Column: Indiana Ready To Move At Different Pace

Sam Amico, the founder and editor of and a broadcast journalist for Fox Sports Ohio, will write a weekly feature for Hoops Rumors with news, rumors and insight from around the NBA. We’re excited to present the first installment here:

It should be an interesting season for the Indiana Pacers.

Two years ago, the Pacers were a real contender. They lost to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals but appeared to be on the brink of very good things. They were making major strides, seemingly a franchise that would soon get over the hump.

Then Lance Stephenson left in free agency.

Then Paul George suffered a horrific leg injury while playing an exhibition with Team USA.

Then the Pacers suddenly became a middle-of-the-road club, fighting to make the playoffs, but not quite good enough to get in.

So president of basketball operations and basketball icon Larry Bird decided to give them a bit of a makeover. Bird and coach Frank Vogel aimed to get the Pacers to move at a quicker, well, pace. They want to push the ball, force the tempo, and move away from the smash-mouth style of the previous five or six years.

That style worked well for the Pacers — but it truly was an elbows-out, feet-on-the-floor type of game and it only carried them so far.

So plodding 7’2″ center Roy Hibbert was shipped off to the Lakers (for virtually nothing), aging power forward David West left for San Antonio, and Bird suddenly started talking about the possibility of George, a swingman by trade, playing some power forward.

(As an aside, when George hinted he may be less than thrilled with the position change, Bird uttered a line only a man with his credentials can utter. “He don’t make the decisions around here,” Bird said, drawing laughter.)

Either way, the Pacers will be playing an entirely different style — and they believe that with the addition of a healthy George and free agent signees Monta Ellis and Jordan Hill, they are ready for take-off.

Bird and Vogel also seem especially excited about rookie lottery pick Myles Turner, a big man with a perimeter game, and even Joseph Young, a push-it-up and fill-it-up combo guard drafted in the second round.

Also, even after the signing of Glenn Robinson III, the Pacers may still have a few minor moves in the works.

Right now, Turner is likely the starting center, with Hill and George in the frontcourt, and George Hill and Ellis at guard. Word is, Bird wants another experienced big, and someone such as Carlos Boozer may eventually come cheap.

But no matter who comes and goes, it’s clear that Bird, his front office team and coaching staff are taking a different approach to finding success. And with good health and smooth adaptation to a new playing style, the Pacers just may be on to something.

Around the NBA

1. Several league execs have said this could be a breakout season for Perry Jones III, a fourth-year forward who was recently traded from Oklahoma City to Boston. “I’m just happy to have a fresh start,” Jones told the media Monday, including Jay King of (Twitter link). “It’s something that I needed.”

2. Since last season, the Celtics have added David Lee, Amir Johnson, Jones and draft picks Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter. “It feels like we’ve taken a step forward in this offseason by adding these guys and our draft picks,” owner Wyc Grousbeck told reporters Monday, including Ben Rohrbach of (Twitter link).

3. One untrue rumor making rounds is J.R. Smith to the Lakers. But Smith is considerably more likely to return to the Cavs than go anywhere else. And the Lakers aren’t interested. A deal between the Cavs and Smith could be finalized within the next seven to 10 days.

4. Tayshaun Prince and the recently released Henry Walker are both drawing interest from Portland.

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