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Thread: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

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    Default comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    i want to preface this by saying these are not my comments, these comments are from the indystar.com. i have not read this post in its entirety, but considering the O'brien debate, i am guessing someone on here might be interested enough to read this and perhaps provide the rest of us with a summary.

    with that said.. good luck to anyone willing to dive into this essay.

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    where is the article link???

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    INTRODUCTION

    “Don't know how Jim O'Brien got 36 wins out of the Pacers last season. And don't think he'll be able to get that many out of them this season, with almost all of the East's non-playoff teams making upgrades.”—Marc Stein, October 2008

    “The Pacers would have been a playoff team a year ago with a healthy Dunleavy… That's the good news. The bad news is that the roster around Dunleavy is no longer anywhere near playoff caliber. The Pacers gutted much of their core from a year ago by dropping Nesterovic, Jack and Daniels and replacing them with scrap heap talent like the two Joneses and Watson.”—John Hollinger, September 2009

    Stop right there!! Before you go any further, I’d like to offer a few suggestions on how to make it all the way through this post. This advice may sound patronizing but that is not my intent; I am all too familiar with my own weak attention span and the difficulty I would likely face in reading an internet post of this length.

    A). Don’t think of this as a typical internet post; instead, approach it as you might approach a few chapters in a book on Pacers history and your attention span should naturally expand(Of course, these are chapters that are mostly favorable towards O’Brien which might make it even more difficult for some of you to process!).

    CHAPTER 1: DEFENDING THE DEFENSE

    CHAPTER 2: MIKE WOODSON VS JIM O’BRIEN

    CHAPTER 3: OUTSIDE APPRAISAL OF PACERS TALENT

    CHAPTER 4: NO OFFENSE? O’BRIEN ADAPTS

    CHAPTER 5: A CLOSER LOOK AT THE PACERS 09-10 SEASON

    (Hibbert, Murphy at center, The Toronto home-and-home, Conner, etc)

    B). Don’t feel like you need to finish this all in one sitting. We are going to touch upon a lot of different topics and themes, and there is a lot here to digest.

    C). Keep in mind this could have been MUCH longer. But really—I don’t think any length could possibly match the volume of anti-O’Brien posts on sites like this.

    So if you choose to read any further—thank you for taking the time, I am grateful for your patience. If not, that’s fine too, but I do have one small favor to ask of you. Please answer the following question:

    What is YOUR Percentage Breakdown, with respect to Personnel-Youth-Injuries versus The Coach, for why we haven’t made the playoffs in the past 3 years? I ask because, a lot of people acknowledge all of these factors, but still tend to emphasize Jim O’Brien as the primary problem. So let’s get everyone on the record… what’s your take, is it 50/50? 70/30? 10/90? I’ll start—Personnel (and by extension, decisions by upper management), lack of experience, and injuries have been responsible for 98% of our problems, Coaching 2%. I can’t say 100/0, because every coach has to accept some responsibility regardless of the circumstances out of his control. And I won’t say 99/1 either, because that sounds rather corny if you ask me. So I’ll compromise and say 98/2…. If you completely disagree then we are probably dialed into completely different frequencies—many of you are dialed into the “Jim O’Brien has failed miserably” frequency, while I am dialed into the “Jim O’Brien B+/A minus” frequency (can’t give him an “A” since we haven’t made the playoffs, yet injuries had a fair amount to do with this to put it mildly).

    I don’t believe that any other coach out there could have gotten this team into the playoffs given the raw material available with which to work. In fact, I think most coaches would have done worse than O’Brien, and I’ll give examples of this throughout the program. This isn’t to take shots at our players, but I believe that overall in the past 3 seasons we have been one of the 3 least talented teams in the NBA, and this is BEFORE you factor in all of the injuries. Consider 15 win Minnesota from a year ago… their frontcourt was superior to ours with low post threat and rebounding machine Al Jefferson coupled with Kevin Love, who was beastly for Team USA this past summer. Brewer is an athletic freak on the wing, and their point guard rotation of Sessions/Flynn vs. Watson/Ford? Toss-up as far as I’m concerned. Our only discernible edge was Granger at the wing, and I’d probably prefer Al Jefferson to him. Now inevitably, there will be mega doses of misdirection in discussions like these; people complaining about flawed systems, how O’Brien doesn’t do things the “right” way. I suppose I could see your point about blaming “systems” if you are of the opinion that averaging 35 wins over 3 seasons with this roster and these injuries is a colossal failure, but I don’t. I fall on the side of generally crediting O’Brien’s approaches for allowing us to achieve these win totals over the past 3 years, and in so doing, KEEPING INDIANA OUT OF THE BOTTOM 5 IN THE CONFERENCE IN EACH OF THE PAST THREE SEASONS. That might not be all that impressive or worthy of praise for most, but I am pleased that we have at least avoided becoming the laughingstock of the league and have maintained a respectable basketball team that fights hard, playoffs or not.

    During the program we will be taking shots at “everyone else”, meaning other head coaches like Mike Woodson and Byron Scott. My aim here is not to say that any one of them is a bad coach, but to instead put things into perspective. They have all had failures which I deem to be worse than any of O’Brien’s three 30 plus win seasons in Indiana. Normally it goes something like this…… “Jim O’Brien is a terrible coach”, followed by “we need a ‘real coach’ like (fill in the blank) Coach.” Real coach? Maybe you ought to do a better job of appreciating what you already have, just a suggestion.

    But before we go any further, can we at least find common ground on one thing? These coaching rankings from sites like Bleacher Report or elsewhere that people use to demonstrate just how bad O’Brien is, are beyond silly. How in the world do you rank head coaches? I have no idea. Most obviously, how do you compare a Phil Jackson to a Jim O’Brien, when the former had Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol? We are talking about a completely different set of challenges in these cases. Perhaps I would support the idea of having at least two separate rankings for coaches… how they did when they had great players, and how they did when they weren’t dealt the best hand. So in the example of Phil Jackson, when he only had 1 out of the above hall of famers at one time? He was 1-3 in playoff series. Doc Rivers won a championship with Garnett, Pierce, and Allen…. But what is Doc Rivers’ career regular season coaching winning % when he didn’t have Kevin Garnett? .466. What is Jim O’Brien’s career coaching winning % without Garnett? .488. How many playoff series has Rivers won without Garnett? ZERO, while O’Brien has won three. Yet people want to swear by a list that ranks Rivers 16 spots ahead of O’Brien? And they expect credibility on this issue?

    WHY AM I WRITING THIS?

    So why take the time to advocate on behalf of Jim O’Brien? It’s simple—I’m passionate about the Pacers, and I think he’s the coach that offers us the best chance to reach our full potential. I felt this way 3 years ago, and very little since that time has deterred me from this line of reasoning. In fact, some things have only strengthened my opinion of him. I cannot help but be impressed by the job Jim O’Brien has done as our coach, and his relentless approach and tireless attention to detail has always won me over. But unfortunately he rarely receives a fair trial by many fans, as evidenced by the plethora of inaccuracies and distortions on forums like this or from media outlets like The IndyStar. Some people ratchet up the hyperbole to a level that makes me question the judgment of some fans: statements like “JOB has been more devastating to the Pacers than Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson combined,” followed by a chorus of amens, are proof enough that the pendulum of popular opinion regarding this team has swung so ridiculously far in the wrong direction…

    Believe it or not, I am not out to persuade the hardliners in the anti-O’Brien camp to change their mind about the guy; that would probably be impossible barring a 60 win season. While we may disagree, I respect all of you and enjoy hearing your take on things. In fact—TheDarkHorseOne, Mwiltru15, Realist1234 and Randy S, I will be referring to some of your recent posts from the past few months, so thank you for your contributions. And I mean this sincerely—I worry that a lot of you won’t be able to fully enjoy a winning season this year. Let’s say we start out the year 17-8 and are the surprise of the league—will you still be able to enjoy it since it would likely mean an extension for Jim O’Brien? I hope you will still be able to savor the good times instead of having to worry about framing every loss as the latest justification for throwing O’Brien overboard.

    Also—I’m willing to bet that there are plenty of fans who seldom post here but still pass by to get a taste of the latest Pacers chatter… To those of you in this group, If you are not too keen on O’Brien but are looking for reasons to at least support the principle of giving him at least one more season, then hopefully this will provide you with a good start.

    So with my sincere apologies for the verbosity and any redundancy (or even for the times that I have to repeat myself in the coming pages)….. Sometimes the best preview is a comprehensive review and that is my attempt here, so in advance of the 2010-11 season opening tonight at San Antonio… (drum roll please)….. The Vonslohnson Gazette presents The Case for Jim O’Brien….



    CHAPTER 1: DEFENDING THE DEFENSE

    In Response to www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=PluckForum&plckForumPage=ForumDiscussion&plckDiscussionId=Cat%3adb3f8cfb-fbf2-46a8-9949-2d94e2faab75Forum%3a35a45a0b-91c7-4df9-a234-b6cf42f94209Discussion%3a7454ce00-acd7-4feb-98d3-8d0fec36bbcf&plckFindPostKey=Cat:db3f8cfb-fbf2-46a8-9949-2d94e2faab75Forum:35a45a0b-91c7-4df9-a234-b6cf42f94209Discussion:7454ce00-acd7-4feb-98d3-8d0fec36bbcfPost:88ac5766-345e-4de9-8645-d55f8f853dc1" target="_blank">Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go?:


    In Response to Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go? : Think stocks. Past performance isn't indicative of future results. It's a 'what have you done for me lately' sports world, and all the meanderings and waxing philosophic about JOB's BOS and PHI exploits is, frankly, balderdash when you rub it up against three completely inept seasons as OUR head coach. Stress on that word because it's what matters here, not what he did elsewhere

    Posted by TheDarkHorseOne



    A couple of months ago I briefly touched upon O’Brien’s entire NBA coaching career, and some like TDHO felt that anything he did before coming to Indiana was not worth discussing. Well, I respectfully disagree…. I bring up O'Brien's time in Boston and Philadelphia primarily for the benefit of the casual fan passing by who has no clue of the man's accomplishments and considerable talents as a head coach in the NBA and has only been exposed to ongoing chants of "Fire JOB” on message boards and columns by Bob Kravitz (as well as to make sure inaccuracies are cleared up; I saw a comment on a Wells blog in which someone claimed that he couldn't win in Boston which is about as misinformed as it gets). His prior coaching experience absolutely matters when people want to make the blanket claim that the man cannot coach. When people want to make the claim that O'Brien doesn't care about defense or isn’t a defensive-minded coach, it does matter for the discussion that in the season before he became head coach of the Celtics that team was 3rd worst in the league in opp. FG%, and in his first full season there (with a virtually identical roster) they were 3rd best. This past season the Pacers were an OVERACHIEVING 13th (FIRST among non-playoff teams) and 14th in overall Defensive Rating--not at the bottom of the league as some may seem to imply or joke about. The Knicks and Warriors were at the bottom and over three percentage points worse than the Pacers; Mike D’Antoni and Don Nelson probably belong in a discussion of coaches who overlook defense, but certainly not Jim O’Brien. In his 6 full seasons as an NBA coach, he has never been outside of the top 15. This doesn’t happen by accident, folks.

