A couple of things you may not know about Josh McRoberts:
A third-year veteran on a team with two rookies and two second-year players, he's nevertheless the youngest player on the roster; and, though some fans clamor for more playing time for the Carmel product, he already has more minutes this season than his first two combined.
Which is to say he's coming along nicely. It isn't happening all at once, a fact which seems to strain the patience of his strong local fan base, but it is happening.
The 23-year-old forward is fresh off the most productive game of his career, 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting and 12 rebounds, in a 133-102 rout of Houston on Sunday in Conseco Fieldhouse. It was his second double-double in the last six games, the third of his career.
All of which is nice, but the spectacular dunks and blocked shots aren't the main reasons McRoberts has found a regular place in the rotation the past few weeks.
"The metrics from the standpoint of his defense have changed, which is why he's getting playing time," said Coach Jim O'Brien. "He's taking more pride on the defensive end in getting stops, being more active with his hands. That has helped, I think. …
"We have to know guys play at both ends of the court – Josh or anybody else. If you're scoring X amount of points and your opponent is scoring 1.5X, it might look good that you're scoring X but the object is to score more than the guy guarding you. Josh has seen that.
"I sat down with him a couple of weeks ago and showed him his numbers, defensively, when he was on the court, what our field-goal defense was, and it wasn't a pretty sight. That has changed. To his credit he has focused on that and earned the playing time he is getting. I think that's a great sign."
After appearing in just 21 of the first 57 games, McRoberts has played in 16 of the last 18, averaging 15.4 minutes, 6.0 points and 3.6 rebounds.
"I've always been confident that I can do a lot of things on the basketball court," McRoberts said. "But getting a lot of minutes, I've been able to get kind of a rhythm and be involved a little bit more. I guess I'm having an opportunity to show what else I can do a little bit.
"We talked a while back and I'm going to try to do everything I can to try to play. If he tells me to do anything out there I'm going to try to do it to try to get on the court. I'll try to make a concentrated effort on the defensive end to do the things he wants me to do."
In addition to improving defensively, McRoberts has made 8-of-21 from the 3-point line this season after going 0-of-11 his first two seasons. If he continues to progress in that area, he could become even tougher to keep on the bench.
McRoberts, who has worked with shooting specialist Billy Keller on his stroke throughout the season, sounds willing to do whatever is necessary to remain with the Pacers. The team has the option to pick up the final season of his contract for 2010-11.
"I hope to be here for a long time but it's hard to say at this point," McRoberts said. "It's something I haven't thought about. I'm just out there playing and competing and trying to do my best every day. I'd love to be with the Pacers and be a contributor forever, for as long as I can."
It's beginning to sound like this marriage just might last.
"Significantly he factors into the plans," said O'Brien. "We have Troy (Murphy) in the last year of his contract and I love bigs that can pass the ball and space the court.
"Now, he's not at Troy's level spacing the court yet but if he takes a Larry Bird, Reggie Miller mentality from the standpoint of the volume of the threes he can get up, and listens to Billy Keller, who works with him on his shoot, and becomes the type of 3-point shooter that I think he can, with his driving ability and his passing ability, I think he's a significant piece."
I don't have numbers to support anything, but doesn't Troy's man score a lot more than him on a regular basis?
Why does he want Josh to have a Larry/Reggie mentality? He's a POWER FORWARD!!!