Nate McMillan

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 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.

Pacers Notes: Turner, Collison, GRIII, McMillan

It has been a somewhat disappointing season for third-year center Myles Turner, who was viewed as a strong candidate to have a breakout year for the Pacers following Paul George‘s offseason departure. Instead, Turner has been slowed by health issues and has seen his numbers decline in several offensive categories this year.

Still, as Jim Ayello of The Indianapolis Star details, Turner has lost the support of “exactly zero” members of the Pacers’ organization, and remains an important building block for the club’s future. Turner will be extension-eligible for the first time during the offseason.

Here’s more on the Pacers, who currently hold the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference:

  • Mark Montieth of has an in-depth feature on Pacers point guard Darren Collison, who says he feels like he’s been underrated throughout his NBA career. Collison, who has played for five teams in nine NBA seasons, also said he’d like to stick in Indiana a while longer. “I love it here,” Collison said. “If you ask me, I would like to be here a long time. We all know how this business works. You do the best you can and hopefully this is the place. Hopefully I can help these young guys grow.”
  • Currently sidelined with a knee injury, Collison will remain out of action for at least another week, tweets Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports. The Pacers will get one injured player back though, as Glenn Robinson III is ready to make his season debut after missing several months with an ankle injury. Monteith has the details at
  • Clifton Brown of The Indianapolis Star lays out the case for why head coach Nate McMillan deserves his share of the credit for the Pacers’ surprising success this season. “Nate’s been brilliant. Our offensive and defensive strategies this year have been terrific,” said president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard. “Without Nate, we don’t have this. We’re not talking about this. He’s overachieved, and more importantly, he’s put our players in a position where every single night they can succeed.

Larry Bird Explains Decision To Resign

Larry Bird made the decision to step down as president of basketball operations for the Pacers before the season began, tweets Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports.

Speaking to reporters today in Indianapolis, Bird said he informed team executives Kevin Pritchard and Peter Dinwiddie that this would be his last season in the position. The move wasn’t health related, Bird said, adding, “It’s a pretty easy decision … It’s just time to go.” (Twitter link).

Bird will remain with the organization as an advisor to Pritchard, the new team president. He plans to do some scouting for the Pacers — at the NBA, college and international levels — and will be a consultant to the upper management team when asked. “The one thing I don’t want to do is get in Kevin’s way,” Bird said. “That’s the last thing I want to do.” (Twitter link)

Bird touched on several other topics during his press conference:

  • He doesn’t believe his decision will have any effect on Paul George‘s future with the team. “I don’t think it should impact it at all,” Bird said. “Paul is going to do what Paul wants to do.” George has a player option for 2018/19, which means he has one more season before he can become a free agent. A Los Angeles native, George is widely believed to be headed to the Lakers as soon as the opportunity arises. Pritchard, who also spoke at today’s event, said he talked to George about his future for nearly an hour last week (Twitter link). The new president said “in every scenario he talked about being here.” (Twitter link).
  • The team’s financial picture didn’t influence Bird’s decision. Indiana heads into the summer with approximately $22MM in cap room and could have about $9MM more if C.J. Miles ($4.77MM) opts out and the team declines its option on Lavoy Allen ($4.3MM). “We’re going to have a better budget, we’re going to be able to do more things,” Bird said (Twitter link). He also praised owner Herb Simon for being committed to building a winner, adding “After looking at next year’s budget, I almost want to stay.” (Twitter link)
  • Bird also had kind words for his successor and jokingly wished Pritchard “good luck” as he took his place at the podium. (Twitter link). “The one thing I always say about Kevin is that you’re going to have a lot of deals on the table,” Bird said, “and you just have to decide which is best.” (Twitter link). Pritchard said his immediate goals are to add toughness and more energy to the team. “I want to get more physical, I want to get tougher,” he said. “I want guys who are completely high energy.” (Twitter link). Pritchard also expressed loyalty to Nate McMillan, who just completed his first season as head coach (Twitter link).

Pacers Notes: Teague, Bird, George

Coach Nate McMillan said Jeff Teague, who will be a free agent this offseason, wants to be back with the Pacers next season, as the team’s Twitter feed relays. The coach added that he believes he can get the best out of the point guard. “He needs to be better. I think I can make him better,” McMillan said.