    In Response to Re: Why JOB Needs to Go:


    Earlier, vonlohnson made an interesting point. He said that the Finals team was ONLY ranked 13th, but I say that was a big accomplishment. Look at the lineup and tell me where your defensive standouts were: PG - Mark Jackson (good hands but too slow) Travis Best SG - Reggie Miller (became a better defender over the years, but known as an offensive player), Chris Mullin, Jonathan Bender SF - Jalen Rose, Derrick McKey (McKey was a pretty good defender) PF - Dale Davis, Austin Croshere, Al Harrington (only Dale was known as a defender) C - Rik Smits, Jeff Foster, Sam Perkins, Zan Tabak (Smits, like Reggie, know mostly for his offense) The point here is, these players had a coach who was emphasizing defense and a system that worked. They believed in the coach and while most weren't great individual defenders, they played very good team defense. This team can be a better defensive team with a defensive-minded coach.
    Posted by mwiltru15

    So let me get this straight, Mwil—you consider it a big accomplishment that a team consisting of several seasoned vets with several years of experience playing together ranks 13th defensively, and you give that team the benefit of the doubt for not being a top 5 defensive team--- OK fine—they deserve some credit since they were 24th in the season prior— yet you simultaneously ridicule the Pacers’ top 15 defensive placements in the Troy Murphy/Mike Dunleavy and now Roy Hibbert era?? I’m sorry, but no one embraces the concept of unintentional comedy better than the typical Pacer fan who bemoans a Murphleavy ballclub finishing in the top half of the league in defense (when I hear those two I’m thinking bottom 5, but maybe that’s just me… And as an aside, listening to Bulls announcer Stacey King during the Pacers preseason finale was another source of hilarity when he described an opening sequence involving Mike Dunleavy…. “Well, Dunleavy just tried to get out of the way on the break to avoid another foul, but he’s so slow that he couldn’t even do that!”). I know a lot of fans don’t care for O’Brien for whatever reason—but to say the guy isn’t a defensive-minded coach when, to repeat-- In his 6 full seasons as an NBA coach, he has never been outside of the top 15 in opponents’ field goal %--is absurd. So let’s look at this particular Pacer stat from the past 4 years—this includes Carlisle’s final season at the helm when he, too, had the challenge of creating a successful defense with the athletically-challenged Murphleavy (relatively speaking)— followed by the O’Brien era:

    PACERS OPPONENTS’ FIELD GOAL %:

    2006-07 (Carlisle’s last season)-- .457 (13th)

    2006-07 (Final 44 games following the acquisition of Murphleavy)— .464 (would have ranked 21st compared to other teams’ full season opp fg%)

    2007-08 (O’Brien’s first season)— .454 (10th) Note: Mike Dunleavy averaged a career high 36 minutes per game

    2008-09— .458 (14th)

    2009-10— .453 (13th)

    As we can see above, The Great Rick Carlisle, for all of his reputed powers as a top-notch defensive coach, was unsuccessful at building an elite-level defense featuring Murphleavy. So was this primarily a coaching issue or a talent issue? And if your first instinct is to give Carlisle a pass since he didn’t have a full season to work with these guys—do you honestly believe that he could have topped the full 1 percent improvement that O’Brien was able to pull off the following year?

    In 2009-10, the league average was .461. Playoff teams like Carlisle’s Mavericks and Mike Woodson’s Hawks were worse than us—and 10 teams surrendered an opponents’ field goal % that was .470 or higher. Given that context, if any of you still want to make wisecracks about the Pacers’ defense these past three seasons under O’Brien then go right ahead—but just know that this Pacers fan will be laughing at you and not with you. Our coach has never even had anywhere close to a healthy roster in each of his 3 seasons here and yet he STILL has produced respectable defensive teams. Well done Coach. (And isn’t it interesting—that the people who demand a top notch TEAM defense can’t seem to make the connection that injuries/lack of time playing together coupled with yearly high roster turnover further makes it difficult to rank among the league’s elite??)

    And back to Carlisle for a second… again, most of us probably regard Carlisle as a great coach. I’m not here to argue against this point, but rather to challenge the notion that Jim O’Brien is somehow antithetical to Rick Carlisle and the great defense that many fans associate him with. The high praise that Pacers fans oftentimes shower upon Carlisle as a top-notch defensive coach—which is usually juxtaposed with a complete disrespect for O’Brien’s defensive credentials and dismissal of his accomplishments— is a great example of how some fans have a tendency to base views on reputation and flawed perception rather than fact. After all, O’Brien’s teams have outranked Carlisle’s teams in opponents’ field goal % in 3 out of the 5 full seasons in which they were both head coaches. Also consider that Detroit, Indiana and Dallas were ALL top 10 defensive teams in the season prior to Carlisle’s hiring. In fact, both Detroit and Dallas got worse defensively after Carlisle arrived. Detroit declined in opponents’ field goal % from .434 (8th best) in 2000-01 to .447 (15th best) in 2001-02, Carlisle’s first season. Naturally Detroit’s Overall Defensive Rating declined as well, from 101.8 to 102.4. Dallas slipped from 4th in opponents’ field goal % in 2007-08 (.443) to 13th (.455) in Carlisle’s first season in 2008-09. It’s true that overall he kept Detroit and especially Indiana among the upper echelon defensive teams in the NBA. But what do you think is more impressive—Carlisle inheriting a top 5 defense in Indiana and keeping it great, or Jim O’Brien transforming a team from bottom five defensively to top five in just one season? Let’s delve even deeper into that season--In 2001-02 O’Brien was playing Antoine Walker 42 minutes per game and Kenny Anderson 32 mpg (In case you weren’t aware, neither player was considered strong defensively). Meanwhile over in Detroit, Rick Carlisle was playing defensive stalwarts like Ben Wallace 36 mpg and Chucky Atkins 29 mpg. I’m sorry, but this still baffles me—Boston, not Detroit, was the superior defensive team that season, surrendering 101.0 points per 100 possessions (5th best) and registering an opponents’ field goal % of .425 (3rd) compared to Detroit’s .447 (15th).

    Granted, opponents’ field goal % and overall Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) are not the only statistics used to evaluate defensive performance. Some fans have correctly pointed out that the Pacers put their opponents on the free throw line at a rate that is above the league average, and indeed, Indiana ranked 26th last season in opponent free throws per field goal attempt at .258. But a few things are worth pointing out…. A). Carlisle’s Pacers in 06-07 were even worse than last year’s Pacers, surrendering a rate of .271 opponent free throws per field goal attempt and also ranking in the bottom 5 in this statistic; B). Last season playoff teams Miami, Boston, Denver, Milwaukee and Utah all ranked in the bottom 10—in fact, Milwaukee and Utah were the bottom 2. This should indicate that the opponent FT/FGA statistic, and fouling at a rate above the league average, is hardly a harbinger of overall defensive success; C). Overall Defensive Rating already takes into account opponent free throws…….. But really, even if you want to make a big deal about this—consider that last season Indiana employed 9 players that were either new to the team or had 2 years or less of NBA experience, coupled with, yes, the murphleavy… so should it come as any real surprise that the Pacers had a fouling problem?

    Before we continue, I’d like to point something out…. There is no one “right” way to build a defense as far as I’m concerned. Different coaches have different philosophies. Some like Jerry Sloan prefer his players to be overly aggressive in certain situations, so naturally this leads to more fouls. Some might call this “gambling,” but I would call it taking calculated risks to generate stops. Boston these past few years is another team that fouls at a high rate. But other coaches prefer that their teams in general not foul as much. There is not one way to skin a cat…



    In Response to Re: Feeling left out.... who should I want fired??:


    In Response to Re: Feeling left out.... who should I want fired?? JOB's defense is fundamentally flawed. He preaches "deflections": getting your hand on the ball as much as possible through steals, blocks, playing passing lanes, etc. He also preaches drawing charges in the post. THIS IS A HORRIBLE APPROACH. Good defense starts first with staying in front of your man. Period. Do not gamble on passing lanes, do NOT go for the reach-around steal, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR MAN FOR A WEAKSIDE BLOCK. Good defensive teams do not do these things as a rule, only occasionally. Look at the Bucks, Rockets, or any other good defensive team. They stay in front of their man, deny penetration, and force long jumpers. That is basketball common-sense. No supporter of JOB has ever, ever explained on here how his defensive philosophy is sound. And what does JOB do when he DOES have good defensive-minded players? He sits them because they don't shoot the 3.

