Kevin Pritchard

Pacers’ Pritchard Talks Matthews, Roster, More

While Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard makes the final call on the team’s personnel moves, a pair of Indiana’s former heads of basketball operations remain very much in the loop, Pritchard tells Steve Aschburner of NBA.com.

According to Pritchard, he works with advisors Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird on a “daily basis.” Calling both men “true mentors,” Pritchard notes that Walsh is on the office every day, while Bird gets “very involved” in the summer and fall.

Within his conversation with Aschburner, Pritchard touched on a number of other subjects, discussing the Pacers’ approach to free agency, the excellent job head coach Nate McMillan has done with the club, and Victor Oladipo‘s rehab, among other topics. For Pacers fans, the conversation is worth reading in full, but here are a few highlights from the team’s president of basketball operations:

On the sales pitch that allowed the Pacers to land Wesley Matthews last month:

“He saw opportunity, right? We needed a starting two. And there was continuity with just knowing Nate and how he coaches, his style [Matthews and McMillan were together in Portland for a season and a half]. And from what he’s told us, he saw us, he played against us and he liked the way we play. But it became a recruiting process, for sure. He had a lot of options.”

On what the Pacers have gotten out of 2018’s free agent signees (Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott, and Kyle O’Quinn):

“They fit in nicely. They all made it clear that they wanted to come in, play a role and do it as well as they possibly could. Kyle is a great backup center, and we’ve asked him to be the third center. We’ve needed him, because Sabonis is going to be out for a little bit. McDermott, as he gets comfortable here and learns to seek out his offense, the better he’s going to be. And Tyreke, he’s had some ups and downs. But when he plays well, we’re a different team. We need that punch off the bench, and that’s something we focused on when he got him.”

On the impact of having so many free-agents-to-be on the roster:

“It’s good in that guys are pretty motivated. I’ve believed in this team. We’re going to be challenged in the playoffs and it will be fun watching them, but we’ve got to get there first. I don’t want to look too far in the future. We know we’re going to have some tough decisions this summer. But I believe 40% of the league will be free agents, so it’s not only our issue. It’s a league issue and an opportunity.”

On the Pacers’ long-standing aversion to tanking (Indiana hasn’t won fewer than 32 games in a season since 1988/89):

“You’ve got to give [team owner] Herb [Simon] a ton of credit. He’s not the kind of guy who says, ‘Let’s tank and look to the future in three years.’ We’re not about that. “

Central Notes: Kennard, Krauskopf, Evans, Dunn

Luke Kennard may be the latest Pistons wing to play his way out of the starting small forward spot, as I noted in the Detroit Free Press. Kennard has scored just 24 points over the last six games after a 28-point outing in Philadelphia. The second-year swingman out of Duke was benched during the second half of a 98-95 home loss to Atlanta on Sunday. Stanley Johnson and Glenn Robinson III were also ineffective in that role. “There’s nothing maddening about it at all (but) you want that person to step in and produce,” coach Dwane Casey said of finding someone to fill that slot. “Give some production, whether it’s energy defensively, energy offensively, running the floor, cutting, just playing basketball. That’s what you’re searching for in that position.”

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard said that hiring Kelly Krauskopf as an assistant GM had nothing to do with making history, according to Dana Hunsinger Benbow of the Indianapolis Star. Krauskopf became the first women to hold that NBA front office position in a modern-day format in that she will be involved in personnel decisions. “It’s going to be made a big deal about (her being a woman) and the truth is she is just the best person for the job, period, end of discussion,” he said. “It doesn’t matter (her) gender, race, anything like that. She was the best person for the job.” Krauskopf spent 17 years as GM of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever.
  • Pacers guard Tyreke Evans has missed the last two games due to knee soreness and will be a game-time decision against Atlanta on Wednesday. Evans explained to Scott Agness of The Athletic that he aggravated an old right knee injury when the Sixers’ Joel Embiid fell on him during a collision. Fluid built up and Evans, who had three operations on that knee in 2016, needed to have the knee drained.
  • Bulls point guard Kris Dunn has taken a bigger offensive role with Zach LaVine sidelined by an ankle injury, Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Dunn is averaging 17.8 PPG and 6.0 APG over the last five games with LaVine out of commission. “Whatever gets the win. If I’ve got to be aggressive on the offensive side looking at the rim a little bit more or getting my guys involved,” he said. “I’m a pass-first point guard but it’s the NBA.”

