The only health situation to monitor is that of Danny Granger, who had Platelet Rich Plasma injections in his knee and has been held out of scrimmages. He will not play in either of the preseason games this week (tonight in Fargo and Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, both against the Timberwolves) but could return to full-speed practice Thursday.
Veteran free agent Sam Young will start at small forward until Granger is ready.
Don’t mistake the lack of headlines for a lack of import. This is the first full training camp and preseason for Coach Frank Vogel and his staff. Vogel took over during the 2010-11 season and then had prep time for the 2011-12 campaign truncated by the lockout.
Where last year was a whirlwind, this one is more of the calm before the storm of the 82-game regular season.
“You don’t get an opportunity to really prepare and figure out the things that work best for the group (last year),” said David West. “We had to do a lot of that on the fly. Thankfully we had a smarter group of guys in terms of being able to learn without practice and a traditional camp.”
Whereas the starting lineup is intact – or will be, once Granger returns — the second unit has undergone an overhaul. That’s where much of the focus of the preseason will be, at least in the first few games – how best to incorporate the new faces while evaluating where they can most help the team.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces here … guys that can really play,” said Paul George. “It’s really just everybody coming together and getting the same chemistry with the starting five as well as the second unit and incorporating offense and defense with the whole team.”
Vogel has been encouraged by what he has seen from several of the newcomers. D.J. Augustin is a very different point guard than the man he replaced, Darren Collison, with more of a playmaker’s mindset and a much more confident 3-point shot. Gerald Green has been electrifying with his athleticism and a bit surprising with his long-range shooting. Ian Mahinmi looks like a substantial upgrade over Lou Amundson at center.
Much depends, however, on how things shake out at shooting guard and power forward. Lance Stephenson is getting his big chance this season and needs to demonstrate the consistency to earn a regular spot in the rotation. Tyler Hansbrough must bounce back from a poor season in order to withstand a strong challenge from Jeff Pendergraph, who has been one of the most pleasant surprises in camp.
“The new guys,” said Vogel, “have all had their moments in camp where it’s been obvious why they’re here and why we like them.”
Vogel’s system will remain largely unchanged, with some tweaks. He remains hesitant to use a zone defense with any regularity but acknowledges the need to be better prepared when opponents do so. He wants the offense to play at a quicker tempo while exploiting the improved 3-point shooting, and is encouraging the same physical approach, defensively, though playing that style can lead to foul problems.
“This is our system we’re watching,” Vogel said. “Whoever’s in the game, whether it’s Blake Ahern or David West, we’re watching for us to execute our system at a high level. …
“You have to understand it’s early in camp so everything’s not going to be perfect but as a coach you want it all to be perfect. We just want to play fundamental basketball and winning basketball. What I like is they’re playing for one another, they’re sharing the basketball, there’s no selfish play on either end of the court. You do that and you bring great effort, you should see good things happen.”
For the Pacers, a quiet October is fine. They’re saving their voices for Spring.