    Posted by Realist1234


    So according to Realist1234, Houston was a good defensive team last year while JOB’s defense is “fundamentally flawed” and his approaches are horrible. Yet according to most of the major measures of defensive performance—Indiana outperformed Houston. To repeat, Indiana was 13th in opponents’ field goal % (.453), while Houston was 23rd (.475). Indiana ranked 10th in opponents’ effective field goal %--which adjusts for the fact that a 3 point field goal is worth one more point than a 2 point field goal—(.490—INDIANA WAS THE ONLY NON-PLAYOFF TEAM IN THE TOP 10), while Houston ranked 21st (.511—one percent higher than the league average of .501). Indiana was 5th best in opponents’ two point shooting % (.476), while Houston was 23rd (.503). Houston had a slight edge in opponent turnover percentage (.136—12th) compared to Indiana (.134—14th). But most importantly—Indiana was 14th in overall defensive rating (106.8) while Houston was 17th (108.0—worse than the league average of 107.6).

    I would submit to Realist1234 that his above explanation of O’Brien’s defensive philosophy is fundamentally flawed. There are some slight shades of truth to what you say, but reducing his defense to a “horrible approach” does not jibe AT ALL with the respectable defensive outcomes that his approach has achieved. If you personally don’t like the general approach (or if you don’t really understand it), then look at the results, look at the personnel and the injuries to key players—and tell me that we still should have been a top 5 defensive team up there with the Boston’s and the LA’s. And also, your insinuation that O’Brien does not emphasize man-to-man defense is simply not accurate. In this league, a coach cannot consistently churn out strong defensive teams— or overachieving, above average defensive teams in the case of O’Brien’s Pacers, if he isn’t incorporating man-to-man. I would ask for a little more humility from folks. It’s one thing if Indiana had been the worst defense year after year, but what gives any one of us the right to sit here and pretend that we are more knowledgeable about defensive tactics than coaches who have been at this for decades? Hey, I see nothing wrong with questioning something that we may not like and expressing it … but it is the height of arrogance to pretend like you absolutely know what’s best just because you happen to watch all of the games. This is complicated stuff. And even if you were an NBA coach, again…. No two coaches do things the same way.

    Before I summarize aspects of O’Brien’s defensive philosophy I’ll provide some background—In 2001 the NBA overhauled its defensive rules—the illegal zone defense rule was abolished, and the defensive three-second rule was instituted in its place. Jim O’Brien, along with his assistant coach Dick Harter, pioneered a new team defensive system that adapted to, and took advantage of, these new rules (key word here being “adapted,” because on balance O’Brien has a track record of being nimble and adaptable to new situations throughout his entire career). The system was both innovative and effective, as Boston was immediately transformed into one of the best defensive teams in the league as noted earlier. It was primarily still a man-to-man system, but with some elements of zone and precise position defense sprinkled in that relied upon a series of coordinated help rotations. In certain situations, defenders were instructed to pressure the ball, with a second line help defender ready to rotate into the driving path to stop the ball in the event that the first response defender got beat off the dribble. However, it would be impossible to fully describe everything. To quote Jim O’Brien from September , 2007: “To quote O’Brien from 2007 when speaking generally about game prep: “The preparation is at a level that the average person would not or could not believe from the standpoint of how you are just trying to get an edge. You couldn’t even begin to explain that to somebody; it has just dramatically changed.”

    O’Brien hasn’t used the exact same system as his previous two coaching stops and has adapted to specific personnel on the Pacers—for example, he has not instructed Roy Hibbert to cover as wide of an area on help defense due to his lack of agility—but one key element has remained….

    1). O’Brien prioritizes the protection of the three second paint and TEAM control of the middle above all else—last season Indiana ranked 5th in opponents’ two point FG% and FIRST in the lowest percentage of opponents’ points scored in the paint. In nominal terms, The Pacers ranked 8th in opponents’ points in the paint last season, and 9th in 08-09 (this is BEFORE you adjust for pace, meaning we were a top 3 team in real terms at protecting the paint)—so whether our center was Hibbert or Rasho Nesterovic, we have collectively as a team done a solid job of protecting the paint. These stats have Jim O’Brien’s fingerprints all over them. For example--If an opposing player is approaching the paint Indiana tends to send a rotation of help defenders to pack the paint rather than strictly adhering to man-to-man coverage, especially when it’s later in the shot clock since the refs at that point are probably less likely to call a defensive 3-second violation. Another example—it makes sense to rotate a help-side defender on a baseline drive, because a defender has better odds of drawing a charge from this angle since there is no restricted area directly under the basket. On balance it is still a man-to-man system, but at times I am tempted to describe it as a man-to-man/zone hybrid. Make no mistake—the system is full of nuance— but there is a method to the madness—sometimes even allowing open shots from certain spots on the floor by playing certain percentages.

    Whether intentionally or not, O’Brien’s defense in Indiana has evolved into a system of trade-offs. While they impressively ranked 5th in opponents’ two point FG% a year ago, they ranked 21st in opponents’ three point FG% (.363—league average was .355). Overall though this relative lack of success at forcing missed threes was rather innocuous to Indiana’s overall defensive performance—as evidenced by their 10th best opponents’ effective field goal %, which again was first among non-playoff teams-- because in certain situations they were effective in encouraging opponents to take fewer threes and chasing them off the three point line (Indiana gave up the 9th fewest 3 point attempts, and finished 5th in lowest opponent three point rate which adjusts for pace)—and as we’ve seen, Indiana has gotten good results when they force opponents to shoot the two.

    Some people may not like it that Indiana does not always play a tough-nosed, gritty man to man style… But O’Brien’s job was to successfully devise a TEAM defensive strategy, incorporating weak 1 on 1 defenders like Murphy and Dunleavy. Hey, if you’ve got Ron Artest and Shane Battier, maybe you can afford to rely on muscle to get the job done. But O’Brien instituted a thinking man’s system for the many times that we couldn’t outmuscle our opponents. And personally, I think the results speak for themselves.

    As for Realist’s criticism of a team keeping track of and emphasizing “deflections,” it’s true that O’Brien’s staff uses this statistic, and The IndyStar at times has made note of this. But this is hardly news. Interestingly enough, in a recent blog Mavericks owner Mark Cuban harped on a couple of non-traditional defensive stats that he personally thinks are valuable, including Deflections, Deflections for turnovers, Charges taken, and blocks given. My educated guess is that most teams now use these stats and rely upon them, so in essence they have caught up with O’Brien and Harter who have been at this since 2001.

    So here is why I think many Pacers fans mistakenly believe that we have been a poor defensive team during the O’Brien era

    1). Indystar Coverage—Like any paper, they control the narrative and the message, what to emphasize and what to deemphasize. Every year, Jim O’Brien says that we have to improve defensively. Why does he say this? BECAUSE JIM O’BRIEN WILL NOT BE SATISFIED UNLESS WE ARE ONE OF THE BEST DEFENSIVE TEAMS IN THE NBA. That’s his obsessive standard, and it’s a major reason why I am happy he is our coach. As such, he tends to not be self-congratulatory in his remarks. No matter how unreasonable this standard may seem--especially considering that last year we had arguably the worst combination of interior defenders in the NBA with cumbersome Hibbert and Murphy—Jim O’Brien is striving to reach this level. But instead of noting how the Pacers have likely overachieved defensively given our personnel, The Indystar usually chooses to frame O’Brien’s displeasure with the defense as an overall Jim O’Brien failure. Just recently Mike Wells had the following line in an article: “Opponents have shot at least 45.4 percent against the Pacers each of the three years Jim O'Brien has coached the team. That won't get it done.” Notice the glaring absence of some important context? As mentioned earlier, the league average was .461…

    2). Many people (particularly Pacers fans) tend to overrate Rick Carlisle as a defensive coach—sometimes we see people pining on forums for Carlisle’s brand of tough-nosed defense—well, he’s certainly not bad, but as shown previously, he inherited strong defenses in all 3 of his pro coaching stops. As a coach, when you are given strong individual defenders like Ron Artest, a healthy Jermaine O’Neal in his prime, and Stephen Jackson (Cap’n Jack has played on three teams that were top 5 defensively, a fair indicator that he’s good people as well)—you’re probably going to have a good defensive team. To put it another way, O’Brien had the perfect storm of events working against him in terms of perception: he had to follow a period in which Pacers fans were accustomed to seeing their veteran teams routinely rank amongst the top defensive teams in the league, and he was dealt the athletically-challenged Murphleavy + youth hand—hardly the ingredients of a first-class defense.

    3). This is a first cousin of No 2… Some people fall into the trap of giving certain coaches too much credit for producing strong defenses, and overlook the times that they failed to create a successful defense. For example… Larry Brown coached a Knicks team 4 years ago that was the 5th worst defensive team in the NBA. So this begs the question… was this a talent issue or a coaching issue? I would say talent in a heartbeat, that was just a bad team. More recently Brown has coached a top 5 defense in Charlotte…. But people forget that less than 2 months into the 08-09 season the Bobcats traded away Jason Richardson (not regarded as a superior defender) for Raja Bell and Boris Diaw. Emeka Okafor—strong rebounder and interior defender despite being a bit undersized— Gerald Wallace (beast), Raymond Felton (his strength as a Point guard is an asset)---these are superb ingredients for a first-rate defense. You match this talent base with Larry Brown, and, presto… top defense in the league. Yet what people do is they tend to overly commend LB for having strong defenses that play it the “right way.” Hey, give Larry Brown plenty of credit, but don’t delude yourself into thinking that he could have achieved a first rate defense if you gave him Murphleavy and took away Gerald Wallace and Emeka Okafor, or could have done better with this team than the respectable outcomes O’Brien has achieved.

    4). O’Brien’s defense sometimes looks funny, and some elements of it are outside of what fans are used to seeing. Because of this, it usually does not make a favorable impression on fans (see Realist1234’s post above). Unfortunately, what usually gets overlooked in posts like Realist’s are the actual defensive outcomes… Ask not how it looked, but how effective it was, and whether its results were better than what could have reasonably been expected. Well, we will get to ESPN’s John Hollinger more later on, but to quote his review of the Pacers 08-09 season: “The Pacers stayed surprisingly respectable on the defensive end, yielding a field goal percentage beneath the league average.” (The operative word here, of course, being SURPRISINGLY, and it shouldn’t be difficult to figure out why).