Pacers President Kevin Pritchard On Contracts, Cap Room And Developing Players

The decision to implement the salary cap increase all at once instead of smoothing it out over several years has led to increased player movement across the NBA, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard contends in an interview with Scott Agness of The Athletic.

Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young are the only players on Indiana’s roster who were with the team two seasons ago, and Pritchard said that is becoming a trend around the league. Teams are opting for shorter contracts, which preserve future cap space at the expense of unity.

“Two collective bargaining agreements ago, I remember you could do six- and seven-year contracts,” he said. “And now we’re talking about over half our team this year is on a one-year deal. So I think it has some uniquenesses, but it also has some challenges. One of the big things for us is we do want to start establishing continuity.

“Every year is its own set of challenges and opportunities. The thing about this team is we brought back the top seven and we feel like we added to the bench. We’re going to miss some players, there’s no doubt. We’re going to miss Lance [Stephenson]. We’re going to miss Al [Jefferson]. We’re going to miss Joe [Young] and Glenn [Robinson III]. Those guys were part of a culture that was very unique and will be hard to duplicate.”

Pritchard shares his thoughts on several topics in the wide-ranging interview:

On the team’s projected $57MM in cap room next summer:

“I would say that adding really good players is always the highest priority. So sometimes flexibility is good and sometimes you’d just rather have the better player. For us, there are so many free agents next summer. But if things go as planned and we have a great season, our free agents become the priority.”

On the progress of Victor Oladipo, who was named the league’s Most Improved Player last season: 

“He’s done an amazing job of trusting his teammates, of making that right play at the right time. Part of that was [GM] Chad [Buchanan] and I and [senior VP of basketball operations] Peter [Dinwiddie] trying to put a more complimentary team around him — with him making reads and then elevating everyone else. At the end of the day, he’s a star and stars can do it for themselves. He’s got to raise the level of everybody else around him.”

On the development of the team’s younger players:

“I looked at the way Villanova has been evaluating what they do player wise. They bring a guy in and it’s like they redshirt all of their freshman. That’s kind of how I felt with T.J. [Leaf] last year. Draft T.J., have him work on his body, and then he’ll be more prepared for an NBA season versus just throwing him at the wolves and seeing what happens. I feel like T.J. worked on his body, he gained 17 pounds, physically he’s more ready, mentally he’s more ready. And so now he has a better chance for success long term.”

On LeBron James‘ departure to the Western Conference:

“He put a pretty big road block in front of the Pacers, but not just the Pacers. A lot of other teams, too. He’s beaten us five times in the playoffs. That’s not a lot of fun.”

Central Notes: Robinson, Pacers’ Plans, Thomas, Bucks Cap

The addition of swingman Glenn Robinson III filled the Pistons’ biggest need this offseason, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. The Pistons didn’t anticipate an early commitment but a phone call from new coach Dwane Casey as the start of free agency helped to seal the deal with the ex-Pacers wing. Robinson received a two-year, $8.3MM contract. “We didn’t expect we would get Glenn that quickly,” senior advisor Ed Stefanski said. “We felt getting the two-year commitment was huge to us. To find a young wing who can make a shot, they’re hard to find in the league. When the opportunity came up that quickly, we felt we had to make a move. If it wasn’t for him, we would still be out there looking for a guy.”