Teague previously said he loves playing for the team. The point guard made $8.8MM last season in the final year of his contract. Teague will likely see a raise on that figure and the Pacers will have upwards of $32MM in cap space, as our Offseason Salary Cap Digest indicates:

  • Larry Bird has an incredible pulse on Pacers and that gives him the ability to make the best moves for the team, as Indiana’s Twitter feed passes along. “Larry [Bird] is at every practice, every game… He knows what this team needs. That was the reason he went out and got Lance [Stephenson],” McMillan said.
  • The Pacers cannot afford to add long-term money in free agency if they feel Paul George will leave next summer, Bobby Marks of The Vertical opines (video link). Indiana doesn’t currently have many long-term commitments and if George leaves, the team can build around Myles Turner and its cap space. However, if the organization makes a few bad signings, the eventual rebuild becomes more difficult.
  • McMillan expects George to return to Indiana next season, as the Indianapolis Star relays (video link). The coach added that he and George both want the same thing and that’s to win.

Latest On Paul George And The Lakers

Paul George has been talking about playing for the Lakers for years, an anonymous former teammate tells Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News. The small forward never made his desire to play for Los Angeles a secret within the team’s locker room, according to George’s former Pacers teammate.

Lakers team president Magic Johnson will likely pursue George and look to build a title contender around him, sources tell Lawrence. Johnson alluded to such plans during a recent episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Lawrence acknowledges that George is a tremendous talent but hears that his leadership ability is being questioned around the league. Rival teams noticed how George handled himself in the media following the team’s Game 1 loss where C.J. Miles took the last shot instead of passing it to George. “C.J. took it upon himself,” George said following the game. “I’m confident in all my guys taking shots, that’s not the issue. But in that situation like that, I’ve gotta get that.”

A star should want the ball at the end of the game, but taking issue with teammates through the media is not the way top players should lead. “He’s not a winner by saying that [stuff] in public,” one GM told Lawrence. “That’s no way to support a teammate, but that’s how Paul rolls.”

Those comments after Game 1, along with George’s statements about Lance Stephenson‘s body language, have irritated members of the Pacers organization, particularly coach Nate McMillan and team president Larry Bird.

Several NBA executives are under the belief that George’s unhappiness and public blaming of teammates is a result of the Pacers not surrounding him with the right pieces.  Lawrence believes the Lakers need to surround George with “strong-willed” veterans should they trade for him this year or sign him next summer. One GM told Lawrence that the Celtics would be a much better fit than the Lakers because of Boston’s personnel.

Lawrence speculates that the team could part with D’Angelo Russell and/or Julius Randle in a hypothetical trade for George. The scribe adds that Brandon Ingram may not be on the table due to his high ceiling.

George said publicly that he hasn’t yet made a decision on his future with Indiana. “I ain’t even at that point, yet,” George said. He can become a free agent next summer by turning down a player option, which is worth approximately $20.7MM.

Eastern Notes: Stephenson, Sixers, Pistons

Coach Nate McMillan admits that Lance Stephenson can sometimes become a distraction on the court, as Clifton Brown of the Indianapolis Star passes along.

“I don’t want to take his passion from the game,” McMillan said of Stephenson. “We always have to control ourselves, that’s including myself on the sidelines. Sometimes that can become a distraction. We talk about that all the time. You can’t be drunk on emotions out there. We got to be able to get back, get to the next play. That’s for me, too.”

The combo guard knows he needs to control his emotions, adding that he doesn’t want to give the opposition anything they can use as an advantage.

“Sometimes I tend to get out of control,” Stephenson said. “I was getting frustrated with Kevin Love scoring on me. But that’s the passion I have for the game. I need to stop showing it. If somebody’s scoring on you and you show frustration, they’re going to keep going to it. I felt like I showed that. That’s what Paul [George] was talking about. Don’t show them no weakness.”

Clifton envisions McMillan shortening his bench for Game 3, which could mean more time for Stephenson in the Pacers‘ first home playoff game of 2017.

Here’s more from

  • GM Bryan Colangelo said the Sixers will address the power forward position this offseason, as Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News relays. “I think the stretch-four position is something, backing up Dario [Saric] or starting in front of Dario, whichever it is if we can find someone that’s better. We’ve got to probably address that four position,” Colangelo said.
  • The Sixers need to sign Ersan Ilyasova in free agency, Cooney contends in the same piece. The scribe pegs the power forward’s market value at $10-12MM per year, which he considers a reasonable rate for a player who fits in well next to Joel Embiid in the frontcourt.
  • Rod Beard of The Detroit News examines five players the Pistons could take if they stay at No. 12. The team has a 2.5% chance at climbing into the top-3, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors notes.

