I thought I would be able to have a longer break from updating the blog after the 2012-2013 NBA season officially wrapped up a couple of weeks ago with the Miami Heat defeating the San Antonio Spurs in 7 games for back-to-back titles. But boy, a lot has been happening around the league, and a surprising amount of it has to do with your Indiana Pacers.
Here's what has happened:
1. Larry Legend is back! After a one-year hiatus for health reasons, Larry Bird is back as Pacers president (retaking the role back from Donnie Walsh, who remains on as a consultant). Technically speaking, I'm not sure how much of a difference it will make, but Bird's legendary basketball mind and presence can only help this team as it prepares to enter into the NBA's upper echelons for some time to come. When the legend speaks, you listen (and preferably take notes). Simple as that.
2. Brian Shaw leaves to coach Nuggets. The fact that Shaw was on the Pacers' coaching staff was already a bonus, because, let's face it, he deserves a head coaching job somewhere in the NBA. The ride has unfortunately come to an end because Shaw has accepted to coach the Denver Nuggets. It will be a loss for the Pacers as Shaw was instrumental in the development of young guns like Paul George and Lance Stephenson.
3. Pacers sign Nate McMillan to replace Shaw. Yep, Frank Vogel didn't waste much time in selecting Nate McMillan as his new associate. Great news for the Pacers because McMillan was both a productive NBA player in his time and also a productive NBA head coach, with a record of 478-453 in stints with Seattle and Portland. No one can replace Shaw, but McMillan is a pretty good choice.
4. Pacers draft Solomon Hill (Arizona Wildcats) with 23rd pick of NBA Draft. This was a shock, and a panned selection because most had predicted Hill -- a 6'7" senior who averaged 13.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists last season -- to be picked in the second round. That said, the Pacers apparently got a lot of people looking to trade for Hill, so I guess that means he is better than advertised. I won't profess to knowing much about him or his game, but from what I hear he is a hard worker who fits with the type of culture Bird and Vogel are trying to build in Indiana. That said, he is a small forward (positions occupied by Paul George and Danny Granger) -- though he would presumably have to be better than Sam Young. More importantly, the Pacers now have two Georges and two Hills -- Paul George, George Hill and Solomon Hill.
5. Pacers trade second round to Boston pick for cash. No one cares.
6. Finalized new 3-year contract with David West @ $12m per year (3rd year player option). The biggest priority of the Pacers was to sign David West -- the team's rock and probably my favorite Pacer right now -- and they got the job done. People were worried whether West would price himself out of the Pacers' range, but he indicated straight after the Pacers were bounced from the playoffs that he had every intention of staying. West is, and will continue to be, the Pacers' best one-on-one option, and to be honest I can't even think of a second choice that comes close. Great work in locking him in for at least 2 years (and probably 3) at a price that won't break the bank andrewards West for all the work he has done for the team on and off the court the last couple of years.
7. Signed CJ Watson for backup PG for 2 years (sayonara DJ Augustin) . This could be the most important signing for the Pacers this offseason because we all know how badly DJ Augustin struggled at times backing up George Hill. As much as I like Augustin and his ability to hit three pointers towards the end of the season, he's just too small and inconsistent to be a good fit for the Pacers in the long run. Watson, on the other hand, you might remember as the guy who did a fantastic job backing up Derrick Rose. He also had a decent season last year in Brooklyn behind Deron Williams. He's an upgrade on Augustin at least in terms of size (6'2") and feistiness.
8. Gave Hansbrough qualifying offer then rescinded it (bye bye Psycho-T?). I was at first kind of surprised that the Pacers gave Hansbrough, a restricted free agent, a qualifying offer of $4m, meaning they could then match offers from any other teams. Hansbrough brings energy and psychosis to the Pacers, but not always in a positive way. He can still get to the line, but his free throw shooting has been inconsistent. His patented mid-range jumper also went down the drain when he made way for David West. Couple that with the high turnovers, the non-existent passing and poor defense, I had fully expected the Pacers to let him go because he probably only deserved about half of the $4m. Then as it turned out, the Pacers were only holding onto Hansbrough as a safety net in case West decided to walk. Now that West's deal is finalized, the Pacers no longer need Hansbrough's services -- not when low-cost Jeff Pendergraph has arguably been better (at least defensively) and Miles Plumlee is still in development. I've always liked Psycho-T, but I've also had a feeling that maybe he's not the most popular player on the team. I hope he finds a starter role on a bad team (eg, Bobcats) and can get his mojo back.
That's all for now. Stay tuned for part two when more stuff happens. Fingers crossed it will include Gerald Green.