The Pacers had a rougher offseason than most, losing their two best playmakers on the offensive end of the floor from a team that was already challenged there, and finished just 22nd in the league in offensive efficiency last season.
Lance Stephenson was allowed to leave in free agency — officially over money, but after his behavior in the playoffs, it’s unclear if that was indeed the real reason. And Paul George, of course, suffered a horrific injury at the USA Basketball showcase in Las Vegas while training with the national team this summer.
That doesn’t leave much in the way of scoring ability in the lineup, and most are leaving the Pacers for dead in terms of their impact in the standings. But Pacers head coach believes in the players who are left, and feels that
“We have a winning culture here and an approach that comes to bringing it every single night, be the hardest playing team in the NBA,” said Vogel. “And I think we’re going to surprise some teams. I think those fans that think the season is over before it started are very wrong. And I think they are going to be pleasantly surprised with the grit and toughness that we play with this year.”
The Chicago Bulls under Tom Thibodeau have been a prime example the past couple of seasons of how a team can continue to play well despite the loss of one or more key players. There isn’t a team that consistently plays harder for its head coach than those Bulls, and if Vogel can similarly get his guys to step up and continue to impact the game on the defensive end of the floor (where Indiana was tops in the league last year), then perhaps his remarks will make more sense in hindsight.