Pacers bad luck continues: David West, George Hill, C.J. Watson all to miss opener, more time with injuries


The basketball gods have turned their vengeance on the Pacers, making this coming season look like Odysseus trying to get back to Ithaca.

First it was losing Paul George likely for the season with his horrific leg injury playing for Team USA. Two guard Rodney Stuckey has had a foot issue and hasn’t seemed likely to play opening night.

Then came this dreadful injury report from the Pacers on Monday.

Forward David West will miss at least three games with a sprained right ankle. Guard George Hill is expected to miss at least three weeks with a left knee contusion and guard C.J. Watson is expected to miss at least two weeks with a bruised right foot.

That would be the Pacers starting power forward and likely leading scorer in West, the starting point guard in Hill and his backup in Watson. We have known about the injuries for a while, specifically West, but when you see it all together it adds up.

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It means Luis Scola and Roy Hibbert are going to get all the touches they could want, and the defenses will pack it in to adjust. There is no reason to fear the Pacers wings — they don’t have guys who can create shots for themselves and others right now. The Pacers may still be a solid defensive team but losing George (and Lance Stephenson to free agency) was already going to damage their offense. These injuries decimate it in the short term.

It’s going to be a rough season in Indiana.

George Hill leaves with knee injury, creating more problems for Pacers


The Pacers made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, but it was an elite defense that carried them that far.

Offensively, things were much rougher in Indiana, where the team finished just 22nd in points per 100 possessions.

Things are likely to be even worse this year, after the Pacers lost their two top playmakers in Paul George (injury) and Lance Stephenson (free agency). And due to injuries, this preseason hasn’t provided the customary time for the team to figure things out.

The latest came Tuesday night to George Hill, who left with a knee injury and did not return.

From Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star:

David West did not make the trip. Rodney Stuckey did not play. C.J. Watson did not change out of his warm-up suit. And later in the night, George Hill left the game, his left knee swelling, to pile on the team’s woes during a preseason that has produced more injury reports than traces of promising play.

“It takes time,” center Roy Hibbert said. “Especially with guys out, it’s going to take even more time.”

Hill, whose knee crashed to the floor while he was tied for the team high with 14 points, will “take it day to day,” as coach Frank Vogel described. However, the Pacers are running out of days to figure out their familiarity with one another and the system. So even missing three starters, plus the top backup point guard on Thursday – the final game on the team’s preseason schedule – could be a possibility, the Pacers don’t have the choice to sit down and heal up. They have too much to fix before Oct. 29, the regular-season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Indiana has played with a lot of effort and fire during the preseason, but that only gets you so far. Most projections have the Pacers finishing out of the playoff picture in the East, and trying to overcome a slow start due to dealing with so many injuries is only going to make it that much tougher to prove the pundits wrong.

David West, Rodney Stuckey out rest of Pacers’ preseason


The Pacers’ best player from a season ago, Paul George, is out for the year due to injury. Their second best player on last season’s Eastern Conference runner-up team, Lance Stephenson, signed with Charlotte.

Indiana returns only one player who averaged at least 11 points per game last season – David West, and he’s out. The popular darkhorse candidate to lead the Pacers in scoring – Rodney Stuckey – is also sidelined.

Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports:

Indiana has just two preseason games remaining before their regular-season opener Oct. 29, so we still don’t know much about the severity of these injuries (though we know West is using a cane, which is a very West way to handle it). Maybe West and Stuckey will return for the regular season.

But if either is out longer, the Pacers are in even bigger trouble. Their offense was rocky last season – and that was with George and Stephenson. West and Stuckey are two of their biggest weapons now, and a scheme built around Roy Hibbert and George Hill doesn’t exactly scream playoffs.

Indiana’s thin margin to reach the postseason is shrinking.

67RIEFNS No. 19: Pacers testing positions’ defensive importance

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The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.

Conventional wisdom holds centers impact a team’s defense much more than any position.

1.Centers guard an opponent who’s typically hunting high-efficiency shots at the rim.

2. Centers protect the basket, serving as the last line of defense when perimeter players get beat.

3. Centers, due to their size and proximity to the rim, are key to securing defensive rebounds.

Does all that hold true in reality? Are centers really that much more important than perimeter defenders?

The Pacers will offer a great case study this season.

Indiana lost two standout wing defenders, Paul George (to injury) and Lance Stephenson (to free agency). The constant: Roy Hibbert at center.

