Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers Starters Don't Have to Practice, but Bench Does

Dec 18, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel (left) talks with point guard George Hill (3) and shooting guard Lance Stephenson (1) during the second half against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Miami won 97-94. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports
Jim CavanContributor IApril 8, 2014

This is your daily reminder that professional basketball players—despite their propensity for sweating neon-colored sports drinks—are actually human.

With his team reeling at the most inopportune time, Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel has decided to rest some of his key players down the stretch, according to Pacers.com’s Scott Agness:

Before we delve into the strategic implications of Vogel’s decision, some context is in order.

It began with a story by CBS Sports’ Ken Berger back in late March, in which the writer—cognizant, as we all were, of Indy’s plummeting performance—wondered aloud whether Vogel hadn’t held his foot on the accelerator a bit too long:

But there is a dilemma that the Pacers may have to confront before it is too late. Indiana's Big Three of George, Hibbert and West have played in every one of the Pacers' 68 games this season. Not a single game off for any of them. This is in stark contrast to how Gregg Popovich has handled the Spurs for years. Erik Spoelstra has strategically scheduled nights off for his stars, too.

Rather than heed the warning signs, Vogel and the Pacers pushed on to similar results: bad losses, lackadaisical effort (at times) and a fast-fracturing confidence and chemistry.

Things came to an even more pointed head in the last two weeks, with center Roy Hibbert’s caustic remarks about “selfish dudes” in the Indiana locker room only fanning the flames further, per NBA.com’s David Aldridge.

After an embarrassing home loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, Vogel confided to reporters what many had been sensing for months. The Pacers—and their starters especially—had hit the wall headlong:

I considered resting Roy before tonight's game because he looks worn down, he's a 7-2 player that's played every game this year, which is very rare. He looks to me to be worn down. He's giving good effort, but he looks to me to be worn down.

It seems likely Vogel will opt to rest his starters for tomorrow night’s tilt against the Milwaukee Bucks. After that, the Pacers will face the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder—given the potential playoff matchup implications, probably not the kind of games that warrant added rest—before finishing the regular-season slate visiting the Orlando Magic on April 16, another likely rest day.

At this point, the Pacers are basically conceding the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed to the Heat, something that—after last year’s heartbreaking seven-game conference-finals loss—they’ve explicitly admitted wanting.

But, as Vogel himself pointed out per Agness, there’s a delicate utilitarian calculus at work that shouldn’t be subsumed by tunnel-vision strategy, even if the difference between the two teams remains just a single game:

When David West, who eats bricks for breakfast, has to tell you he’s tired? Yes, you might have a problem.

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