Pacers' youth movement hasn't stalled
To Jim O'Brien, it is not an either-or proposition.
Either you try to win as many games as possible, or you throw your young guys out there to give them experience.
The two ideas are not disparate. They are linked.
"It's about winning and getting the guys on our team to understand what it takes to win, what it takes to beat good basketball teams," said O'Brien. "If that's the focus, everything falls into place.
"Player development falls into place because you're not going to beat good basketball teams unless your core group is improving. You're not going to beat good basketball teams unless guys understand the commitment that it takes on a daily basis in film sessions and practice to incrementally improve individually and as a team. Winning cures all."
Though fans regularly call for more time for young players, it's not as if they've been withering on the vine.
Brandon Rush leads the team in minutes. Roy Hibbert has started 47 games. So the second-year guys are moving right along.
A.J. Price had a 20-game run as the backup point guard, averaging 9.2 points and 2.4 assists, an extraordinary opportunity for a late second-round pick. With T.J. Ford's resurgence, Price has dropped out of the rotation but his place in the team's future plans already is established.
Solomon Jones has picked up time of late, getting 20-plus minutes in consecutive games for the first time this season, and Josh McRoberts likewise seems to be in line for additional opportunities.
McRoberts played 16 minutes Monday in Dallas (producing seven points, five rebounds and three assists) and was the first big man off the bench Friday in New Orleans. Generally speaking, he has been productive when called upon, though the occasions have been sporadic.
"I guess you'd say it's given me more confidence, I guess, or confidence that when I'm called on I know I can go out there and be productive," said McRoberts. "I know I can play. It's just a matter of getting the opportunity and making the most of it.
"I just stay ready for when my number's called. That's what they have me here to do. That's what everybody's here to do. It's part of the job."
Jones played a key role in the victory over Houston Saturday with his energy and activity under the basket. In the last two games he's totaled 41 minutes, 11 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
"It's the NBA. I've got to be ready," said Jones. "You never know when it's your time. You just stay focused, play my hardest and bring energy to the team.
"I can't control my minutes. The only thing I can do is control how I play in practice and when I do get into games. I'm mentally strong."
And then there's Tyler Hansbrough, who most certainly would be playing 20-plus minutes a night had his rookie season not been truncated by an inner ear infection.
The youth movement may not be in overdrive, but neither has it stalled.