    5). Some fans and even some in the media mistakenly (and/or lazily) base their defensive opinions on the opponents’ points per game statistic. (“ Hey, Indiana was 23rd in opponents’ points per game, so this means they were a bad defensive team!”) Of course, this is a misleading metric since it does not account for pace (number of team possessions). Conversely, just because Indiana ranked 5th in points per game in 2008-09 does NOT mean Indiana had the 5th best offense. To give an economics example— it would be inadequate to conduct an analysis of consumer purchasing power or probably any economic analysis without first considering inflation. The “defensive rating” statistic correctly accounts for pace, and thus it is used by sites like nba.com and espn.com to rank a team’s defensive performance.

    OUR BIGGEST WEAKNESS ON THE DEFENSIVE END

    Funny thing about pace—my how things have changed, because the Pacers pace factor from 09-10 would have ranked slowest in the NBA 24 years ago. In 1993 it would have been right at the league average. Yet some people want to blame our inability to be a top 5 defensive team on pace??? Come on now, we don’t play THAATT fast. It may SEEM that way because of the trend in the past 15 years for teams to play a walk-it-up, slow it down style. And it’s true that Indiana has ranked top 5 in fastest pace factor in each of O’Brien’s 3 seasons with the Pacers (and I would argue that a faster pace has been necessary for us to improve upon our offense)… but in total, the faster pace that some have criticized still only gives us about 4 to 5 extra possessions per game more than teams with an average pace… if players are in shape this should not be a concern at all….

    And you know what? Pace has not been the problem with our defense. How do we know this? Well, as shown earlier, the Pacers problem last year was not in getting its opponent to miss a shot (5th best in the NBA in opponent two point FG%)…. O’Brien’s team defensive system has allowed the Pacers to stay competitive in these areas…. BUT THE PACERS BIGGEST PROBLEM WAS IN SECURING DEFENSIVE REBOUNDS. Indiana dropped from 10th to 22nd in defensive rebounding percentage a season ago, corresponding with Hibbert’s 11 minute increase in playing time. So Realist1234 correctly noted that Milwaukee was a great defensive team a year ago. But they put opponents on the free throw line more frequently than us and yielded a higher free throw discrepancy. Also, they were essentially at the same level as us in terms of forcing missed shots, ranking 8th in opponents’ effective field goal % (.486), while we were 10th (.490). Their opponents’ field goal % was .451, ours was .453. THE MAIN DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MILWAUKEE AND INDIANA WAS THAT MILWAUKEE WAS THE THIRD BEST DEFENSIVE REBOUNDING TEAM IN THE NBA (trailing only Orlando and Cleveland). So for all of this talk about how Scott Skiles is head and shoulders above Jim O’Brien… you switch off Andrew Bogut and Roy Hibbert, and we would have been the better defensive team.

    I’d also like to point out about Milwaukee…. They were average like us in 08-09… but this past summer they lost players not considered strong defensively like Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions, Redd (not a strong defender either) was hobbled, so he was addition by subtraction on defense…. and they drafted Brandon Jennings (who had a defensive rating greater than or equal to ANY Buck player from 08-09), also added players like Carlos Delfino and Ersan Ilyasova who are good players on both ends of the floor, as well as reliable Kurt Thomas.. And further saw the development of talented frontcourt defender Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. So sure, give the coach credit, but don’t overlook the fact that Skiles had a much better team to work with in his second season.

    Alright so to close things out, I’ll get into some common talking points from the O’Brien bashers that are related to defense….

    1). “And what does JOB do when he DOES have good defensive-minded players? He sits them because they don't shoot the 3.”—Realist 1234

    I assume he’s talking about Dahntay Jones? If so, then this is Exhibit A of how the O’Brien detractors will grasp at anything, and I mean ANYTHING, to knock him, even if the facts don’t even remotely support the claim…. No coach has played Dahntay Jones more than Jim O’Brien did in 2009-10, when Dahntay Jones averaged career highs in minutes per game (25), points per game (10.2), assists per game (2.0) and rebounders per game (3.0), and appeared in 76 games (and also had the team’s second worst simple rating of plus/minus, ahead of only Solomon Jones) . But even if this claim by Realist1234 was accurate—regardless of your opinion of the Pacers offense under O’Brien—what’s so wrong with a coach encouraging a player to be less of a liability on the offensive end by developing a 3 point shot? Pat Riley and Gregg Popovich demanded of Bruce Bowen that he become a consistent perimeter threat even though this wasn’t a part of his natural skill-set. Shane Battier doubles as a reliable 3 point threat and defensive stopper. Why in seven years has D. Jones not added this to his repertoire as well?… (And just so we’re clear, I would not rate Jones as a defender on the level of a Bowen or a Battier.)

    While I probably wouldn’t go as far as John Hollinger did in referring to D. Jones as “scrapheap talent”, he’s really not that far off. More Hollinger on D. Jones… “Indiana signed Dahntay Jones to a four-year, $11 million deal. This move wins the Trenton Hassell Award for 2009 for the most ridiculous contract given to a role player on a winning team. Jones was on the scrap heap before Denver picked him up, and there was a reason for that -- though he's an above-average defender, he's not in the elite class and he's an absolutely horrid offensive player. Moreover, there's no need whatsoever to give out a four-year deal for this type of player -- they're fungible commodities. Quinton Ross for instance, is essentially the same player and signed with Dallas for the minimum.”

    My question is—how banged up and bad were we that Dahntay Jones was able to receive as much playing time as he did here? Realist, please tell me you’re not making an issue out of O’Brien playing D. Jones too FEW minutes, he’s barely even worth mentioning unless you want to take a cheap shot at Bird for giving him that contract….

    And you better not be talking about Earl Watson either, who also averaged a career high in minutes under O’Brien this past season. Watson shot double the threes in Seattle than he did here. 31 year old Kenny Anderson revitalized his career while playing for O’Brien in Boston thanks in part to a career best defensive rating that season, and he was also not a 3 point shooter.

    So while it may be fashionable for some to claim that O’Brien doesn’t play a guy unless he shoots the three…. At best this is a gross oversimplification (based on, what, maybe a quote or two taken out of context? Based on T.J. Ford? Based on… what exactly? I’d like to know…) But at worst it’s just not true.

    2). “Jim O’Brien doesn’t listen to Dick Harter enough, because he only wants “yes men” and because he could care less about defense.”

    So I guess after the 2009 season there was a quote from Bird in which he was talking off the cuff about how assistant coach Dick Harter needed to have a greater role with respect to the defensive game-planning, similar to his role when Bird was coach. And immediately everyone took this to mean that O’Brien was some kind of a “yes man” who did not value outside input, and that Bird was not pleased with O’Brien’s performance as coach. But do you know what spoke louder than Bird’s glib remark to The Star? NOT LONG AFTERWARDS THAT SUMMER, BIRD PICKED UP THE 4TH YEAR TEAM OPTION ON O’BRIEN’S CONTRACT. Bird had to say SOMETHING negative about O’Brien since the team was 0 for 2 on the playoffs during his tenure, and really it was a rather benign statement. First off, Bird as a head coach probably delegated more responsibility to his assistants than any other coach in recent memory, at least according to his own book “Bird Watching.” And also just as important to remember…. DICK HARTER HAS WORKED FOR JIM O’BRIEN FOR NEARLY SEVEN SEASONS. Seriously, why would he stick around the guy if he was some kind of a demeaning boss who did not highly value his counsel and actively seek it? As noted earlier, O’Brien and Harter have a history of collaborating over defensive schemes which goes back to 2001. And then to make matters worse, Harter’s contract was not renewed following the 2010 season, providing more fodder for the conspiracy theorists…. But at the risk of sounding ageist, Dick Harter is 80 years old…. Perhaps he was ready for a less hectic lifestyle and to go off and do something else. Or perhaps like any head coach-assistant partnership, it was just time for a new change in scenery?

    And let me also add—there is an inherent contradiction in demanding more of Harter’s brand of defense and less of O’Brien’s schemes, when the reality is that O’Brien and Harter have been joined at the hip for the past decade. If you haven’t liked our approach under O’Brien then fine, but Harter’s philosophy is largely the same.

    3). “Danny Granger has regressed defensively under Jim O’Brien.” This one’s tricky, because it’s much more dynamic and difficult to pigeon-hole. For starters, Granger’s defensive rebounding percentage declined by a whopping 5 points in year 2 compared to his rookie season, all while he was still playing for Carlisle. But under O’Brien his rebounding rate increased by 4 points in 07-08. I could also point out that this past season he had the second best defensive rating of his career, behind only his rookie year, despite playing through the pain from the plantar fascia all season. That probably wouldn’t be too persuasive to people, either, so here’s my take…. When Granger came into the league he was regarded as a great role player, someone who averaged 7 points per game and did not have to worry about scoring 30 per night for the team to have a realistic shot at winning—he could devote the lion’s share of his energies to the defensive end and fit in as a complementary role player piece. His rookie year he could defer to Stephen Jackson, Ron Artest (and later Peja Stojakovic after the trade, who at 28 years old averaged 19.5 points per game and was only 2 years removed from the season in which he was given serious MVP consideration), and Jermaine O’Neal on the offensive end. So at times while he’s been “the man” on recent Indiana teams, fans may have noticed that he hasn’t always been going full steam on the defensive end…. To some degree, you could sometimes make this criticism of any star player on a losing team in that they are picking their spots and trying to save some energy for offense; Because let’s face it, given the injuries and the shortage of personnel, Granger has needed to flirt with 30 every night for Indy to have a shot at winning. This speaks more about Indiana’s talent and Granger’s lack of consistent help then it does anything else. It reminds me somewhat of Paul Pierce under Doc Rivers from 2005-2007. Pierce had to put up plenty of points every given night for his team to stay in the game, and he drew this same criticism for sometimes dogging it on the defensive end. But obviously when they acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007, Pierce was able to devote a much more balanced distribution of energies to both ends. And let the record show…. The highest defensive rating of Paul Pierce’s career came while playing under Jim O’Brien, not under Doc Rivers.

