INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– The message may not have been as direct as last year, but Pacers’ president Kevin Pritchard got the hint. His players weren’t interested in a major overhaul at this season’s NBA trade deadline either. They wanted to continue to build with their current roster.
“Since Victor’s injury, we’ve lost a few, but we’ve also come back and won a few,” Pritchard said. “It kind of tells me this team wants to be together. I know the last two games were sending a message.”
The Pacers handed LeBron James the worst loss of his career on Tuesday, blowing out the Lakers by 42 points. They then cruised over Los Angeles’ other team, the Clippers on Thursday for their fourth straight win. The victory moved them into third place in the Eastern Conference.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team,” said Pritchard. “This team is competing their butts off. Maybe we’re not the most talented team in the East. I can see it in their eyes after games, they feel they can compete with anybody. This team needs to be given the credit it deserves. We have a tough stretch in March. We’re going to be tested in March, but we’re going to be a playoff team and we’re going to be a tough out.”
Pritchard met with media after the team’s practice at the St. Vincent Center on Friday. He said he had two goals at this year’s deadline: to become more “asset rich” and to explore the buyout market.
He was able to do both, acquiring a second-round pick from Houston and reportedly being on the verge of signing guard Wesley Matthews, who was bought out by the Knicks.
Pritchard couldn’t comment on Matthews specifically, because the signing isn’t official yet, but did day “it’s somebody we feel good about and is a good fit, but it’s not done until it’s done.”
Pritchard said he wasn’t surprised to see injured all-star Victor Oladipo post a video shooting from a training table 10 days after surgery.
“I have every confidence that he’s going to be back better than ever,” Pritchard said. “I wouldn’t be shocked if his mental aptitude for the game was a lot better and no doubt physically, he’ll be fine.”
As for a timetable for his return, Pritchard said he can’t go there.
“I hope he’s a fast healer, but the one thing I can promise you this organization does is we never bring back players early. When he’s ready, he’ll be ready and he’ll be out there.”