Hibbert is one of the NBA’s best defensive centers. He finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting and would have won the award if not due to the Pacers’ second-half collapse (which was due more to offense than defense). He’s an elite shot blocker who has progressed defending the pick-and-roll, though his rebounding leaves something to be desired.

Losing George (All-Defensive first team) and Stephenson (four spots from the second team) will certainly hurt, but their replacements – Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles – are adequate defenders. They’re the perfect variables, because they’re clear downgrades but also not so bad that they’ll screw up how Hibbert operates.

If centers are all-important defensive, Hibbert should keep the Pacers near the top of the league in points allowed per possession. Repeating last season’s No. 1 ranking is unlikely, but a top-10 finish is certainly a reasonable request.

Hibbert and George are similar-quality defenders for their positions. How much does Hibbert being taller and playing closer to the basket matter?

We should get an idea this season, and the answer could affect how we value positions defensively.

ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Indiana Pacers


Last season: The Pacers jetted to a 33-7 start, the NBA’s best record. They looked every bit a championship contender, and some went as far to label them favorite.

And then they collapsed.

What happened? You name it. Infighting, finger-pointing and the loss of a mental edge.

Indiana barely beat the eighth-seeded Hawks, a team with a losing record, in the first round. They did enough to get past the Wizards in the second round before succumbing to the Heat in the conference finals.

On paper, the Pacers’ season – an Eastern Conference-best 56 wins, two playoff series victories – met preseason expectations or came very close. But their late losses were so inept, the team frequently faced questions about its implosion.

Signature highlight from last season:


How about Pacers president Larry Bird burying his face in his hands as Indiana struggled through the first round-round of the playoffs?

Or, if you want to back to a simpler time, it’s Paul George’s 360-degree dunk:


Key offseason moves:

Keys to the Pacers season:

Making do without Paul George and Lance Stephenson: George suffered a season-ending injury during a Team USA scrimmage, and Stephenson signed with the Hornets.

How will Indiana cope without its minutes leaders from a season ago? History, as well as common sense, suggests not well.

George is a bona fide NBA star, and Stephenson’s all-around game nearly made him an All-Star season. They were paramount to what the Pacers did on both ends of the floor, and their losses will be felt – hard.

The only question just how much Indiana will miss those two.

Finding scoring: In the last eight years, these last couple Pacers teams stand alone for their success despite their lackluster offense.

And that was with George and Stephenson.

David West can score inside and from mid-range, but he’s 34. George Hill is more of a complementary player than a true lead guard. And Roy Hibbert is prone to disappearing.

Indiana’s offense – already a weak spot – is really trying to dig itself out of a hole.

Roy Hibbert stepping up: If the Pacers are going to overcome their offensive issues, their defense must remain stout, and that starts with Hibbert in the middle. For much of last season, he was the NBA’s most-impactful player. Even when he slumped in the second half, his offense fell far more than his defense. The responsibility remains with Hibbert to anchor Indiana’s defense, this time with even less resistance in front of him.

Hibbert must juggle that task with re-gaining his footing offensively. When confident, Hibbert uses his size to score inside at a helpful clip. But in last year’s playoffs, Hibbert lost his way. The Pacers are no longer good enough to win when he plays like that.

Frank Vogel coaching better or differently: Indiana had one of the NBA’s strongest identities last season, always playing big lineups – even when offensive spacing suffered and the defense was too slow.

When the Pacers played well, that style looked forceful. When they didn’t, it looked stubborn.

It didn’t have to be that way, though. Chris Copeland was buried on the bench, and George could have played some small-ball four. But Vogel refused to shift his system.

This year, with a sudden talent disadvantage, Vogel will either have to coach his desired scheme more effectively or show more flexibility.

Why you should watch: The Pacers couldn’t handle success last season, falling apart in can’t-look-away fashion. How will they handle failure? Barring some surprising developments, we might soon know – and that could be even more dramatic than last season.

And if there are surprising developments – Hill showing a more expansive offensive game? Hibbert dominating inside? West defying aging? – that will be interesting, too.

Prediction: 33-49. This team just doesn’t have the talent to compete anymore. Maybe the Pacers, with the right breaks, could make the playoffs. But where is that going to get them?

Larry Bird was already testing the market for Hibbert. George’s injury could put him over the edge.

If the Pacers struggle early, don’t be surprised to see the Pacers president punt on this season in order to better equip the team – both through trade and tanking – for when George returns.