Ben Hansbrough

Report: Pacers to sign Donald Sloan

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The Pacers’ Hansbrough era appears to be coming to an end.

First, the Pacers pulled Tyler Hansbrough’s qualifying offer. Now, they’ve replaced Ben Hansbrough as the team’s third point guard.

Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star:

Donald Sloan, who split time last season between New Orleans and Cleveland, has reached agreement on a multi-year contract with the Indiana Pacers, a source close to the negotiations told The Star.

The Pacers needed better ball-handling off the bench – in their starting line up too, really, but that might mean sacrificing that unit’s other positives, like defense – and C.J. Watson is a nice upgrade as their backup point guard.

Sloan, likely the No. 3 point guard, should help, too. His career 5.5 assists per 36 minutes is a better mark than any Pacer posted last season.

Of course, there’s a reason he’s already played for the Hawks, Hornets, Cavaliers and Hornets again during his two-year career. Sloan is an unimpressive shooter and defender, and that’s why he almost certainly won’t be part of the Pacers’ rotation.

But, in a pinch, he can handle the rock for them.

Pacers’ playoff-best offense disintegrates in Atlanta

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Devin Harris needed just 4.5 seconds to slice through the Pacers’ defense for a layup late in the first half, leaving only 1.8 seconds for the Pacers. George Hill launched a desperation heave that obviously missed, but the look was only marginally better than the shots Indiana got most of the game.

The Hawks’ offense came easy enough, and the Pacers forced quick shots to make their offense difficult enough, and now, Indiana’s series lead is suddenly a dicey 2-1 after a 90-69 Game 3 loss today. Since early in the second quarter, Atlanta’s lead fluctuated between 18 and 28 points

The Pacers, despite playing a top-10 regular-season defense, entered the game an NBA-best 117.8 points per 100 possessions. Today, their offensive rating sunk to 70.2.

I suppose the Hawks deserve some credit, making this series as close a series can be through three games, but Indiana just played bad. Despite their well-deserved reputation as a tough team, the Pacers have the worst road record (19-21) of any top-five seed in either conference, and they’ve lost 12 straight in Atlanta. The last time Indiana won there, Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington led the team in scoring.

These new-look Pacers have more talent, but they shot just 27 percent from the field and 16 percent on 3-pointers. Indiana’s backcourt was particularly bad, with guards George Hill, Lance Stephenson, D.J. Augustin, Orlando Johnson and Ben Hansbrough combining to shoot 2-for-25. But the Pacers’ problems weren’t isolated to those five. Indiana finished with as many field goals as turnovers (22).

The Hawks didn’t play great – they shot below 43 percent from the field, below 27 percent on 3-pointers and below 58 percent on free three throws – but they stopped doing all the things wrong that plagued them in the series’ first two games. Al Horford had 26 points, 16 rebounds, two steals and two blocks, which is what he can do when Larry Drew doesn’t foolishly sit him for picking up early fouls.

Ivan Johnson replaced Kyle Korver in the starting lineup, and although Johnson played OK (six points and four rebounds in 14 minutes), the Hawks probably picked the wrong physical player in a switch to a bigger lineup. Petro was the only Atlanta player with a negative plus-minus (-3). The Hawks played much better with Ivan Johnson, who had seven points and seven rebounds and a +21 rating. They were better with even displaced-starter Korver, who was +14.

Atlanta made adjustments and played better, but that wasn’t the story of Game 3. Really, this was about the Pacers just falling apart in a tough environment.

Roy Hibbert paid Pacers reserves to keep defensive clamps on Bobcats

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The Indiana Pacers are the best defensive team in the NBA right now. Hands down. Zach Lowe did a fantastic breakdown of what they are doing over at Grantland. The Pacers are long, everybody can defend, their guys move on a string — one moves then the next moves to cover — and it’s just good basketball. Not highlight-filled beautiful basketball, but winning basketball.

