Indiana Pacers v Phoenix Suns

Pacers Jim O’Brien doesn’t think Roy Hibbert is having a good season

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The best coaches know how to pick their spots. When to praise, when to criticize, when to ride the hot hand of guys off the bench and when to get the starters back in to keep a run going.

Honestly, the last couple days I have no idea what Indiana’s Jim O’Brien is thinking. None.

Let’s start with Roy Hibbert, the third-year center who would probably win Most Improved Player if the vote were taken today. Hibbert’s offensive efficiency has gone up while he has taken on more of the load, he is giving the Pacers almost three more points and rebounds a game than he did last season, and his defense in the paint is the reason the Pacers are anywhere near .500.

So O’Brien, what did you think of his performance so far this season, Steve Aschburner of asks?

“I think that Roy would say – and I certainly share this belief – I don’t think he’s having a very good season,” O’Brien said to a surprised cluster of reporters before the Pacers’ game against the Bulls at United Center. “I think that he can play at a much, much higher level right away than he’s doing right now.”

I get it, tough love and all. Push him because he can be even better. But that can be done with rewards thrown in. “He has really stepped up his game this season and established himself as one of the building blocks here in Indiana, but I know what he is now just scratches the surface of what he can be.” You know, something like that. Acknowledge the steps taken before bringing out the cattle prod.

Then in the game Monday night, the Pacers were in a close one with the Bulls and the subs did a good job. Starter Brandon Rush along with James Posey, T.J. Ford, Solomon Jones and Dahntay Jones made a little 5-0 run to start the fourth and it looked like this one was going to go down to the wire.

But then midway through the fourth Tom Thibodeau brought back his key starters — Luol Deng, Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer. O’Brien brought back Roy Hibbert for 2:51 then took him out again. He subbed Mike Dunleavy in for Dahntay Jones. And that was it. No Darren Collison or Josh McRoberts. You know how Collison feels about this.

The Bulls closed the game on a 19-4 run over the final six minutes. During that run the Pacers made no changes. The Pacers lost by 19.

Pick your spots. Pick your spots.

Chris Paul, after breaking finger, intends to play in Clippers preseason game tomorrow

Chris Paul
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Chris Paul broke his finger Saturday.

The initial diagnosis said the injury wasn’t serious.

Here’s confirmation.

Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times:

Paul obviously wouldn’t push it during the preseason. If the Clippers are allowing him to play, this can’t be bad.

Really, the most challenging aspect to this is grasping the concept that a broke finger can be a minor injury.

Report: David Lee, Tyler Zeller in line to start for Celtics; Jared Sullinger, Jonas Jerebko out of rotation

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 08: David Lee of Boston Celtics attacks during the friendlies of the NBA Global Games 2015 basketball match between Real Madrid and Boston Celtics at Barclaycard Center on October 8, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Brad Stevens has a big challenge this year – sorting the Celtics’ deep roster of similarly able players.

It seems that process is shaking out at power forward and center.

A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

it appears Boston’s first four bigs will be starters David Lee and Tyler Zeller, with Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk off the bench.

That leaves Jonas Jerebko and Jared Sullinger, potentially on the outside looking in as far as the regular rotation is concerned.

Lee is the best passer of the bunch, which could partially explain why he’s starting. Boston’s most likely starting point guard, Marcus Smart, is still growing into the role of the lead ball-handler at the NBA level. Lee and presumptive starting shooting guard Avery Bradley can take some pressure off him.

Olynyk can space the floor for Isaiah Thomas-Johnson pick-and-rolls with the reserves and run pick-and-pops with Thomas himself.

I’m a little surprised Zeller is starting over Johnson, though. The Celtics just signed Johnson to a $12 million salary, and I thought they’d rely on his defense to set a tone early. Like Johnson, Zeller is a quality pick-and-roll finisher who can thrive with Thomas.

This is particularly bad news for Sullinger, who – barring a surprising contract extension – is entering a contract year. It seems those reports of offseason conditioning haven’t yet paid off. Jerebko’s deal also isn’t guaranteed beyond this season, but at least he has already gotten his mid-sized payday. Sullinger is still on his rookie-scale contract.