    FORECASTING THE DEFENSE FOR 2010-11

    Well, our biggest problem this past season was rebounding, and we traded our best rebounder for a point guard that is not considered to be a good defender…. Synergy Sports noted in August that “His defense is abysmal. He’s fast, and he gets some steals while staying in front of his man, but he can be outmuscled easily, shot over, and it’s not hard to rub him off with a solid screen.”

    So it’s not surprising that New Orleans this past season had the second worst defense in the NBA, with Chris Paul missing for over half the season and Darren Collison filling in as his understudy. Of course… If Indiana regresses defensively, this will be all Jim O’Brien’s fault, right? But now that Hibbert is in shape, hopefully Indiana can be competitive on the defensive glass once again.

    So if our defense has overachieved under O’Brien (or at the very least, performed at a level that is commensurate with our available talent), then why haven’t we won more games? Well, injuries yes, but I’d also like to point out a statistic from a year ago that I think speaks to the connection between offense and defense:

    The Pacers were 26-20 when they held opponents to under the league average .461 shooting percentage. For purposes of comparison, the Lakers were 44-9. When Indiana’s opponents shot above the league average? They were just 6-30 in these games, while the Lakers were 13-16. (the Lakers opponent FG% on the season was .446, 5th best).

    Now sure… part of the reason for this is that we’d force a miss but fail to rebound, or the free throw disparity was not offset by enough made threes. But for me at least, this stat speaks to our lack of offensive firepower. When a team like the Lakers gets a good defensive outcome, they are almost assuredly going to win. And even when they don’t force enough misses… they can still win onmany nights because they have the offense to offset it. The Pacers were just 10-4 when they held opponents to under 40% shooting, while the Lakers were 14-0. Yep, pretty sad that Indiana could only go 16-16 in games in which it held opponents between .400 and .461 shooting.

    (Also worth mentioning to the folks who think the Pacers end of the season run made the defensive stats look better than they were…. The Pacers had 3 four game stretches in which opponents consecutively shot above the league average… games 9-12, 28-31, and 79-82.)

    In Response to Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go?:


    In Response to Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go? : He wasn't any good as a college head coach either. 61-80 at Dayton and FIRED and was 74-69 at the powerhouse known as Wheeling Jesuit...the success he had at Boston was as shortlived as a 3 point shooting draught. And that kind of sums up Obrien in a nutshell...If one were to get Jerry Sloan in here to work with these guys in a training camp and then for three months or so, I'd bet the ranch we would be a much better overall basketball team both offensively and defensively by Feb of an NBA season. Obrien is just a bad basketball coach. Doesn't have any clue how to develop a culture within a team and to get players to play inspired ball or to work together. The players don't believe in this guy and that has been apparent to alot of us for a long, long time.
    Posted by RandyS



    I’m not quite sure what Jerry Sloan has to do with this unless your purpose is to note how Sloan and O’Brien are both tough-minded, no-nonsense, and largely unassuming types, in which case I agree and welcome the comparison, but FYI--O’Brien’s teams have outranked Sloan’s teams in 4 out of the 6 full seasons in opponents’ field goal % (including 2 out of 3 years while Pacers coach), and they are 3-3 in Defensive Rating. As for Dayton, I purposely left college out because I don’t think it’s as relevant, but since you brought it up, you might recall that the University of Dayton won a first-round game in the NCAA tournament a year ago. The last time they did this? 1990, when O’Brien was the coach (lost to Final Four participant Arkansas by two points in the second round, perhaps foretelling the pattern of an NBA O’Brien whose teams would only succumb to eventual conference champions in each of their three postseason appearances).

    CHAPTER 2: MIKE WOODSON VS JIM O’BRIEN

    So in a bit we will review Jim O’Brien’s prior head coaching experience, but first let’s talk about Mike Woodson. Why single him out? Well, about a year ago Mike Wells was making a big fuss in one of his blogs about how Woodson hadn’t gotten an extension from the Hawks despite a 47 win season, while the Pacers picked up the team option on O’Brien’s contract despite two losing seasons. In typical Wells fashion he failed to provide ANY context on Woodson’s major struggles in his first four seasons or even a single mention of his team’s massive letdowns in the postseason. So let’s examine Woodson’s tenure with the Hawks: In his first season (04-05) with established veterans like Antoine Walker and Al Harrington, with athletic and promising rookies like Josh Smith, Josh Childress and Boris Diaw, I’m not expecting that team to make the playoffs. But 13-69? This is an example of where I would seriously begin to question the coach’s ability in maximizing what he has to work with, esp since O’Brien coached a Walker plus Pierce team to the conference finals in 2002 and Walker was still a good player at 28 years old in 2005. Any NBA coach not named M.L. Carr should be able to get 20 wins out of a team regardless of the circumstances. The next three years Woodson has two of the best young and rising stars in the league, the aforementioned Josh Smith along with Joe Johnson, and it wasn’t until his FOURTH season as coach in 2007-08 (when they traded for a clutch and then top 15 point guard in Mike Bibby and drafted a quality and now all-star big in Al Horford) that this team was even able to scrape together 37 wins and be an 8 seed in the East. Does this sound like a coach who is getting the best out of his talent base? In that season’s playoffs most were impressed when they unexpectedly took eventual champion Boston to 7 games, but how does a team not even show up for its 4 playoff road games and lose them by over 100 points combined?! His teams the next two seasons now had the talent and the continuity in place to win 47 and 53 regular season games. Jamal Crawford was a wonderful addition to the bench last season (much love for the only player in NBA history to have scored 50 or more points on three different teams, but much scorn for this same man who overtook Reggie Miller’s record in most all-time 4 point plays). But when considering this team’s athleticism and talent it’s disappointing that they were only 16th in the league in opponents’ field goal % this season (2nd worst among playoff teams). And most importantly, their play in the playoffs was some of the most uninspired and underachieving in recent memory. As evidence of this, Woodson’s 2009 Hawks became just the 2nd team in the modern 16 team playoff format to ever get swept in a best of seven in which all four losses were by double digits (the first team was the post-O’Brien Celtics vs the Pacers in 2004, so people can draw their own conclusions on that one). And In 2010 Woodson’s Hawks needed a full seven games in round one to survive an upset scare from a vastly inferior Milwaukee team led by a rookie point guard (and also hampered by injuries to 3rd team all NBA center Andrew Bogut and their prior season’s leading scorer Michael Redd). And in round two? Past is prologue; once again, a team coached by Mike Woodson not only gets swept but loses every game by double figures, by over a combined 100 points.

    Some will question how any of this recent history is relevant. For me by far, the most important variable when judging coaches is their capacity to stretch their teams’ potential to the limit and to advance in the playoffs when common sense suggests they shouldn’t. We seem to be in agreement around here that Indiana is unlikely to have first class talent in the near future, and this observation only serves to validate the highest priority of employing a coach who is PROVEN in getting the absolute most out of his teams on the biggest stage; should we get back to the playoffs, we must trust that we have a coach who can compensate for our lack of talent and can advance it to the absolute limit. And if at the end of the day our boys aren’t able to overcome what they lack in talent, then we must still go down fighting. So when using this standard as a guide, how have O’Brien’s teams compared to Woodson’s? It’s not even close. In 2002 with a Boston team that had never even tasted the playoffs before, O’Brien had them prepared and poised to knock off the defending conference champion 76ers coached by Larry Brown in round one. In round two his team didn’t have homecourt advantage, yet still defeated Rick Carlisle’s Pistons in five games. In the conference championship they finally met their match and could not fully overcome Byron Scott’s No. 1 seed Nets which featured the best point guard in basketball at that time (Jason Kidd) coupled with one of the best rugged and defensive interior players in fmr. No. 1 overall pick Kenyon Martin, who was a nightmare matchup for Antoine Walker in both the 02 and 03 playoffs. But Jim O’Brien teams do not quit. People talk about the man having a humongous ego? That’s funny, because one of our coach’s many overlooked strengths is his willingness to sometimes keep a lower profile so as to not crowd out the potential for leadership from players. In game 3 of the 2002 conference finals, it matters to me that O’Brien decided to not reprimand the team captain Antoine Walker for intruding on the coach’s huddle. He was willing to defer because he wants players to take ownership. He let Walker have the floor in that huddle to deliver an emotional speech to his teammates with them trailing by twenty-one points heading into the fourth quarter. Smaller men may have felt threatened by this, but O’Brien welcomed it. And what happened next was some of the most inspired playoff basketball of all time, as we witnessed the greatest fourth quarter comeback in NBA playoff history. For context, out of the 171 previous teams that had started the fourth quarter of a playoff game with a 19-or-more-point deficit, none had emerged as the winner, and this record stands to this day. But this feat wasn’t just an isolated fluke, as O’Brien’s Celtics had routinely surmounted challenges in the fourth quarter all season and led the regular season in fourth quarter comebacks. And unbelievably, a team that had no business being in the final four was stubbornly making its case as a sleeper championship contender, thanks in no small part to a coach who has a knack for getting his players to buy-in defensively and to believe in themselves collectively.

    The following season, O’Brien’s Celtics (6 seed) faced Isiah’s Pacers (3 seed). Others on this site have dismissed Boston’s upset as simply a reflection of Isiah’s ineptness rather than any kind of “feather in the hat for Jim O’Brien”, but they are missing the bigger point: the vast disparity in talent that existed between these two teams should have still made this a mismatch. On espn.com, not one analyst predicted Boston to defeat Indiana, not one. In fact, half of the analysts predicted an Indiana sweep and it’s not hard to see why. Indiana arguably had the most talented roster in the East that season. A frontcourt featuring two all-stars with a healthy Jermaine O’Neal in his prime and Brad Miller, with Ron Artest as one of the best defenders in the league with a strong offensive game to match, still reliable and clutch Reggie Miller in the backcourt and one of the most talented young point guards in Jamaal Tinsley. The bench was stocked with veteran scorers and playmakers like Al Harrington, Ron Mercer and Tim Hardaway, perfect role players like Jeff Foster and Erick Strickland (who had thrived the previous season under O’Brien). No exaggeration, Boston had Pierce, Walker and…..little else (my sincere apologies to Walter McCarty). Whatever supporting cast they had the previous season had been decimated thanks to poor managerial decisions by GM Chris Wallace, and bad luck with newcomer Vin Baker’s bout with alcoholism and subsequent leave of absence from the team in the final months of the season. An undrafted rookie named J.R. Bremer (remember him?) was forced to start half of their games that year and actually looked good at times under O’Brien, but post O’Brien the young man was out of the league within a year (consider this a cautionary tale Pacer fans before getting too excited about the potential of a guy like A.J. Price). And while it’s true that Indiana stumbled a bit down the stretch and finished 9-6 in their final 15, Boston finished the season going 6-9.

