INDIANAPOLIS – “Blue Collar, Gold Swagger” has been a catchy advertising slogan for the rebirth of central Indiana’s NBA franchise.
In many ways, the Pacers’ team-first, workman like approach is the reason they rose from the bottom of the Eastern Conference to the top in a matter of four years.
But as the team approaches their biggest postseason in nearly a decade, David West believes some of the attitude which helped the Pacers arrive at the top of the league may be slipping a little bit.
Not too serious, but just a little.
“We’re not as committed to playing team ball as we have been–and it’s biting us a little bit,” said West, whose Pacers fell to the Knicks 92-86 on Wednesday night. “We’ve just got to continue to push toward identifying ourselves as a group.”
West may have though that more after the Pacers had a miserable shooting night in Madison Square Garden-specifically from the three-point line. The team continued to try to make it work from the outside despite early struggles and finished 5-for-23 from behind the arc.
After watching that game, West believes the team needs to be more patient and not try to have players individually try to save the day when things are going bad.
“Not feel like we have to depend on one or two guys to do the bulk of the lifting around here. We’re not built for that,” said West. “We’ve got a deep basketball team and I think a lot of it, too, when you’re struggling offensively sometimes you get a little tight and you’re not as loose.
“So I think all of that is contributing to where we are.”
He’s not alone in his thinking. Paul George agreed with West’s assessment of the team at this point in the season and like the forward pointed to the offensive end as evidence.
“We’re not getting back to playing for one another,” said George. “Not many games we’ve played where we’re around ten assists for a game. We’re usually around 20, usually 18 or 19. That scenario we’ve got to get better with. I think we have become a one-on-one kind of team and that’s not going to get us nowhere.
So how does the team fix it with a month left to go in the season?
“I think it’s just knowing our roles and playing for one another,” said George. “Setting guys up.”
Yet the key according to West is not to take the recent struggles too seriously. After all the team has a 50-18 record and leads the Eastern Conference by three games over Miami with 14 games remaining in the regular season.
“We’re not going to overreact to sort of what the perception is coming from the outside,” said West. “We’ve got full confidence in this group and we feel pretty good. If we were in like fourth or we had given up the one seed or whatever (we would feel differently). But, again, the reason why we got off to a good start is just in case of a stretch like this hit us.
“Again, we’ve got 50 wins and we’re just going to keep trying to add wins as they come.”
At least he comes to they do when the team comes together like they have in their “Blue Collar” past.