Pacers have high hopes after return to playoffs
High expectations have returned to Indiana.
Coach Frank Vogel could barely contain his excitement after
running his first practice since getting his interim tag removed
over the summer. The Pacers made the playoffs last season, and
Pacers president Larry Bird says he wants to add pieces to a solid
young core that features Danny Granger, Darren Collison, Roy
Hibbert, Paul George, George Hill and Tyler Hansbrough.
With plenty of money to spend in free agency, Indiana could be
on the verge of a breakthrough.
”There’s a buzz,” Vogel said. ”These guys have a buzz about
them. They know this could be a big year for the Pacers and they’re
excited to be back. They know what we accomplished last year, and
it was good, but not good enough.”
What looked like just a bunch of guys playing a pickup game on
Friday was so much more.
”The end portion of practice, about 15 to 20 minutes, I wanted
to intentionally not stop it,” he said. ”I wanted them going up
and down, and I wanted them to push their wind and challenge their
Hansbrough said the transition from working out away from the
team for months to preparing for games in two weeks will be
”We’re still trying to catch our stride a little bit,” he
said. ”It’s kind of like cramming for a test. But it looks like
everybody’s been working out, they’re in good shape, and hopefully,
we can get into game shape and get rolling.”
Hill, an Indianapolis native the Pacers picked up in a draft-day
trade with the San Antonio Spurs, liked what he saw during the
”An edge to everybody,” he said. ”A chip on people’s
shoulders. It was great that we went to the playoffs, but none of
the guys are excited about that. They want to do better. They want
to bring basketball back to the Indiana Pacers like it’s always
been my whole life.”
Granger knows his teammates could be different tomorrow.
”We don’t know what free agents we’re going to add,” he said.
”There could be trades. All this could happen before Christmas, so
it’s kind of up in the air.”
Several players took advantage of the extended offseason.
Hibbert got stronger without losing mobility, Granger put on five
pounds of muscle he hopes to keep, George added eight pounds and
Hansbrough is fully healthy for the first time in years. Vogel
believes that his team’s mix of youth and experience will be an
”I really think that the young teams and the really old teams
are the ones that are going to be hurt the most by this lockout,”
he said. ”The teams that are entering our prime, like us, that
have a core group back, are the ones that are going to be able to
take this lockout situation and make it a tremendous opportunity
for us to take that big step that we’re hoping to take.”
Granger is just glad to know there will be a season.
”It seemed like we wouldn’t have a season a lot of times,”
Granger said. ”Thankfully, the owners and the players came to some
accord and we have a season, so that’s really a blessing for
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cliffbruntap