    ONE VS EIGHT IN DISGUISE

    And my personal view—I consider Boston’s upset of Indiana in 2003 to be one of the most overlooked and underappreciated playoff upsets of the past 20 years. As you would expect, the odds of a 6 seed defeating a 3 weren’t great to begin with anyway—to illustrate, from the inception of the modern 16 team playoff format in 1984 through 2002, 6 seeds had defeated 3 seeds 26.3% of the time in this best-of-5 first round format. But the NBA in 2003 made the hurdle for first round upsets even higher, expanding all series to a best-of-7 format. But here’s the real kicker that Indiana likely underachieved with their 48 wins during 02-03, while Boston overachieved for its 44—look at Boston and Indiana the following season. Indiana demonstrated that their personnel was probably close to 60-win caliber all along (yes, give credit to Rick Carlisle)—In fact, Isiah’s Pacers in 02-03 should have probably been BETTER than Carlisle’s Pacers since Brad Miller was traded to Sacramento in the summer of 2003. As for Boston in 03-04—New GM Danny Ainge decided it was time to rebuild—he broke up much of the core that O’Brien had won 3 playoff series with in 02 and 03, since it was rather obvious that O’Brien had stretched this group to its absolute limit and the team was not anywhere close to championship material. Antoine Walker was traded to Dallas for Raef Lafrentz just 10 days before the start of the 2003-04 season, and Eric Williams and Tony Battie were traded for Ricky Davis and Chris Mihm shortly after the start of the season(probably a wash in terms of talent, though Davis and Mihm were castoffs from 17 win Cleveland in 02-03). O’Brien was still able to keep the ship afloat through 46 games, with the Celtics hovering close to .500 at 22-24 despite all the roster upheaval. But Ainge wanted the team to bottom out and to rebuild through the lottery, and Jim O’Brien’s talent for squeezing every last victory from a mismatched roster was getting in the way of his plan. So naturally, they clashed… they both insist it was nothing personal, but just a professional disagreement since O’Brien was not happy with the trades or with the prospect of working for a GM who was not interested in winning games (Ainge admitted publicly that year that wins and losses meant nothing to him). O’Brien resigned in January due to this philosophical disagreement, but unfortunately for Ainge he had gotten just enough wins out of those first 46 games for Boston to still sneak into the playoffs, despite the team’s post-O’Brien 14-22 finish to the season. And 36 win Boston was summarily dismissed by 61 win Indiana in round 1, becoming the first team in playoff history to get swept while losing every game by double figures. (Yes, Antoine Walker, a two-time all-star under O’Brien, was not back for that ‘04 Boston-Indiana rematch. But post-O’Brien he struggled to fit in with Dallas, and failed to lead Atlanta out of the cellar with Woodson’s Hawks—It’s not unreasonable to suggest that O’Brien’s team defensive system helped to camouflage his weaknesses, making him seem appreciably better as a top 2 guy than he really was.) My point? This is by no means precise… but when considering how the post-O’Brien Celtics were in complete disarray in their rematch with Indiana in 2004, coupled with how Indiana was better in 02-03 than their 48 wins suggested, that 3 vs 6, Indiana vs Boston matchup in 02-03 looks like a 1 vs 8 in disguise.

    Following the upset of Indiana, O’Brien’s Celtics were swept by the Nets… But if any of you have game 3 on tape, you might want to review this telling exchange between TNT’s color commentators that night, Hall of Fame Coach John Thompson and Jeff Van Gundy during the 4th quarter…..

    (at 10:50 mark)

    JT(delivered with a tone of disbelief that Boston was even in the second round): I think Jim O’Brien is one hell of a coach to have done as much as he’s done with this team…

    JVG: Coach, I agree with you about Jim O’Brien. He’s done an unbelievable job with this team. And what wins in this league is talent. New Jersey’s got more talent and they’re playing well. And if you’ve got a better talented team who’s playing well, you’re going to win.

    (at 6:45 mark)

    JVG: When you X and O on the blackboard as a coach you always put up a No.1, No. 2 and all the positions. If that No. 1 is Jason Kidd, you’re in good shape. We all wish we had a point guard like that at some point… it makes coaching a nice profession.

    JT(chuckles): If that 1 is good, that 2, 3 and 4 look good…

    JVG: It’s almost not even newsworthy when Jason Kidd has a triple double anymore, it’s what you expect.

    (at 2:30 mark)

    JVG: I think it will be very interesting to see if Boston responds the way Portland responded when they were down 3-0. Will they, over the next two days, regenerate their enthusiasm and intensity and get themselves back up, or are they just going to go quietly into the sweep? It says a lot about a team how they’re going to handle this next game.

    JT: I think you’re absolutely correct…. The only thing I would wonder about is whether Boston has enough personnel, Jeff, to even do that. Portland’s got so much personnel, and were probably underachieving. This Boston team is overachieving.

    (This was in reference to Maurice Cheeks’ Trailblazers that had just come back from a 3-0 deficit vs Dallas to lose in game 7).

    JVG: That’s a great point. I don’t think this is an effort problem (for Boston), it’s a personnel problem.

    So did Boston go quietly into the sweep? Hell no, New Jersey needed two overtimes to finish off the overmatched misfits brigade, and in games 1 and 2 they were also pushed to the brink. Jim O’Brien teams don’t quit.

    PHILLY 04-05

    Fun fact: Did you know that Allen Iverson, in his first 8 seasons had not even hit a game winning shot at the buzzer until O’Brien became his coach? Don’t worry, I won't give O'Brien credit for these shots but I will definitely give him credit for being the last 76ers coach to lead an Iverson + talent starved roster to the playoffs when the other three had failed…“talent starved” in this case meaning a 32 year old, past-his-prime Chris Webber acquired midseason and breaking down from the grind of playing in a full season following his injury in 03-04, and with Marc Jackson as that team’s 3rd leading scorer… and no, we’re not talking about Mark Jackson from past Pacers teams, but MARC Jackson, the one who wasn’t very good. They were eliminated in round 1 by defending champion Detroit in five games (including one overtime loss)… not a bad showing considering the Pistons were one botched defensive assignment by Rasheed Wallace on Robert Horry away from being back to back champs. And oh yeah… Jim O’Brien was able to coax career-best unselfish production out of Iverson, as he set a career high in Assist percentage by nearly 3 points.

    Despite this turnaround, O’Brien was fired shortly after the first round exit; former 76ers guard Maurice Cheeks was now available after being fired midseason by Portland, and Cheeks’ massive popularity with the local area thanks to his key role on the 1983 Philadelphia championship team made this coaching switch a good PR move. In a similar way, I would expect the initial fan support of a Pacers hypothetical hiring of Mike Woodson to be higher than many of the competing alternatives since he played for Indiana University….. But besides the good PR from the Cheeks for O’Brien swap, do you know what else the 76ers got? Worse. Despite the emergence of Andre Iguodala, they still dropped from 10th to 25th in defensive rating the following season, and they went right back to missing the playoffs, just as they had done in the season prior to O’Brien’s hiring.

    (Let me also add, sometimes we hear about players that didn’t get along with a particular coach, but so what? Paul Pierce loved O’Brien and had very favorable things to say about him in 2007, Kyle Korver as well. Pierce happened to clash a bit with George Karl during USA Basketball and with Rivers before the Big 3… Chris Webber and O’Brien didn’t get along very well… any coach, any coach you could play this game with).

    Maybe I could have gotten behind a Mike Woodson hiring if I wanted this team to just completely tank and to win 13 games, but if the goal is to win games and maximize potential, I’m going with O’Brien every time.

    In closing, some see O’Brien’s playoff record of 14-17, and 3-3 in series matchups, and think “loser.” There are a lot of adjectives I would use to describe this line of thinking, with “misinformed” probably at the top of the list. The lessons of Jim O’Brien teams are unmistakable… he’s always done more with less, and yes, I would extend that to include his 3 seasons with Indiana…..