In other news involving Central Division teams:

  • Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard hopes to use a majority of next summer’s cap space on his own free agents, Mark Monteith of Pacers.com reports. Rotation players Thaddeus Young, Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Tyreke Evans could all be free agents next summer, which would free up as much as $57MM in cap space, Monteith notes. But Pritchard would prefer to use most of the money to re-sign some of those players, as he told Monteith. “We have the season like we want to have, our free agents will be the priority,” he said. “I think this team has a chance to grow this year. … We already know these guys. They become our priority in free agency.”
  • Rookie second-round pick Khyri Thomas could get playing time with the Pistons through his defensive prowess, Rod Beard of the Detroit News writes. The swingman out of Creighton views himself as a defensive specialist. “When I was younger, I didn’t get the ball a lot playing with older people so I just stole the ball to get it,” he told Beard.
  • The addition of center Brook Lopez gives the Bucks 13 guaranteed contracts for next season but they’re still $15MM away from being hard-capped, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Lopez reportedly agreed to a one-year deal on Sunday. Milwaukee still has to deal with restricted free agent Jabari Parker‘s status, as he remains unsigned, but they could gain more flexibility since the contracts for Tyler Zeller and Brandon Jennings are not guaranteed, Marks adds.

Central Notes: Stephenson, Love, Polinsky, Evans

The Pacers offered a better contract to swingman Lance Stephenson than he received from the Lakers, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said on Friday (Twitter link via Mark Monteith). Stephenson agreed to a one-year, $4.5MM deal from the Lakers. A phone call from LeBron James influenced Stephenson’s decision to choose L.A., Monteith adds. However, the Pacers declined Stephenson’s team option of $4.36MM prior to free agency, so it seems odd Pritchard then turned around and offered more in the open market.

In other news around the Central Division:

  • The Cavs don’t plan on tanking or trading their top remaining player Kevin Love, Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. GM Koby Altman said he’s intent on keeping the team competitive despite the loss of LeBron James“Kevin is an All-Star and you don’t get better by moving Kevin,” Altman said. “Kevin’s been incredible for us for four years and he wants to be here, and to me that’s a big part for guys that are here and the guys that we’re gonna acquire, is that they want to be here and be a part of this new chapter and culture that we’re creating.”
  • The Pistons have hired Nets executive Gregg Polinsky as their director of player personnel, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Pistons senior advisor Ed Stefanski and Polinsky worked together in Brooklyn, Wojnarowski adds. Polinsky had the same title with the Nets but his role will expand in Detroit. Pat Garrity and Andrew Loomis, who were assistant GMs under former team president Stan Van Gundy, will continue in their roles, according to Rod Beard of the Detroit News. The Pistons could bring in another assistant GM to focus on analytics, Beard adds.
  • Tyreke Evans is content with coming off the bench for the Pacers, Monteith writes for the team’s website. Evans joined the Pacers on a one-year, $12MM deal. Pritchard didn’t have to coax Evans into being a sixth man. “Not one bit,” he said. “We told him, ‘Here’s your role, does that interest you?’ He said, ‘Yes, I’m in.’ I think in his mind he’s going, ‘Boy, I’ve been scoring a lot of points and doing a lot of good stuff against starters, this is going to be fun.'”
  • Tim Grgurich is likely to join Dwane Casey’s coaching staff with the Pistons, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Grgurich, 76, has a long career as an NBA assistant and most recently was a consultant with the Bucks.

Pacers’ Pritchard: We Hit Jackpot With Oladipo

Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard lavished praise on Victor Oladipo and revealed he consulted the team’s current star on potential moves, Dakota Crawford of the Indianapolis Star relays. Pritchard’s comments were made during radio interviews with ESPN’s Dan Dakich and CBS Sports Radio’s Kent Sterling. Pritchard said Oladipo changed the organization after being acquired from the Thunder in the Paul George deal last summer, not only with his breakout season but with his personality.

