Got to see the Pacers rookies up close at the Houston game. I'm really impressed; video just doesn't do them justice.
Paul George is going to be a first-rate defender, maybe even better than Brandon Rush. He is amazingly long and plays back from the ball a substantial distance. In fact, despite having a long learning curve to get how you work as a team to get tight on D, his defense is ahead of his offense. The offense stagnated with him on the floor; his struggle to make shots is only a small part of the problem.
(Contrast with Mike Dunleavy - it is so gratifying to see him do his thing, always under control, no wasted movement, never hurrying, always decisive. He ran 3/4 (with Hansbrough) and 3/5 pick and rolls to perfection.)
Rolle got a cameo and popped his right elbow jumper on cue. Another guy whose defense is ahead of his offense.
Indiana's team defense sucked, let's face it. They accomplished a lot last year and it was their defense that got them as far as they got, but the Pacers are looking up a long way at that right now. Collison got killed by Aaron Brooks repeatedly, of course, but it's hard to single out a single problem. When everything fell apart in the third they just couldn't seem to get up on the shooters, couldn't seem to rotate into the driving lanes. Solo had to foul Yao Ming after the third time he got pushed up under the rim. But the problem is they don't communicate and don't know what to do yet. The potential of the new guys is terrific, though.
The offense sucked, too. Why couldn't Roy Hibbert score on Jordan Hill on the right block? At all?! That's supposed to be his sweet spot!
At least Collison ran a couple of pick and rolls. In camp they were sending a high pick for him but he just blew past it with his dribble, using it to scrape his man off, instead of getting something going with a big. Anyway I guess it's progress, though he wasn't effective with it.
I love Lance Stephenson, what can I say. Not the man, who is a knucklehead of the first order, but the basketball player. Love the body - as raw as he is, the balance is fantastic, and he's got what used to be called a nasty streak (that's a good quality in a pro defender). I'm going to say it again - he could be a very good defender.
We blew you guys out but I think there's a lot of potential in the new team. Hansbrough picked up where he left off, George and Stephenson have the chance to be special, and the good defense from last year bodes well for an improvement this year. I know that Jim sounds glum about where the defense is right now, but take heart, Indiana fans, it'll turn around; and I'm confident that it'll be as good as last year by December at the latest, and quite good by the All-Star break.