The Indiana Pacers are 4-1. Let that sink in for a second. They’ve done it against a soft schedule (something changing this week with the Heat and Celtics on deck), but in years past the Pacers did not consistently beat the teams they were supposed to beat.
This year is different for a few reasons — Roy Hibbert’s maturity, a very versatile defense that is allowing just 95.7 points per 100 possessions (second best in the league), and they are healthy (knock on wood).
The glue bringing it all together is free agent pick up David West, explains Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo. Last season the Pacers were a team that had a fun but not very professional locker room. That has changed.
“I don’t tolerate a lot of ignorance, and I think guys are starting to figure that out,” West said. “I’m not a preachy guy, but I just try to represent something different in terms of who I am.”
“He does a lot of one-on-one mentoring, and does it every day,” (Pacers coach Frank) Vogel said. “Just his presence – guys are going to think twice before they handle themselves the wrong way. Big brother is there. He’s a good observer; he knows what the right chemistry feels like. He knows when guys need hugs, when guys need a kick in the butt.”
Right now, West and Darren Collison are running the pick-and-pop as well as anyone in the NBA. It has opened up the Pacers offense and provided balance. Granger still leads the way(17 per game) but after that Hibbert, West, Tyler Hansbrough and Paul George all average 12 points a game — it’s tough to defend that type of balance.
If the Pacers can continue to grow and defend, they are going to become that team that the elite teams like the Celtics and Knicks really don’t want to see in the first round. They have a team that will not go quietly as they did a year ago.
Just a suggestion for rookie Dejounte Murray: Don’t do this in front of Gregg Popovich. You may not like his reaction.
That said, the Spurs needed to get more athletic this off-season — landing Pau Gasol certainly didn’t help that cause — so enter first-round pick Murray, who pulled this off in a recent pickup game.
Murray is going to be brought along slowly in a backcourt where Tony Parker and Patty Mills will be splitting time at the point. Murray is more of a combo guard and is going to have to shoot a lot better than he did in college (28.8 percent from three) to get some run. But this is a situation where the Spurs can groom him, bring him along slowly, and see if they have another draft steal.
He’s certainly got the athleticism.
James Harden‘s defense is not as bad as its reputation.
Well, at least it wasn’t two seasons ago — his near MVP season he was in good enough shape that he could put in a respectable effort on that end and still handle his massive offensive load. There were still some mental lapses, but his focus was better and his improvement lifted the team defense. Last season, he regressed back to youtube “highlight” defense Harden — his conditioning was not where it needed to be, he didn’t expend as much effort on that end, and it showed.
Harden got a massive contract extension this summer, and Dwight Howard is Atlanta’s problem — now Harden has to lead the Rockets. By example. Corey Brewer told ESPN you’re going to see that on defense.
“I think this year he’s going to play better defense, We’re going to let the past be in the past. It’s the future of the Rockets, man. James is going to play defense this year.”
We’re all Missourians on this one: Show me.
Remember that the Rockets will be out and running — Mike D’Antoni is the coach now, and Daryl Morey is going to get the up tempo ball he wants (which Kevin McHale had them doing, but Harden didn’t like him so…). D’Antoni’s teams in Phoenix played better defense than their reputation — points per possession they were middle of the pack — but that has never been his focus.
Will Harden be able to run like he needs to on offense and still defend at a reasonable level?
If he can, it’s a big step toward the Rockets being a dangerous team in the West because if he does it others will follow. Otherwise, every Rockets game will be a shootout, which is entertaining but not going to get a team deep into the playoffs.
I can see the questions on Twitter/in the comments already so let me save you some time.
Because it’s summer.
Because it’s Drake (he’s a celebrity and an NBA hanger-on with some quasi-official position with the Raptors).
Because Stephen Curry did it, too.
Because what other hoops are you watching on a late August afternoon?
And besides, you clicked on it. You know you want to see it.
So here it is, Drake, hitting a halfcourt shot while doing a sit up. Enjoy.
Mario Chalmers was thriving with the Grizzlies after a midseason trade from the Heat when a torn Achilles ended his season.
Not the way Chalmers wanted to enter free agency.
Still unsigned, he says he’s progressing.
Can he go 100%, though? If not, when?
A few teams could use another point guard. If Chalmers shows his health, he belongs in someone’s rotation. But that might require taking a low-paying deal and working his way up from the third point guard spot – or even just onto the regular-season roster.