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    CHAPTER 3: OUTSIDE APPRAISAL OF PACERS’ TALENT



    In Response to Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go?:


    In Response to Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go? : Play a game with me and lop off everything before JOB became the Pacers head coach, then judge what he's done here accordingly. 3 consecutive losing seasons, and the one GBR, myself, and quite a few others might say they had highest hopes for was his least successful. 4 less wins in that one.
    Posted by TheDarkHorseOne

    In Response to Re: How do you measure a coach in the NBA?:


    In Response to How do you measure a coach in the NBA? : I do think in general I know more about the Pacers than the "experts". Why? Because they're the only team I watch. I don't watch football, I don't watch baseball, I don't watch hockey. I don't watch the Rockets or Lakers or Celtics. I watch the Pacers. No NBA beat writer outside of Indy pays attention to the Pacers more than I do. I read up on the team multiple times a day, every day. I converse with people knowledgeable about the team. I know the ins and outs of the team far better than some guy at ESPN who was assigned to write up a summary on a team he hasn't watched since '05. Heck, half of the "experts" are projecting our starting lineup wrong. I also pay attention to stats. Most "experts" do not. I can tell a good stat (pace, Wins Produced, offensive/defensive differential) versus a misleading one (points per game, PER) and I can tell you why. I can reasonably follow the analyses of PhDs regarding the NBA. But most importantly, I care about the Pacers. Most "experts" do not. The Pacers are an afterthought to them, filler that they're required to cover for 5 minutes.
    Posted by Realist1234

    With all due respect, you can’t view the Pacers talent level in a vacuum. So you admit that you only watch one team, yet you think you know better than the majority of people who cover the league full time? And listen, that’s great you care about the Pacers as I’m sure that all of us here do…. But sometimes I think that all of us are TOO close, we take the losses too hard. We get so worked up over issues like the playing time of bit players like Josh McRoberts and sweat it out at a rate that is far disproportionate to its actual significance…. And like any fanbase, we have a tendency to think our players are better than they really are. We aren’t used to losing either… we were in the playoffs in 16 of the previous 18 seasons prior to O’Brien, so isn’t it reasonable to suggest that we might be unreasonably hard on a coach that misses the playoffs 3 years in a row? Hey, passion is a great thing, but I think it’s best to get an outside view, an approximation of our talent level in the past 3 years. With all due respect to TDHO, someone who I think makes this board a great place to be, he said that this past season is the one he had highest expectations for… even though the Pacers dropped key role players like Jarrett Jack, Marquis Daniels and Rasho Nesterovic. And then Granger missed 20 games and was never 100%... Nothing wrong with high expectations, but how about a little realism to boot? Here are some Pacers predictions the past 3 years from ESPN….



    2007-08 PREVIEW

    Ric Bucher: Central: 4 / East: 13

    I know a high-ranking NBA official who sees them in the playoffs, based on the addition of coach Jim O'Brien. Does the league drug-test its front offices?... Move Jermaine O'Neal already and get on with the rebuilding.

    Marc Stein: Central: 5 / East: 14

    I'm a Jim O'Brien fan, but it's clear that the Pacers need to start all the way over to repair this mismatched roster and that can only mean the trading of Jermaine O'Neal between now and February.

    John Hollinger: Central: 5 / East: 14

    Not sure what the plan is here, but busting out the dynamite is one they ought to consider. These former contenders have shriveled to also-rans with an aging, injury-prone, unathletic roster.

    2008-09 PREVIEW

    Chris Broussard: Central: 5/ East: 15

    Jim O'Brien is a good coach, but he needs more to work with. Not one Pacer has ever averaged 20 points a game.

    Ric Bucher: Central: 5 / East: 14

    Dear Larry: Loved you as a player. Liked you as a coach. As a GM ... Did I mention I loved you as a player?

    Marc Stein: Central: 5 / East: 13

    Don't know how Jim O'Brien got 36 wins out of the Pacers last season. And don't think he'll be able to get that many out of them this season, with almost all of the East's non-playoff teams making upgrades.

    09-10 PREVIEW

    John Hollinger: Central: 4 / East: 11: 31-51

    (08-09 Recap):

    Although buried well below the national radar, the Pacers were quite a story, despite numerous injuries they nearly made the playoffs, thanks to an unconventional but effective offensive approach. Projected to finish in the depths of the East by most, Indy's hopes were further dimmed by an injury to Mike Dunleavy Jr. that cost him nearly the entire season. Then, for good measure, nearly every other important player missed extended time at some point, too -- other than guard Jarrett Jack, no Pacer played in more than 74 games.

    The Pacers' kept opponents off-balance enough that they finished at the league's midpoint in offensive efficiency even with the myriad injuries. The Pacers stayed surprisingly respectable on the defensive end, too, yielding a field goal percentage beneath the league average.

    The Pacers would have been a playoff team a year ago with a healthy Dunleavy, and he's recovered unexpectedly quickly from serious knee surgery and expects to be in the opening day lineup. That's the good news. The bad news is that the roster around Dunleavy is no longer anywhere near playoff caliber. The Pacers gutted much of their core from a year ago by dropping Nesterovic, Jack and Daniels and replacing them with scrap heap talent like the two Joneses and Watson.

    Additionally, the Pacers are highly unlikely to get an encore performance from Murphy and can't necessarily count on Granger repeating his extraordinary shooting efforts, either. Factor in the financial constraints that prevent the Pacers from making in-season upgrades, and this squad looks much more likely to head down in the standings than head up.

    They'll keep it entertaining at least, as O'Brien's funky offense keeps opponents off-balance… But unless they get huge years from the five starters they're likely to slip back in the Eastern pack.

    NOTES:

    I think Chris Broussard’s 08-09 preview is telling… he acknowledged that we had a good coach, yet he still thought we were the worst team in the conference.

    Also—Post ’08 Dunleavy was never 100%... at the time of his forecast, Hollinger thought that Dunleavy would be back to his 07-08 form, but unfortunately this was not the case.

    I’ll also share a few excerpts from a chat with Zach Harper from True Hoop from over the summer…

    Zach Harper (Hardwood Paroxysm/TrueHoop Network):

    How is it JOB's fault? He's been given a horrible team.



    [Comment From Zach (CA) Zach (CA): ]

    His Rotations are awful? Young players should get the PT, Hibbert got half the starts last year, Tj Ford was far better than any option they had at pg last year yet he was hardly called off the bench.



    Zach Harper (Hardwood Paroxysm/TrueHoop Network):

    He took the Westphal approach of making guys earn their minutes. I like it, especially for bad teams

    [Comment From Joey Joey: ]

    Zach, if the Pacers get a pg are they playoff contenders

    Zach Harper (Hardwood Paroxysm/TrueHoop Network):

    Does that point guard bring his own team of good players?



    (Ha, nice zinger Zach… I guess if Troy Murphy is your second leading scorer you’re probably not gonna be so hot… now if Murph is 4th or 5th, that’s much better).





    CHAPTER 4: NO OFFENSE? O’BRIEN ADAPTS TO ROSTER

    In Response to www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=PluckForum&plckForumPage=ForumDiscussion&plckDiscussionId=Cat%3adb3f8cfb-fbf2-46a8-9949-2d94e2faab75Forum%3a35a45a0b-91c7-4df9-a234-b6cf42f94209Discussion%3a7454ce00-acd7-4feb-98d3-8d0fec36bbcf&plckFindPostKey=Cat:db3f8cfb-fbf2-46a8-9949-2d94e2faab75Forum:35a45a0b-91c7-4df9-a234-b6cf42f94209Discussion:7454ce00-acd7-4feb-98d3-8d0fec36bbcfPost:7b9db1e1-273c-4db2-998e-3527c953028f">Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go?:


    In Response to Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go? : No, vons. Incorrect. JOB doesn't deserve an inch of leeway with us fans… Three years, von. 36, 36, and 32 wins. Are we supposed to sing the praises of this because he's 'overachieved' to get just THOSE wins and we should give him a chance because of it? His coaching style is ridiculous, and he foists it on players here that may not have the skill to accomplish it. Good and GREAT coaches adapt their styles to players. Rigid JOB plugs and plays what he thinks is right in his system. Isn't working. Nope, no, it isn't is it? NO, I say and harken back to Bird's lips and our ears. 3 year tenure is right for most coaches. 3 years of LOSING should garner the boot, not an extension. I'm done with him and I'll say so here, frequently, until he's bubbye.
    Posted by TheDarkHorseOne

    OK, a common refrain of many Pacers fans is that O’Brien’s “system” is not well-suited for the roster, or that Jim O’Brien does not get the most out of his players, or that O’Brien has never adapted well to the roster.

    Before we get into that, let’s quickly review: In 2006-07 (the season prior to O’Brien’s arrival), Rick Carlisle’s Pacers were the WORST offensive team in the entire league. Straight up facts: they were 30 out of 30 in points scored per 100 possessions. They were 29th in effective Field Goal %, 25th in turnover percentage. They acquired Dunleavy and Murphy midseason (who at that point were two of the three highest paid players on the team), and once the newness of the deal wore off the team was in free-fall mode, going from 29-24 in the standings to a 35-47 final record (6-23 down the stretch, including 11 consecutive losses at one point). I think it’s fair to say that Rick Carlisle was the coach who failed to properly adapt to his new personnel.

    Enter Jim O’Brien. What many people overlook or miss entirely is that O’Brien designed a unique offensive system for THIS team, this roster. This offense has not been a carryover of what he ran in Philadelphia or even in Boston, really not even close. The Pacers were not a team built on being able to create off the dribble, so he constructed an offense that centered around passing, cutting and 3 point shooting. This was not akin to Eddie Jordan stubbornly pushing his Princeton-style offense on the 76ers and underutilizing Elton Brand the $80 Million Man, or Kurt Rambis exporting Phil Jackson’s triangle to Minnesota without the understanding that this system may not be the best fit when you don’t have a Michael Jordan or a Kobe Bryant. In the case of Jim O’Brien, he adapted to the talent he had available. He was charged with the daunting task of building a successful system around Dunleavy, Murphy and young but promising Danny Granger where the previous coach had failed in his first crack. And while it’s true that O’Brien tends to prefer the three ball more than the average coach, it is an oversimplification to reduce his overall offensive philosophy to just firing up a ton of threes and to pray for the best. As an example, The Pacers in 04-05 shot over 100 threes more than O’Brien’s 76ers despite playing at one of the slowest paces in the league that season. The personnel available obviously has a lot to do with it.