That defense execution extends to their reserves — with no starters on the floor the Pacers defense would still be middle of the pack in the NBA. No other NBA team can say that.

But Roy Hibbert wanted to make sure the bench guys were motivated Tuesday nigh so he offered a little incentive against the Bobcats, reports the Indy Star.

Keep the Bobcats in the 70s, Hibbert instructed the five reserve players checked in the game. It’s worth $100 per man.

“I’m a man of my word,” he assured them.

In a happy locker room following a 103-76 blowout, the highest-paid Pacer ($13.66 million this season) handed out large bills to three teammates, including one he couldn’t name, Dominic McGuire, who is playing on a 10-day contract. Jeff Pendergraph refused his reward. Ben Hansbrough must wait until Hibbert finds an ATM.

The Pacers are having fun and improving game to game. Paul George to me is an All-Star player who has stepped up with Danny Granger out. Then in a few weeks Granger will not be out anymore and the Pacers offense should improve while the defense remains the same (Granger is a good wing defender).

Hibbert continues to be in an offensive slump that he needs to shake, and there are other questions about the Pacers for the playoffs. But if you can defend you are in games and have a chance.

And if you can motivate the bench to defend, all the better. And Hibbert may have found a way.

Six good players not drafted in the NBA

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The end of the second round of the NBA Draft got ridiculous.

Teams stopped trying to draft guys who could maybe make their team and help and instead drafted ludicrous reaches that they will never have to pay. Ater Majok, Tanguy Ngombo, Chukwudiebere Maduabum — these were strange choices when quality players were on the board. (Yes, I know Manu Ginobili was the No. 57 pick — but that was the Spurs and that was the one guy out of the last decade of drafts.)

Here are six guys that should have been taken instead of them. Guys who will get invited to a camp and impress (Summer League could have really helped these guys, thanks a lot lockout.) There are a lot more than six, but these are just a few as a sample.

David Lightly, 6’7” shooting guard, Ohio State: He’s got good size and he has range on his shot, hitting 42.9 percent from three this past season. He is considered solid at everything but the knock was that he exceled at nothing. He started as a Buckeye with Greg Oden and Mike Conley, some thought he could be a guy who comes in and does the little things.

Demetri McCamey, 6’3” point guard, Illinois: He is a strong, physical point guard who can drive the lane and shot 45.1 percent from three last season. He’s a guy who can pass. We get why he wasn’t drafted — even his coach called him out for off-court distractions and lack of effort — but if you’re a team looking for a talented point guard (Lakers, we’re looking at you) isn’t McCamey a decent gamble?

Ben Hansbrough, 6’3” point guard, Notre Dame: The younger brother of Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough, Ben is a gritty, hard-nosed point guard, which makes him a good defender. He can shoot, 43.5 percent from three last season, but there were questions about his athleticism at the next level. Not the kind of guy scouts drool over, but he gets the job done.

Diante Garrett, 6’4” point guard, Iowa State: He is a guy that has shot up the boards after the season ended, when he got into workouts (starting at Portsmouth). He is big for a PG and has a quick first step, he wants to be a facilitator. Problem is he’s not a great shooter and has the reputation of being turnover prone. Don’t expect much out of him as a rookie but he was a guy who might develop.

Brad Wanamaker, 6’3” point guard, Pittsburgh: A very heady basketball player who just knows how to be a floor general. He’s physically strong and a good passer. There were concerns about his athleticism and his three point shooting, but this is a guy who can lead a team on the floor. You’re telling me some teams couldn’t use a guy like that? He deserved a better shot.

Malcolm Thomas, 6’9” power forward, San Diego State: Kawhi Leonard overshadowed him but Thomas is a smooth player and good athlete who can finish at the rim. He is long, can defend and is a good shot blocker. There are concerns about his size at the four, and he doesn’t have an offensive game outside the paint (his offense is pretty raw generally) but another guy with real potential.