Scouting the Opposition: Indiana Pacers
For every home game this season, we’ll be gathering some intel on the opposing team from someone who knows them best — a team employee, a rival blogger, beat writer or broadcaster.
His answers are below:
Hawks.com: With Dwight Howard off to LA, and Andrew Bynum still on the mend in Philadelphia, what does Roy Hibbert need to do to lay claim to dominant big man in the Eastern Conference?
Scott Agness: Hibbert is one of the hardest working players on the team. He’s really gotten serious these last few summers – spending the majority of his time in Indy working in the weight room, on the court, and even with an MMA instructor. Come game time, he’s got to stay within himself and let the game come to him. His goal should be a double-double each game which is very doable, considering last year he averaged 12.8 points and 8.8 rebounds a game. Early in his career he fouled way too often but he has made some changes and he’s been very good about straight up when opponents approach. In the summer, he got a maximum deal — four years, $58 million – and now he’s ready to prove he’s worth it.
Hawks.com: The NBA is more and more a PG-driven league. What are the expectations for George Hill and DJ Augustin this season?
SA: First, George Hill has to get healthy. He missed all of preseason due to injuries, first a thumb injury and later a hip pointer. He’s not a pure point guard but he has a real command of the offense and the Pacers have high hopes for his ability to lead the first unit. When Hill took over for Darren Collison in the starting spot last year, the team went 7-2 in the final 9 regular season games. Meanwhile, Augustin is a true point guard and it’s his primary job to distribute the ball. His court vision and ball handling impressed teammates immediately in camp; Hibbert went so far in saying that Augustin is the best point guard he’s ever played with. Coach Vogel expects Augustin to seamlessly run the offense with the second unit and move the ball which was a major problem last season.
Hawks.com: The Pacers have some solid continuity on the roster, but new GM Kevin Pritchard has a reputation as a dealer. Do you see Indiana shaking things up much going forward?
SA: Kevin Pritchard has been a great addition the Pacers front office. He’s hard-working and well liked. He’s is constantly working the phones and keeping an eye on what’s going on. I don’t see the Pacers making any drastic moves in the short-term because they like what they have. However, it wouldn’t surprise me for Pritchard to making a minor move to improve the current roster as he’s always looking to improve. Keep in mind, all moves must first go through team president Donnie Walsh.
Hawks.com: With Derrick Rose out for most of the season due to injury, is the Central Division the Pacers’ to lose?
SA: If healthy (like last year), I would agree. But now that Danny Granger is out indefinitely with a knee injury and Hill’s still not 100 percent, that’s no longer the case. They have upgraded the roster but as we’ve seen early, the chemistry is going to take some time. And don’t discount the Bulls. Even without Rose, they’re still a really good, hard-nosed team.
Hawks.com: The Pacers got off to a great start in last year’s playoffs against the Heat before falling in the Eastern semis. What lessons did they take away from that series to build on for the future?
SA: The Pacers were encouraged by their playoff run, but mostly, they made the most of their circumstances. They faced the Magic without Dwight Howard and the Heat without Chris Bosh. There are still questions about who on the roster has a takeover mentality. Down two points, who wants the ball? The Pacers are a physical team but still needed to take it up a notch with everything on the line. The best thing about that playoff run was the experience it provided. Having just one nationally televised game all of last year and no superstar, the Pacers aren’t often talked about. The attention received, taking a 2-1 lead against the Miami superstars, and playing with such high stakes was most valuable. For them to play on that stage, it’s going to take a total team effort and for them to defend at a high level.
The Hawks and Pacers tip-off Wednesday night at 7:30 at Philips Arena.