We feel like we hit the jackpot,” Pritchard said. “No offense to Paul George, he’s having success and he’s going to go wherever he wants this offseason …”

Pritchard texts regularly with Oladipo and indicated he’d ask for the guard’s input on future decisions. Pritchard began doing that at the trade deadline.

“We looked at two or three deals. Two of them were just OK. But one of them, we really looked at. We went to Victor … he said some things, and we (kind of decided to leave it on the table).”

In other nuggets from the interviews:

  • Pritchard said he’d like to retain forward Thaddeus Young, who has a player option on his contract. “He didn’t talk a lot in the locker room, but when he did it was powerful. Thad was amazing. We hope he comes back.”
  • Pritchard hinted he wasn’t interested in pursuing George in free agency. Front office executives aren’t allowed to speak specifically about opposing players. “One of the things we’re about, we don’t care about big names, we don’t care about big personalities we don’t care about big brands. What we care about is being humble … Anybody that fits in, yeah, we’re interested … But if they don’t fit that, I’m not interested. It’s that simple.”
  • Pritchard liked the way the contracts of Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic worked out and indicated he might take the same approach this offseason. Both were signed to two-year deals with a team option. “We think big, but the challenge is, if we lose a lot of our pieces to go big … are you better off with a couple major players, or are you better off with a really good group of players that don’t make the $30 million? That (instead) make the $10 or $12 million.”

Pacers Notes: Sabonis, Turner, Young, Offseason, Pritchard

With the Pacers eliminated from the postseason, the focus turns to next season and how the team can improve. With several roster options to consider during the offseason, the Pacers figure to weigh the pros and cons of potentially starting both Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, Mark Monteith of NBA.com examines.

While neither player is a finished product, both possess attributes that helped Indiana this season. Turner is a good three-point shooter and shot blocker, whereas Sabonis is the better rebounder and mid-range shooter. Although neither player is a traditional center or power forward, team president Kevin Pritchard believes that both Turner and Sabonis can help the team if they are on the floor together.

“Players who play with each other a couple of years, they know where they’re going to be,” Pritchard said. “That makes the game come slower. Domas, the game already comes slow. He can make reads. Myles, he gets a little frantic. And that makes a difference. He’s got to calm down a little bit.”

Check out more Pacers notes below:

  • Both Cory Joseph and Thaddeus Young, who have options in their contracts, could leave Indiana this offseason. However, during his end of season media session, Pritchard indicated that both men expressed interest in returning during their exit meetings, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star writes. Since then, a report has indicated Joseph will pick up his option.
  • Pritchard addressed several aspects of the Pacers’ season in his media session, including the team’s somewhat improbable run to the postseason, roster, and impending offseason decisions, NBA.com’s Mark Monteith writes. “In my 26 years (in the NBA) I’ve never been around a team that brought it like they did this year. They had each other’s backs,” Pritchard said.
  • Bobby Marks of ESPN Insider (subscription required) looked at the Pacers’ impending decisions this summer. Marks examines whether Turner should be signed to a long-term deal, whether the Pacers will keep their roster together, and more.

Pacers Notes: Young, Offseason Outlook, Barton

As we relayed earlier today, Cory Joseph will opt in to his contract for next year, leaving Thaddeus Young as the only Pacers player with a decision to make on a player option for next season. J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star reports that GM Kevin Pritchard indicated in exit meetings that both Joseph and Young would like to return. As it turns out, he was correct on his assessment of Joseph, and we’ll soon find out whether Young will join Joseph in exercising his player option for 2018/19 worth about $13.8MM.

Michael opines that Young will likely opt out of his salary for the opportunity to sign a long-term contract, while Bobby Marks of ESPN estimates that a starting salary for Young on the open market would likely fall short of his salary for next season should he choose to opt in. Per Marks, Young will need to determine whether the future financial security of a long-term contract with a lower annual salary outweighs earning a higher salary for one season. Ultimately, Marks thinks Young will opt in, leaving the Pacers right at the salary cap come this summer.

