Pacers Post-up: Rush to judgement

By Conrad Brunner
November 8, 2010

Last week, Jim O’Brien wasn’t sure how much Brandon Rush
would play when he returned from his five-game NBA suspension. Initially, he
suggested Rush would be the fourth wing in a three-wing rotation. Later in the
week, he said the third-year player from Kansas would probably play some in
every game.

Now, however, O’Brien is considering moving Rush back into
the starting lineup for his first game back Tuesday against the Denver Nuggets.

What’s up?

It’s more a matter of what is not � specifically, the
Indiana offense. The Pacers averaged 82.5 points on 34.8 percent shooting in
consecutive losses to the 76ers and Bucks, producing more turnovers (32) than
assists (30). O’Brien can hardly be blamed for looking for a button to push.

With Mike Dunleavy averaging just 10.2 points on 34.6
percent shooting filling in as the starter at shooting guard in Rush’s absence,
the position isn’t exactly locked down. The only other option is rookie Paul
George, who scored 10 points against the Bucks but is still very raw.

“I’m not crazy about our offense,” said O’Brien. “We
just have to figure some things out, offensively.”

Central to that is the progress of Roy Hibbert. O’Brien
wants the offense to run through the 7-2 center to exploit his passing skills
and court vision. Hibbert does have 21 assists, second on the team, but also
has committed 13 turnovers and is shooting just .426 from the field, an
alarmingly low mark for a big man.

“I would like to see him make a quicker decision in the
low post,” O’Brien said. “I would like to see him get the basketball
and after one cutter then get a good shot, either his right-handed hook or his
left-handed hook. In the high post his primary job is to be a passer. He is not
shooting a high percentage in the low post. We’re going to keep going to him in
the low post.

“We think he’s a better low-post player than he has
shown but he has to understand that sometimes when somebody is maybe moving him
off his sweet spot then he is a unique player in that he can hurt teams in
other ways. As a passer, he’s very good. He needs to get a comfort level and I
also realize he’s only in his third year and he averaged 25 minutes a game last
year and now he’s up over 30 and he’s got to grasp things. But his teammates
have to grasp that he needs the basketball.”

To his credit, Hibbert is a stand-up guy who takes
accountability for his actions. He blamed himself for the Milwaukee loss
Saturday, pointing to his 0-of-4 shooting in the second half. Indiana totaled
30 points on 29.4 percent shooting in the final two periods after rolling to a
60-52 lead at intermission.

“When the team needed me to hit a shot in the pivotal
part of the game, I couldn’t get my hook shot to fall at all in the second
half,” said Hibbert. “I feel like I let my team down. … I let too
many guys get to the basket too easily for uncontested layups. Chalk this one
up to me.”

Rush started 64 games last season and will offer O’Brien
another important option. But no one expects his return alone to be the salve
to cure an ailing offense. That’s one the Pacers will have to solve