Pacers Notebook: Recapping Kevin Pritchard, Nate McMillan’s Season-Ending Press Conference
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INDIANAPOLIS – All last year, Kevin Pritchard said he wanted flexibility for this summer.
Well, he’s got it.
The Pacers have 7 free agents among guys that were in the rotation at times this season.
“I’m more excited about the draft and free agency than I’ve ever been because there’s such a high degree of variability,” Pritchard said on Wednesday, as he and Nate McMillan had their season-ending press conference.
Along with the free agent plan for this summer, Pritchard and McMillan covered a bunch of topics on Wednesday.
Here are 10 takeaways from the Pacers’ season-ending press conference:
-On upgrading the talent this offseason: Pritchard: “True talent shows up in the playoffs. We know we have to get more talented…I think we all have to look in the mirror and say we have to get better…We have some really unique things coming up in our organization. Depending on where the cap comes in, we have potentially $43-$45 in cap space. I think that brings a lot of excitement. I think that allows us to be super aggressive….A lot of things can be done with (that money). A lot of people think that’s just signing players. Really, what happens with $43 million in cap space is it allows you to do uneven trades, it allows trades to go into that cap space. It just gives you a lot of flexibility.”
-On selling Indiana to free agents: Pritchard: “Can we bring in a big-name guy? Can we bring in the superstars? The truth is, the thing we can offer any player and something that we work on every day is we believe we have a very strong culture. We feel like we are very player centric. Players come here and they know they are going to get taken care of. I feel like we got the best medical, physical therapy training staff. Our doctors and that group are unbelievable. You are going to come here and get taken care of and you know we are going to win. The more you can do that, the more that you can prove that you can take care of your players, that you are going to develop the players and that you are about winning, and you put all other things aside, then you have a chance. I’m not saying that we can get the big players. We will go after them. We will make the pitches. We are not afraid. We will think big. I gave my management staff a book here recently, ‘The Magic of Thinking Big.’ So, we want to think big. It may happen. It may not happen. The one thing that we believe very strongly is that once you sign with us, we are going to do our best to make you feel comfortable here and we are going to prove that with our daily actions.”
-On the approach for the type of free agents he is looking for: Pritchard: “You are watching these playoffs…and our backbone, the heart and soul of our team has been defense. We’ve been a defensive team. But you are seeing an offensive league. And so much that the rules are changing to give the offensive guy even more of an advantage. I think we have to look at the offensive ball. I think we have to bring players that do 1 of 2 things, or both if you can. We need some creation. We need a guy that can breakdown a defense. Then shot making is always going to be paramount. It’s more paramount than it’s even been before. If you have 4 or 5 guys, with 1 or 2 that can create and other guys who can really shoot, it’s almost impossible to stop that team. At any position, I don’t think you have to be a point guard to be a creator or a 2-guard. Domas creates a lot of offense for us. It doesn’t have to be at a certain position. Just in my mind, I want to get faster. I really want to do a deep dive on the guys that create. I think the lost art in this game and something I really want us to evaluate and look at, I love a great passing team. Passing is contagious. There were times this past year where the ball really moved. We had an unselfish team, no doubt about that. But if we can get another creator/passer out there with Victor, I think that gives us a lot of opportunities. To go at any position, I’m not sure that’s right because today, more than ever, is position-less basketball. Milwaukee will throw out 4 guys that are 6-8, 6-9 and above. We have to.”
-On changing the style of play next year: Pritchard: “I would like to see us get faster, play a faster tempo. Of course, three-point shooting is a major part of NBA basketball. We were 29th in three-point attempts, and we were one of the top three-point shooting teams in the league. I would like to see us play faster, get more attempts. I think that is due to being a better rebounding team and being consistent with your tempo, your pace that you play at. We slowed down and became a team that played late in the shot clock a lot. I would like to see us play faster, play more up-temp, shoot more threes.” McMillan: “We are not going to jack up contested threes just for the sake of getting more attempts. I believe that ball movement and pace can create those opportunities for you. They did create those opportunities for us, and we shot a pretty good percentage from the three-point line. That tempo that we are talking about, that pace we want to be consistent at playing at, we weren’t consistent this year. We lose Victor and he was the guy that really established that tempo and that pace with his ability to rebound and push or advance the ball to get out and strike quickly. When you lose that, now you are really…we always talk about playing early or playing late. What I mean by that is if we can advance the ball and get a quick rim attempt or an open look, we want to take that. If we don’t have that, we want to make the defense work and defend and play into your third or fourth option. We played more into our third or fourth option after we lost Victor.”
