend what’s necessary to sign him nor can they offer him the opportunity he’s seeking:

Even if they could land Marion, he’s not a game-changer. He’s a specialist, an aging role player good for roughly half of the minutes George would see at small forward.

Trades aren’t going to produce much, either. Not even the most outlandish rumors have them acquiring the talent necessary to mitigate the damage George’s absence invokes:

What the Pacers have now is what they will start next season with. Minor changes might be sprinkled in, but the foundation for 2014-15 has already taken shape. 

And, like 8 Points 9 Seconds’ Jared Wade admits, it’s not particularly pretty:

One of the worst offenses in the league might unravel further without its only creator while the perimeter defense turns into a sieve. There is no Stephenson or George to belly up against all the elite wings in the NBA, and Hibbert is not literally a wall. It’s hard to see how the Mongols don’t overrun the paint.

This would leave Indiana with a good-not-great defense and a middling-to-OK offense.

This grisly picture Wade paints is the Pacers’ best-case scenario. Keep that in mind. There’s no guarantee their offense is “middling” next season. It was one of the worst in the league to close out 2013-14, and that was with George.

Losing him could ruin everything from the defense to the offense to any hope the Pacers have of maintaining a “middling” ceiling. 

 

Facing Reality

Time. The Pacers need time—time for George to heal, time to recover from this catastrophic offseason.

Nothing they do now will expedite the process. Tanking won’t do it. Cleaning house won’t, either.

Rallying the troops and playing inspired basketball won’t even be enough.

These Pacers are limited by the abilities they have and the ones they’ve lost. Too much has come undone for them to put up a miraculous and uplifting fight. They lost George. They lost Stephenson. They lost so many luxuries.

Forfeiting such talent in volume is never a good sign; it’s a devastating one. Nat Newell of The Indianapolis Star did some historical digging, and what he found only creates more cause for concern:

Five NBA teams have lost their leading scorer to injury (minimum 10 games) or free agency after posting a .660 winning percentage (roughly 55 wins) or better since the 1993-94 season.

Not surprisingly, the news is not encouraging: Those teams went from an average of 60 wins to 32.

Although the Pacers could be an exception, things aren’t looking too good.

Stephenson and George represented 18.2 of the Pacers’ 56 wins last season. When you combine the win shares of newcomers Stuckey and C.J. Miles, they don’t even scratch the surface of what the team lost:

While it’s certainly a rough way of looking at things, it’s not absurd to think the absence of Stephenson and George will cost the Pacers at least 13 or 14 victories, as the difference in combined win shares indicates. Thinking of the Pacers as a 42- or 43-win team even feels optimistic.

But there are those out there who won’t write them off completely. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com projects the Pacers as a 44-win club. The folks over at ESPN.com are predicting they’ll be ninth in the Eastern Conference, eight spots lower than last year’s No. 1 finish but still ahead of playoff hopefuls like the New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons.

And yet the truth is no one can say there is an exact science to how far the Pacers will drop. Maybe they surprise some people, maybe they don’t. Maybe the aforementioned forecasts are accurate or semi-accurate, maybe they’re not.

There is still so much left to happen, so much left to see. Team president Larry Bird could blow this convocation up or try to improve it. Again, there’s no way of knowing for sure.

What we do know is the Pacers are without George and Stephenson. We know that the Eastern Conference is stronger than last season. We know George’s injury creates an obstacle that will spill over into 2015-16, when he (presumably) returns.

We know their current path is a rutted one, complete with a steep, downward spiral.

“My goal is to win as many games as we possibly can and get in the playoffs,” Bird told reporters of the Pacers’ immediate future. “I know some of our fans would rather us go in a different direction, but we’re here to win and we’re going to try to win.”

Try as they might to win, to fight, the Pacers aren’t built to match George’s absence blow for blow.

Making the playoffs is out of the question. Finishing in the top 10 of a better Eastern Conference would be an accomplishment—one that doesn’t incite cheers but provides hope that the Pacers’ road back to relevancy is smoother than the jagged path to imminent obscurity they’re traveling down now.

 

*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA.com unless otherwise cited.


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Indiana to offer multiyear scholarships

Indiana to offer multiyear scholarships for athletes on full scholarships, bill of rights

      
 

 

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Indiana to offer multiyear scholarships (Yahoo Sports)

Fred Glass, vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics at Indiana University, describes the measures the school has taken in repairing Assembly Hall following an incident last week where a piece of the ceiling crashed into the seats hours before a men's game, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, in Bloomington, Ind. Structural engineers have inspected the building and deemed it safe. Indiana plays Iowa in an NCAA college basketball game that was originally scheduled for Feb. 19. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

Indiana plans to immediately begin guaranteeing four-year scholarships to athletes and will agree not to reduce the amount of money students on partial scholarship receive year to year based on illness, injury or ability, athletic director Fred Glass said Friday. Glass said in an interview with The Associated Press that the changes were not in response to the lawsuit by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon and others over the NCAA’s use of their images in broadcasts and video games without compensation or the push by former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter to form the first union for college athletes. ”But I can tell you it wasn’t a reaction to any one thing.” Earlier this week, the Big Ten said it supports guaranteed four-year scholarships and improved medical coverage for its athletes. In 2012, NCAA members voted to allow Division I schools to offer scholarships guaranteed for more than one year.


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Indiana implements ‘bill of rights’ for athletes

Indiana will now guarantee multiyear scholarships to full-scholarship athletes.

      
 

 

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