New look Pacers ready for start of training camp
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A new era of Pacers basketball begins in a new building.
The team held its first media day Monday in its new practice facility at the St. Vincent Center across the street from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Pacers President Kevin Pritchard was forced into a major roster overhaul after four-time All-Star Paul George informed him he intended to leave when he became a free agent. Only six players remain from last season. The team will now look to third-year center Myles Turner to be the face of the franchise.
“To say that I’m a leader this young is pretty incredible,” Turner said. “I’m still working up to that leadership role, so I’m going to take this year as a learning experience. I know we can compete this year. Guys are downplaying us, keeping us out of the playoff picture, but I think we have a chance.”
Guard Lance Stephenson, who’s about to start his first full season back with the team after returning late last year, also likes the team’s chances in a wide open Eastern Conference. He also likes the underdog role.
“I love it,” said Stephenson. “I’ve been doubted all my life and now my team is being doubted. When you’re the underdog, not that much is expected from you, so you have to come in with that tough energy and prove everybody wrong.”
The Pacers also look to turn the page on the drama and attention created by the George situation this summer.
“Losing PG was tough, because he’s been here for the past seven or eight years and had a lasting impact,” Turner said. “But we had to move forward and we got some great pieces in return.”
One of those pieces is former Indiana University standout Victor Oladipo. The Pacers acquired the 2013 All-American and Domantas Sabonis from Oklahoma City for George in July. Oladipo says he’s excited for the opportunity to return to the state he played his college basketball.
“The funny thing is when I left, I felt like there was something missing,” said Olapido. “I could give them more. It’s amazing how God works and brings you back to where it all started for me. I feel like He put me in this position, because I’m ready for it and I’m going to make the most of it.”
Nate McMillan returns for his second season as head coach after leading the team to a 42-40 record and a playoff berth.
“It’s really just an exciting time for me and the organization,” McMillan said. “With this new group that we have coming in, I just feel like we have some hungry guys with some things to prove.”
One of those guys with some things to prove is Oladipo, who’s already with his third NBA team in just his fifth pro season. He says he has more than just a chip on his shoulder.
“It’s like a brick,” joked Oladipo. “A brick building, a wall, a house… it’s not a chip anymore. It’s way bigger than that, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
Turner embraced his new role of team leader by addressing the subject of potential national anthem protests in the NBA after comments President Trump made about anthem protests in the NFL. Currently, the NBA has a rule that players must stand during the national anthem, but Turner says the team will discuss what it can do.
“Those comments are a little harsh when you’re talking about guys that are busting their butts every day, night in and night out to put on a performance for the people that are watching,” Turner said. “It was a little harsh to hear, but it’s a tough situation that we’re in right now.”
The Pacers will open up training camp with practice on Tuesday at the St. Vincent Center.