Pacers Notes: Playoff Race, Ellis, George

The Pacers currently own the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve won just five of their 12 games during the month of March. Indiana has put together games where it looks like it has a legitimate chance to win a playoff series, but it also has moments where it appears that the back of the lottery is all the franchise can hope for. Sitting just one game behind them is the Heat. Miami has been one of the best teams since the All-Star break, posting the second best point differential over that stretch. If the Pacers don’t start playing better and more consistently, they’ll likely be starting at an eighth seed matchup against the Cavs or worse–a date with the ping pongs balls on May 16th.

As we wait to see if the team can maintain its playoff position, check out some notes from Indiana:

  • Monta Ellis has shot over 40% from behind the arc and 47.2% overall since the All-Star break and his play is impressing coach Nate McMillan, Mark Montieth of writes.  “He’s been aggressive,” McMillan said of Ellis’ improved play. “We have really featured him with that second unit…and he’s been really aggressive.” Ellis is expected to enter the starting lineup while Glenn Robinson III recovers from a calf injury.
  • Paul George admits that the Pacers are in a slump and the All-Star is willing to do whatever it takes to get the team back on track, Montieth adds in the same piece. “At this point it’s win,” George said after a recent loss to the Nuggets. “Whatever I’ve got to do to win. If I have to put up 30 shots to win, I’ll put up 30 shots to win.”
  • Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star wonders if George needs to shoot less and be more unselfish. The All-Star has begun to take control of the Pacers‘ offense late in games, but coach McMillan doesn’t see it as an issue. “I think it’s always that case with the leading scorer on the team,” McMillan said. “Sometimes people look at the guy and say, ‘He’s selfish or that he needs to move the ball; or how many shot attempts [did he get?]’ I think you play the game the right way. … Last night, we were down 23 in the fourth and OK, somebody has to make something happen. I thought Paul got aggressive. I didn’t see any issues.”

Central Notes: Bucks, Pacers, Lopez, James

The Bucks are going to be without John Henson for the next few games, as Chris Haynes of ESPN reported Henson would be sidelined for a week with a left thumb sprain (article link). According to Haynes, Henson sustained the injury at some point during Milwaukee’s match-up against the Trail Blazers on Tuesday.

While Milwaukee will be short-handed for at least the next two games, Michael Beasley appears close to returning. Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Beasley could come back by next week, if not by the end of the season (Twitter link). Beasley has been out since February 27 with a hyperextended left knee.

Other goings-on around the Central…

  • Robin Lopez knew he was going to receive a suspension when he threw a punch at Serge Ibaka, Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago writes. Fortunately for the Bulls, Lopez received a light one-game suspension following a “pretty straight-forward” deliberation process from the league. “I mean, that’s what the league gave. I’m going to stick with it,” Lopez said, adding, “I didn’t change my story.” In his return from the suspension, Lopez went 0-for-6 from the field over 18 minutes.
  • The Pacers snapped their bizarre streak of 15 games alternating wins and defeats last night, taking a 125-117 loss to the Nuggets. Several players and coach Nate McMillan voiced frustration following the game, sensing a lack of urgency. “We’ve got to play like our life is on the line like it is,” Jeff Teague told Nate Taylor of Indy Star. “We’ve got to be aggressive and leave it all out there. Every game from now on is a must win for us. We’ve got to play like it. This was a bad loss at home and we didn’t come out to play. We just didn’t have the effort.” Despite falling to .500, the Pacers maintained their spot as the Eastern Conference’s seventh seed.
  • LeBron James suffered a corneal abrasion of his right eye during Friday’s match-up with Charlotte, Dave McMenamin of ESPN reports (article link). James, who is questionable to play tonight against the Wizards, told reporters his vision was blurry following the injury. “Just took a hard foul — a hard fall, I’m sorry. And I just got up and made my free throws, I think I made them,” said James. “I was just trying to put pressure on the rim, so, if coach decides to give me a game off, it’s not because I’m resting. It’s because I’m banged up.”

Pacers Notes: George, Bird, Young, Gibson, Turner

Paul George wasn’t happy with Indiana’s trade deadline strategy. In a video interview with, George said he “thought he’d be in the loop a little more” with the team’s approach. “I kind of was on the ropes just like you guys were, on what was about to happen.” George said to the press. “It’s kind of a dark moment of uncertainty. That was the frustrating part.”

