In an intriguing development, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN hears from sources tell him first-year Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren may not last as the head man on Indiana’s bench beyond this season, citing the coach’s fraught relationships with both players and staffers. Woj does add that Bjorkgren has acknowledged an interest in addressing the problem.
After logging several years as an assistant coach for the Raptors, Bjorkgren signed a three-year deal with Indiana during the 2020 offseason. Woj notes that the coach’s salary for the 2021/22 season is fully guaranteed.
Bjorkgren has led an injury-plagued roster to a mediocre 30-34 record, good for the No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference. So long as Indiana secures at least the 10th seed in the East, it will compete in a play-in tournament to qualify for the first round of the playoffs this year. The club has eight games remaining on its schedule.
Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files tweets that the Pacers are grappling with a plurality of locker room “issues” that he agrees need to be ironed out, indicating that there has been an atypical level of internal conflict since January (Twitter link).
Like many teams across this truncated NBA season, the Pacers have dealt with a significant amount of injury- and health-related absences. Players hit the hardest include starting center Myles Turner (who has missed 17 games and counting), reserve wing Jeremy Lamb (28 games and counting), newly acquired Pacers forward Caris LeVert (24 games), and starting small forward T.J. Warren, healthy for just four games this season.
Elsewhere on the team’s drama front, the Pacers were concerned that they would lose former star guard Victor Oladipo to unrestricted free agency this summer, and so dealt him to the Rockets. He was subsequently traded again to the Heat at the March deadline. Nagging injury troubles have beset Oladipo at all three stops this season.