The Indiana Pacers are an interesting collective (Getty Images)
If you follow any more than one or two NBA players on Twitter, your timeline is likely dotted with either pre ("Rise and grind") or post-workout tweets from players attempting to stay in NBA shape during the offseason. Of course, no amount of weightlifting reps or 500 jump shot-afternoons can prepare a player for the quickness and speed of an NBA game, which is why some Indiana Pacers decided to amp up their offseason regimen in Los Angeles last week. Eight unnamed Pacers took to the practice court in an attempt to re-find the sort of chemistry that had Indiana putting the fear of a second round ouster in Miami's hearts last year.
About eight players, the entire coaching staff and the training staff were out there. More players would have shown up if not for prior commitments.
"That's a sign of a team that wants to improve," president Donnie Walsh said.
They worked out and also played pickup games against other NBA players at the Clippers practice facility.
It was also a bonding experience for them. They joked, went out to dinner, hung out together at the hotel.
Wells didn't name the players, who probably wanted to keep the roster a secret so as not to shame those who didn't show up. Though those who decided not to take part in some NBA-styled run in August in preparation for the 2012-13 season needn't feel bad. The offseason is a necessity, both to keep your sanity and your legs in a slog of a campaign that the Pacers hope could last until June of 2013. There is absolutely nothing wrong with not being part of that "about eight."
Based on Roy Hibbert's commitments with his appearances on NBC's 'Parks and Recreation' (and his creepy-van photo skills on Twitter), we know that Roy was both in the area and probably the reason Wells wrote "about eight players," because Hibbert may have only had time to work out a little and decline the scrimmage. Paul George obviously had other commitments that we applaud to no end, because they resulted in a dunk for the ages and a potentially life-altering trip to Shanghai that (if his Twitter feed is any indication) won him over. After scrounging around various other Twitter accounts, it's hard to tell who else was part of the run at this point.
There's no link to this sort of offseason exercise resulting in something greater than the sum of its parts come fall and winter (and hopefully spring and early summer), but longtime NBA'niks will tell you that the full cadre of coaches being in attendance is relatively rare. During the 1998-99 NBA lockout, the Pacers famously were the only team that held extensive roster-wide workouts while barred from practicing in team facilities (and mixing with the team's coaching staff); it was a move that seemed to sign off on the team's hoped-for ascension in the wake of the soon-to-be broken up Chicago Bulls, but did little to stop the rampaging New York Knicks from defeating the Pacers some seven months later.
Indiana is being counted on for nearly as strong an ascension this season, with the Chicago Bulls fading in the wake of Derrick Rose's devastating ACL tear, the Boston Celtics a continuing question mark due to age, the Brooklyn Nets a new'ish and untested face, and the New York Knicks their typically excitable and jumbled selves. But though the team really did give Miami a scare (stealing home court advantage and working against a Heat team playing without Chris Bosh and working with a clearly ailing Dwyane Wade) in that second round, the team's makeup has changed.
Roy Hibbert, long underrated and needlessly denied minutes in seasons prior to last, is coming off an All-Star berth and new maximum contract grab. Paul George will be asked to put this team over the top. Danny Granger will be asked to reclaim his All-Star ways. David West will have to stick at his peak, George Hill will have to continue to find a way to work that hybrid guard game while keeping his teammates involved (with Darren Collison in Dallas), and Gerald Green will have to respond to expectations. On top of that, in his first full and normal season as coach, Frank Vogel will have to find a way not to burn through a season's worth of motivation by Christmas. Starting in August makes that a tricky task.
This team is up for it, though. And while we encourage squads to keep themselves fresh for the season in order to make that Tuesday night game in January that much more enjoyable, it's cool to see these Pacers getting together this early.
(Even if it was in the mid-70s and sunny in Indiana last week, as opposed to the muggy heat-fest Los Angeles endured for the better part of mid-August. Gotcha there, El Lay. Should've come back to the plains, Pacers.)
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