George was featured prominently in rumors right up until the deadline, being connected to the Nuggets, Celtics, and Hawks. Ultimately, Larry Bird was content to “swat away all pitches,” though it appears they didn’t communicate this to George. Paul’s comments to provide the latest indication that he may decline his 2018/19 player option in favor of testing the open market.

More from Indiana…

  • Bobby Marks and Adrian Wojnarowski discussed Indiana’s deadline strategy on the latest edition of The Vertical podcast (Twitter link). The Pacers had discussions regarding Taj Gibson, per Marks and Wojnarowski, but were reluctant to surrender a first-round pick for only an “incremental” improvement on an expiring contract.
  • Thaddeus Young will make his return from a wrist injury tonight against the Grizzlies, Nate Taylor of Indy Star Sports reports (Twitter link). Young’s return is a promising sign, but the 28-year-old may be playing through pain in the early stages. “It’s still a little sore,” Young told Jordan J Wilson of Indy Star Sports. “I think it’s a day-to-day thing about the pain threshold. Right now, it’s sore and stiff, but I’m continuing to go out there with my guys and trying to get myself back onto the floor.”
  • Gregg Doyel of Indy Star Sports was critical of Larry Bird’s performance throughout the trade deadline. Bird “didn’t do anything to make them [Indiana] better in the future,” and didn’t surround George with additional pieces. Doyel doesn’t blame George for having hard feelings after “being shown a lack of respect” from the team’s front office.
  • The Lakers’ new front office boss, Magic Johnson, knows “full well” of George’s interest in signing with L.A. after the season, Sam Amick of USA Today writes. Nate Taylor of Indy Star Sports elaborated on the Lakers’ connection to the Pacers’ deadline activity, describing the “mounting pressure” on the team to succeed in 2016/17; potentially George’s last in a Pacers uniform. In addition to Bird, coach Nate McMillan and Myles Turner will face pressure down the stretch. McMillan will be relied upon to better motivate his players, while Turner’s growth could determine the Pacers’ ceiling in the postseason.

Larry Bird on George, CBA, McMillan, Robinson, Teague

The Pacers are prepared to give Paul George a maximum contract when he becomes a free agent in 2018, team president Larry Bird tells Nate Taylor of USA Today. Bird touches on several subjects in a wide-ranging interview, including the team’s plan to keep its three-time All-Star.

Here are some highlights:

On the future of Paul George in Indiana:

“Before the year started, I told Paul and I said, ‘Look, if you want to sign a long-term deal, we’re willing to do that max [contract] and if you want to wait, I understand.’ But this year, we’re not going to worry about it, we’re not going to talk about it and he’s going to make the decision that’s best for Paul when it comes down to it.”

On whether the new collective bargaining agreement will help the Pacers:

“Well, if you want to keep your free agents, you’re going to have an opportunity to, at least, I think, have a better chance of keeping them. If a player don’t want to be here, and he wants to go somewhere else, that’s just a part of free agency. That’s what’s in the collective bargaining for. But at least you have an opportunity to pay them a little bit more and give them an extra year and be able to keep them and sign them up earlier. I think that’s a plus.”

On the offseason coaching change that replaced Frank Vogel with Nate McMillan:

“I like Nate. I liked him when I hired him. But anything I say positive about Nate, you’re going to take it as a negative to Frank, and that’s not what it’s about. I like Frank. Frank did a hell of a job here. We wish him all the best. We made a lot of changes over the last two or three years, even when Frank was here. We changed a lot of guys on the roster. With Nate came in, we changed coach and a lot of guys on the roster. We’d like to get away from that and have guys longer term and have a team that he can build with and grow with as we go forward.”

On Glenn Robinson III replacing Monta Ellis in the starting lineup:

“Glenn hasn’t been as consistent as I think as he or we would like, but the numbers don’t lie. When he plays, we do better. Monta, I’m not going to say he’ll ever accept the role of coming off the bench because that’s his mentality. But the thing is he’s going to do whatever it takes for us to win basketball games and he’ll continue to get better. I think when [Rodney] Stuckey gets back, I think that’s going to help. … But as far as Monta, I think Monta is going to do whatever he thinks will help us win basketball games. Monta knows I have respect for him and I have respect for all veterans. We’re going to do what’s right by him and we want him to be a big part of this, whether he’s starting or coming off the bench.”

On Jeff Teague, who was acquired over the summer in exchange for George Hill:

“I hear he always wanted to play here. We gave up a hell of a player to get him. He’s two years younger than George and he’s a real point guard and he gets to the line. I think he’s going to continue to get better. I couldn’t be happier.”