Pacers fans thought they had a miracle when the team made the trade to acquire Darren Collison, the promising young PG from New Orleans. Two miracles in one offseason? We will soon find out.
Ever since the Pacers made the big trade for Collison and James Posey, everyone has acknowledged the gaping hole that was left at the PF position when Troy Murphy was shipped out. Josh McRoberts saw this as the biggest opportunity of his career.
Last year, McRoberts was battling just to remain in the NBA. With Murphy and Tyler Hansbrough firmly ahead of him on the depth chart at power forward entering camp in 2009, McRoberts faced a challenge just to make the team.
Coach Jim O'Brien spoke about McRoberts' play at the end of the this week.
"I said to him I thought he was the best player on the court. And he's not having to do that by scoring the most. His communication on defense is great. His understanding of the game is great."
"He is trying to rebound every shot. He doesn't turn the ball over at all. And he runs the court."
McRoberts knows he had to improve, and he is confident that he has done what has been asked of him by the team this past offseason.
"I think Coach O'Brien is more comfortable with me," he said. "This is the longest I've had a coach in my entire life, so for him to be able to know what I can do, to know my strengths and weaknesses, really helps. I think we're on the same page."
"I think it's been great growth," said O'Brien. "A couple of things maybe slowed down his development. We had a guy in front of him that was such a weapon from the three-point line. And we also had Jeff Foster for some of that time who can back up at that position."
"And we were also effective with a small lineup. Because we were a spacing team, Josh put too much emphasis, as we also did, on having to be a three-point shooter."
It appears McRoberts' performance, combined with the return to health of Foster and Hansbrough and the promise of rookie Magnum Rolle, has eased the sense of urgency to make a trade for a starter.
The Pacers have plenty of expiring contracts and wing players to entice another team into making a trade for a starting PF, but McRoberts wants to prove that he is the man for the job this season.
"Jeff Foster said to me yesterday how much improved Josh is in guarding the low post," O'Brien said. "The last couple of years, he couldn't guard the low post at all.
"He's made a commitment to certain areas of the game that he knows he has to be good at in order to get playing time. And he's doing it at such a high level."
Even though this isn't the "show me" state, Pacers fans will still want to see McRoberts play a few months before they declare him a solid starter. The person that has seen him play the most though, may just be ready to make that claim.
"If we were playing a game tonight, Josh McRoberts would be at the power forward for 36 minutes," said coach Jim O'Brien. "He is having that type of impact."
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