There’s more out of Indianapolis:

  • Pritchard and the Pacers face an important offseason this summer, writes Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star. Gone are the days when the Pacers can sneak up on opponents with their new-found success, with head coach Nate McMillan saying, “We won’t go under the radar, so to speak, next season.”
  • Mark Montieth of Pacers.com takes a look at the options facing Pritchard and the Pacers’ front office this offseason. The overarching question that must be answered is whether Indiana will risk their new-found positive locker room culture by bringing significant new players or leave the status quo and rely on improvement from young players such as Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis.
  • As we touched upon a couple of weeks ago, one potential free agent target for the Pacers could be Nuggets swingman Will Barton, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Central Notes: Pacers, Van Gundy, Pistons, LaVine

Victor Oladipo is the strong frontrunner for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, and his play this season may indirectly result in another award landing in Indiana. As Dakota Crawford of The Indianapolis Star writes, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard has a strong case for Executive of the Year, in large part due to how his much-criticized trade for Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis has worked out.

Here’s more from around the Central division:

  • Pistons owner Tom Gores is scheduled to meet after the season with president and head coach Stan Van Gundy. While Gores is still said to be mulling Van Gundy’s future, the Pistons owner has treated Van Gundy as a partner during his time in Detroit, and figures to give the veteran coach an opportunity to make his case to stick with the team, says Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Ellis wonders if Gores and Van Gundy could agree to bring a new voice into the front office to help with salary cap management, since the Pistons have had a habit of overpaying role players in recent years.
  • Although the Pistons fell short of the postseason this year, Blake Griffin believes the club has the talent to “make a run” in the East in 2018/19, per Rod Beard of The Detroit News.
  • Bulls guard Zach LaVine may not have the leverage to land a maximum-salary contract this offseason in restricted free agency, but he wants to continue to work toward being a “max player.” Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago has the details.
  • Don’t expect a whole lot of roster turnover for the Bulls this summer, writes Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago. As Schanowski observes, it’s still probably too early in the club’s rebuilding process to make a big splash in free agency.

Central Notes: Oladipo, Pistons Rotation, Griffin

Victor Oladipo knew a breakout season was possible after speaking with Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard on the team’s private plane prior to his introductory press conference last summer, as Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated divulges in a feature story. Pritchard assured Oladipo that the club truly coveted his services, rather than just matching up salaries to facilitate the Paul George blockbuster with the Thunder. Indiana wanted to play faster this season. “This wasn’t a dump. We targeted you,” Pritchard told Oladipo, according to Jenkins. The All-Star shooting guard is averaging a career-high 24.4 PPG for the surprising Pacers.  “It was the first time in my career I felt like a team really believed in me,” Oladipo told Jenkins. “I was just thinking, Don’t mess this up.”

In other nuggets involving the Central Division:

  • Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy will likely go with a 10-man rotation once Reggie Jackson returns from his Grade 3 ankle sprain, according to Ansar Khan of MLive.com.  Jackson would join a starting unit of Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, Stanley Johnson and Reggie Bullock. Ish Smith would return to his usual role as leader of the second unit with center Eric Moreland and forwards Anthony Tolliver and James Ennis getting steady minutes, Khan speculates. Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway would split time as the backup shooting guard, Khan adds.
  • Pistons owner Tom Gores invited Griffin and his business partners over to his California home immediately after the blockbuster deal with the Clippers, as Keith Langlois of Pistons.com details. Gores wanted to assure Griffin how badly the Pistons wanted him and address any concerns the five-time All-Star power forward might have, Langlois continues. The Pistons are 5-3 since Griffin joined their lineup. “We were very quickly on the same page with the same view of what we want to achieve and the approach to get there,” Gores told Langlois. “He’s definitely hit the ground running. It’s been great to see how his teammates, the whole organization and the fans have embraced him.”