-On a Victor Oladipo update: Pritchard: “It’s too early to put that timeline out there. What happens in that injury is you have the surgery and for about 12-13 weeks it’s just about healing. Now, it flips in from the injury, to the physical therapy part. He’s just starting that therapy part. My guess is we will have better a timeline, but it won’t be for a while. I can’t get give you a definitive timeline. I had dinner with him on Sunday. He has made it perfectly clear to me that he’s going to be back and a better player. When that is, I’m not sure. But it’s coming along very nicely. And he feels very good about it. In Victor style, he has promised that he will come back at 200-300 percent of what he was. It’s funny, when you talk to him like that, how do you not believe him? It’s just so contagious. I remember leaving that dinner, ‘Man, we are going to be really good next year.’ When is he back next year? I’m not sure yet. I think it’s a little too early to put a timeline on it.”
-On free agent Bojan Bogdanovic being an off-season priority: Pritchard: “Bojan had an unbelievable year. The thought of him, when we signed him two years ago, the thought of him being a starter, a starter on a 48-win team, a starter that has played against some of the best teams and competed at a very high level in the playoffs…we would like to have extensive talks with Bojan. Now, the truth is he’s a complete free agent, he’s not restricted, so he’s going to have interest. We can feel that already. You can feel that on the trade deadline when people are talking about players. On July 1st, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a good conversation with Bojan.”
-On playing Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis together: Pritchard: “I think (Domas) wants a bigger role and I think we have to figure out how to get him a bigger role. He’s a major force offensively and I think he can be a player that has a huge impact, not just as a 6th man, maybe as a starter. But that’s yet to be seen. We don’t know that yet. The one thing I know with Domas is I know he will make himself better this summer. His role will be bigger…I believe this and it’s more in theory versus specific on Myles and Sabonis, I believe good players figure it out. I think Myles is getting to the point where he’s an elite defender and we need to use him more offensively. I think he’s all-in. He said in his exit meeting he wants to be more of a 2-way player. I think Sabonis’ ceiling is really high offensively. If he’s willing to become a better defender, I don’t think there’s any doubt they can play together and play major minutes together. In my mind, I see those guys playing a lot of minutes together.” McMillan: “They can play together. You look at some of these teams that are in the playoffs, they are big. Detroit is big. Philadelphia is big. Toronto is big. Denver is big. I think the game is going to turn and you are going to see more power forwards and centers playing the game together again as opposed to the spread 4 we’ve seen in the last 5, 10 years. Myles will play the center on the defensive end of the floor. Domas will play the 4 on the defensive end of the floor. On the offensive end of the floor, we’ve put Sabonis at the 5-spot and we spread Myles, so we have that versatility to be able to use the bigs like that. We are going to continue to develop and continue to improve.”
-On the outlook for Aaron Holiday going into Year Two: McMillan: “I’m very comfortable with him. He has a maturity about him. It’s due to the fact that he does have brothers who have played in the league for a long time. He’s trained with those guys for a long time. Whenever he got the opportunity to play (this past season), he played with confidence and did some good things for us. Late in the season, due to injury, he was able to get a few more minutes and during the playoffs I actually put him out there because I wanted to play faster. I wanted to see us pick up the tempo. I think he has that capability to do that. I feel he should be a rotational player next season and a guy that can play the 1 or the 2. Certainly, there are areas where he needs to grow. I like what he brings to the floor, from the time I had him in Training Camp last year. He’s a young kid who has a great deal of confidence in himself and I think he can help us. The things I talked about improving, tempo, pace three-point shooting, he brings all of that to the floor. He certainly should be in the rotation next year.”
-On having the 18th draft pick come June: Pritchard: “This year I feel good that we are going to get a player who is a good prospect, but we are going to be open-minded. I would not be surprised if that pick isn’t the pick we make. We either move down, we move up, we trade the pick. We are going to be aggressive with 18. People feel that this will be a pretty good draft in that area. I love the draft. I can’t wait for it. I wish it was tomorrow. We are going to be very aggressive with that pick.”
-On if the Pacers will go into the luxury tax: Pritchard: “If we want to be a cap space team, you act as a cap space team and you have to relinquish some of the rights to our players. So it’s literally impossible to go into the tax, if we are a cap space team. That may happen in the future, as you retain your own players. But the way it works is you have to renounce your players to get the cap space, you spend to the cap space and then you are only given one exception, which is called the room of mid-level. Now, that changes if we are determined to keep everybody. Then you can go and keep all of your players and you can get up there. The answer is, ‘Herb (Simon) wants to win.’ We set a budget. It’s a very high budget, I will you that. Herb has never told me no, if it makes the team better. Not one time. As I said, I want to think big. But also, the one thing that we take a lot of pride in here is paying players appropriately. We have sort of a hierarchy that we believe in. We stick to that. But if a special circumstance comes up, I would have no hesitation and Herbie will say Let’s do it, if it’s the right player and it will take us to another level.”