Indiana Pacers: 10 Bold Predictions for the Season Now That Jim O'Brien Is Gone
Tonight, Interim Head Coach Frank Vogel got his first win as an NBA head coach, as the Indiana Pacers held off the Toronto Raptors at Conseco Fieldhouse, 104 - 93.
Former head coach Jim O'Brien was fired yesterday, and Vogel took over the reigns of this team tonight, and they responded with a win. While they almost fumbled it away, they were able to keep their composure and keep fighting. They had a 20-point lead in the second quarter, only to see Toronto come back and tie the game in the third quarter.
Roy Hibbert had his way inside, as he finished with a game-high 24 points and 11 rebounds. Five players scored in double figures for the Pacers, including 14 from Tyler Hansbrough and 16 from rookie Paul George, whom both came off the bench.
Danny Granger struggled to shoot the ball, going just three of 15 from the floor, finishing with 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Darren Collison (16 points, six assists) was the other Indiana player that scored in double figures.
Just going on this one game, it's hard to say how the rest of the season will pan out for the Pacers, but here are 10 bold predictions.
Roy Hibbert Returns to Form
Roy Hibbert looked like a strong candidate for breakout player of the year this season. Once December hit though, it took a 180 degree turn for Roy.
He struggled, in every sense of the word. His offense was virtually nonexistent, his defense was poor, causing him to get in foul trouble and his rebounding was one of the worst in the league for a Center. Add to that, the fact that Jim O'Brien's public criticism of Roy had caused him to seek therapy from a sports psychologist.
Now that Jim is out, look for coach Vogel to get the ball inside to him a little more and feed more of the offense though him. It worked tonight, as Hibbert finished with a nice double-double—24 points and 11 rebounds in the win.
The Young Guys Are Ready To Play
Whether the young guys play more and succeed, or play more and fail, at least we will know what we have going into next season.
Having a guy that barely plays is like a wild card. Some guys never get any playing time with a team, only to go to another team, where they break out. If that were to happen to Hansbrough, Paul George or even Lance Stephenson, it would be devastating.
Even AJ Price should see more minutes, especially with TJ Ford not seeing the floor. Frank is not afraid to play these young guys, and it looks like it is paying off. Hansbrough and George both had solid games tonight, combining for 30 points and 10 rebounds.
Big Men Lineup Will Leave Posey on the Bench
One thing Frank Vogel mentioned before tonight's game was the fact he was going to play McRoberts and Hansbrough at the PF position. No mention of James Posey, or even Danny Granger at the four spot. The small lineup was used a lot with O'Brien, but it never seemed to pay off.
Vogel says he wants to use the youth and excitement from Tyler and Josh to get the team going. While I like this idea, I think Hansbrough should get the starting nod over Josh. Nothing against Josh, but Tyler has been the better player this year and has really had some great games.
Lance Stephenson Finally Gets To Play
For weeks now, many people within the organization have been clamoring to see Lance Stephenson get some time in a game. The rookie has yet to play this season for the Pacers, but with Brandon Rush going down with a sprained ankle, and the recent coaching change, the time may be coming soon.
He says he is prepared, and he might be, but I don't see him getting many minutes, especially over proven guys like Collison, Price and even Paul George. It will be nice to see him get some experience though.
The Return of the Fans
Making the move to Coach Vogel was obviously a popular decision here in Indy. Just like the backup quarterback on certain NFL teams, he is the fan favorite...for now.
Winning his first game was a big step up. Next up though, they travel to Cleveland to face the worst team in the league, a team that has lost 21 games in a row. If they were to drop this game, it could be a devastating blow to the confidence of everyone on this team.
Having said that, I am hearing that ticket sales are up a little bit, and hopefully if they can get on a roll in these next few games, the attendance will really pick up in Conseco Fieldhouse.
Larry Bird Becomes More Hands on
When Larry Bird was coaching this team, they had some of their best years as a franchise, which is really saying something, considering their history.
Obviously he knew what he was doing while on the bench, and everyone was begging him to stay, but he had already made up his mind. He is in a contract year, much like everyone else within the organization. It would appear as though he is undecided on what he wants to do after the season, but if the Pacers can get rolling a little bit, and the players really pick it up, maybe Larry would like to hang around to see this thing grow into what he still dreams it could be.
Vogel Has a Better Record in 2010-2011 Than O'Brien
The Pacers obviously hit a brick wall once December arrived, but they had a pretty good start to the season.
With the schedule easing off a bit considering what they have had to endure the past couple of months, it looks like Vogel could really end up with a better record than O'Brien had earlier in the year. While this may not happen, it will certainly be close.
Darren Collison Becomes Darren Collison of Last Year
Darren isn't putting up the same kind of numbers he did in New Orleans last year, but much of that has to do with the Pacers not having David West.
Having West with Collison boosted his numbers with the deadly screen and roll plays they had. Who knows if the offense is going to change; it's hard to do during the season when there aren't many practices. Still, it shouldn't be that hard to run more pick-and-roll plays with him and Hansbrough, who is a very good shooter within 12 feet.
Pacers Make a Big Time Deal
Whether it happens by trading one of their many expiring contracts, or a sign and trade, look for the Pacers to make a big move this year.
Who knows what will happen with the CBA this offseason and if there will be a lockout or not. Indiana would like to make a good move before all that happens. Too hard to guess on who they could land, but look for them to go after a strong PF that can give them help at the offensive end.
Back in the Playoffs!
Yes, I ,like many people around here, am drinking the Kool-Aid. This has more to do with the East being so terrible near the bottom of the standings, than it does with the Pacers becoming a great team.
Just one game out of the playoffs right now, the Pacers have some really good games coming up in February, which could really vault them back into seventh or eight place in the East. They will have to grind in order to get there, but I think these guys are hungry enough that they will want it.
I predict they finish with the final playoff spot in the East, where they will probably be swept by the Celtics. We will look at this as more of a positive than a negative though. Getting some experience in the postseason is the perfect start for this young team heading into the future.