    Let’s remember who Mike Dunleavy was before Jim O’Brien became his coach. He was a celebrated college player who helped to lead Duke to the national championship, the 3rd overall pick in the 2002 draft. At 6-9 he always had good fundamentals and scored well in college, but we found out rather quickly that his game would probably not translate so well to the pros. He was too slow, too soft, had subpar athleticism, struggled to create his own shot, and was largely a disappointment. Some might say he was the present-day equivalent to 6-8 Adam Morrison, another celebrated college player who was the 3rd overall pick in the 2006 draft, and with a lot of the same weaknesses (this Dunleavy-Morrison comparison is not perfect since Dunleavy had the opportunity to play more often in his first five seasons—but remember that Morrison tore his ACL in year two and actually had a much more impactful rookie season than Dunleavy, and once he fully recovered from the injury he was traded to a great team in year 3 and never consistently cracked the rotation for the Lakers; I doubt that Dunleavy in year 3 would have cracked that Lakers rotation either). So how did Dunleavy fare in O’Brien’s “rigid” system in 2007-08? Unbelievably, from a shooting standpoint he became one of the most efficient players in the entire NBA, a remarkable turnaround. He easily posted career highs in True Shooting % (60.5—14th best in the NBA, his previous high was 54.7, which is considered average) and effective field goal % (55.0—17th best in the NBA, his previous high was 51.4), thanks to career highs in FG% (47.6—previous season high was 45.2) and 3P% (42.4—previous high was 38.8). All of this efficient play took place even though he attempted a career high in field goals, a somewhat counterintuitive concept… but he was given ownership in this system and he delivered big time, and O’Brien made sure to find ways to put him in positions and locations on the floor where he could be most effective—he also posted other career high averages in minutes (36.0), points (19.1), and assists (3.5). People want to talk about O’Brien’s poor job in developing players or in not adapting to his players’ strengths? Try the exact opposite. He pulled off what many thought to be impossible; for a full season, Mike Dunleavy, Jr. looked like a viable 1A scoring option on a team in playoff contention. I would like to see another coach even attempt a similar reclamation project with Adam Morrison that comes anywhere close to rivaling what O’Brien pulled off with Dunleavy—at this point it would be a major coup if a team signed Morrison and got 10 points per game out of him at an efficient clip, but I digress... But Sadly, all of these gains with Dunleavy were washed away the following two seasons due to injury…

    But the individual improvements didn’t end with Dunleavy… Troy Murphy by far put up career best shooting efficiencies while playing for O’Brien. In 2008-09 he was 3rd in the entire NBA in effective field goal % (.580) and 8th in True shooting percentage (.614), thanks to a career best 3PT FG % of .450, which shattered his previous season high by over FIVE percent. And despite attempting just under 5 threes a game that year, he STILL bested his best season’s FG% by nearly 1.5% and shot .475 overall. Danny Granger has also posted two career best 3PT%’s under O’Brien, twice shooting .404 from deep which was a 2% improvement over his best season under Carlisle.

    So here’s where I’m coming from in pointing out all of these career best efficiencies from Murphleavy and Granger under O’Brien….. Ultimately, the player is the one that has to shoot and hopefully make the shots, not the coach. And if it was just 1 out of these 3 that ended up producing career best efficiency, then you might say that the player just happened to have a great year in spite of the coach and that it’s best to not read too much into it…. But when all 3 are not only setting Personal Records for efficiency, but SHATTERING them by multiple percentage points? That’s when it’s time to give the Coach a considerable amount of the credit. It wasn’t just a bunch of 3 point shooting without any rhyme or reason behind it, it was well choreographed…. O’Brien, and I will make an educated guess and use the word “meticulously”, studied ways to put these three in the best possible POSITIONS to enhance their likelihood for success. In the example of Murphy, O’Brien instructed him to fire away on those threes from the top of the key. In fact, Murphy attempted more threes from up top in 08-09 than any other player in the five years NBA.com has kept track this statistic. And you can’t argue with the individual results—shooting 45% from three is a remarkable feat (league average was .367). And the 3 point shot can also be economical too—even if you shoot 34% from three, you are still generating more points than you would from exclusively shooting twos at 50%. So it absolutely made sense for O’Brien to make the 3 point shot a main part of this offense. Particularly in the case of Murphleavy, neither player was skilled at creating his own shot off the dribble. Murphy didn’t have the post game, Granger wasn’t particularly adept off the dribble either. Some people may call this system “gimmicky”, but I would call it a creative way to maximize your team’s offensive potential. And remember—it was always important to keep the trade values of Dunleavy and Murphy at a high level—Bird was unsuccessful at flipping them those first few years, but at least with O’Brien as coach the pair undoubtedly realized its highest possible value, especially when considering that O’Brien was also successful at incorporating these weak individual defenders into a fairly respectable team defense.

    And you can’t argue with the team results either… Again, JIM O’BRIEN INHERITED THE WORST OFFENSE IN THE NBA. But in his first season as coach, the Pacers effective field goal % jumped by over 2 points, from 29th to a respectable 14th (.498). Despite the team’s lack of stability at point guard, Turnover percentage also improved, from 25th to 17th (.135). The team’s free throw rate dropped slightly, from 14th to 18th—and offensive rebounding % dropped from 10th to 23rd due to the team’s increase in threes. But most importantly, the Pacers improved from 30th in overall offensive rating to 19th in 07-08 and 18th in 08-09. And I give some credit for these offensive improvements to O’Brien’s decision to speed up the pace of play; keeping opponents off balance is one way to compensate for our lack of talent… as mentioned before, it played a role in keeping opponents off balance.

    Also, Danny Granger became the first player in NBA history to increase his scoring average by at least five points per game in three consecutive seasons, with the final 2 increases coming under O’Brien. In fact, Granger’s offensive efficiency and scoring output have improved so much under O’Brien that some people on the Indystar Pacers forum have even begun to regard him at a level slightly below that of Kevin Durant, a first team all NBA player last season. But hopefully reality has taken hold of these people after tuning in for USA Basketball this past summer, as Andre Iguodala of 27-win Philadelphia and Rudy Gay of Memphis were both ahead of him in the rotation. Unfortunately, but not surprising in the slightest—some fans now actually blame Jim O’Brien for Granger’s lack of playing time in the world championships. But here’s what they neglect to consider—if it hadn’t been for Jim O’Brien’s offensive system, which plays to Granger’s strength as a catch and shoot player, which allowed him to put up scoring numbers that merited him an all-star selection and some national media exposure, numbers that he almost assuredly would not have been putting up on any other team—it’s highly doubtful that Granger would have even warranted serious consideration for an invitation to tryout, let alone make the team. Heck, if it hadn’t been for Rajon Rondo deciding to pull out before the final roster decisions were finalized, Granger might not have even made it this time around. It’s also worthwhile to consider the perception of Granger before he was drafted in 2005. Draft Express.com noted the following in their pre-draft write-up on him:

    “Unlike other wings in this draft, Granger doesn't have a crazy amount of star potential. His ceiling isn't of an all-star, but his worst case (or his floor) is better than most of the other guys competing with him like Joey Graham, Antoine Wright, and Vlad Veremeenko. It’s fairly clear what Granger will give you, and that's everything you want out of your super solid role-player. He appeared to lack a killer instinct at times this year, preferring to be a role player and not taking games over when his team needed him to step up and take the team on his back.”

    Super solid role-player, ceiling not of an all-star. Yet under THIS coach, in THIS offense, Jim O’Brien has helped to make him an all-star, putting Granger in position to be the best player on a team that has been in the playoff hunt. “O’Brien has allowed Granger to look better than he really is.”--Vonslohnson

    So let’s revisit Marc Stein’s line following the 2007-08 season: “Don't know how Jim O'Brien got 36 wins out of the Pacers last season.” Yeah I hear ya Marc, you have every right to be stumped on this one as well. We already touched upon Dunleavy, but how about this: Jermaine O’Neal and Jamaal Tinsley combined played 60 fewer games in 2007-08 (81 total) compared to 2006-07 (141 total). Heck, forget about Jermaine O’Neal for a minute. The Pacers were surprisingly a .500 ballclub through 30 games before Jamaal Tinsley got hurt. Tinsley’s resurgence under O’Brien was another key factor in the team’s success, and if he hadn’t gotten hurt and also burned his final bridge with the organization after the downtown shooting and had played in, let’s say 72 games (as he did in 06-07) instead of 39? It’s hard to believe, but the Pacers would have made the playoffs given that scenario, no question. When you factor in the much greater challenge of winning in the East that season compared to 06-07, with the emergence of the big 3 in Boston and Orlando joining Detroit and Cleveland at the top of the pack, and the simple fact that the Pacers’ 6-23 finish in 06-07 made it seem likely that next season’s team would struggle to even win 20 games, the 36-46 becomes even more impressive. The Pacers with a first year coach, and without a seasoned point guard in the season’s second half (Travis Diener anyone?), finished just one game out of the 8th spot occupied by Mike Woodson’s aforementioned fourth year 37-45 Hawks.
    So given all of this, it’s difficult for me to grasp why so many people say that O’Brien is poor at adapting or at getting the most out of his players. But I do have my suspicions…

    1). During actual games, when the camera cuts to O’Brien on the sideline, he normally looks rather pensive and nonreactive or whatever adjective with negative connotation you prefer. He doesn’t play the part well of an active and spirited orchestra conductor so to speak like some coaches do, and I think some fans—whether they will admit it or not—perhaps subconsciously, tend to associate his demeanor with someone who appears woefully inept or “in over his head.” The optics of it aren’t great. It’s interesting because I’ve noticed that Phil Jackson gets this criticism from time to time as well, about how he’s not good at “in-game adjustments”, and I suspect it has a lot to do with his demeanor as well. When the camera zeroes in on Phil he sometimes looks rather aloof and disengaged, and it doesn’t make a good impression on fans—apparently it makes no difference to them that the guy has won 11 championships. But in the case of a guy like O’Brien, he doesn’t have that championship pedigree, so he becomes an even bigger casualty of this kind of perception, much worse off than someone like Phil Jackson. Think Doc Rivers—very charismatic guy, presents himself well on the sidelines…. Probably going to make a better first impression than O’Brien.

    And I suspect that because of this demeanor, the O’Brien detractors will use just about anything to back up their claim about how the guy doesn’t adapt, or the similar charge about how he is poor at making in-game adjustments. The latest example I’ve seen? Third quarter point differentials….

    (Boos reign out from the crowd at the Citizens for O’Brien campaign rally)

    I know, I know, but let’s take a closer look at this charge….

    OK, it’s true that over the course of the entire season, the 2009-10 Pacers were outscored by 93 points in the third quarter, or about 1.1 points per game (rank of 24th). Of course, the Pacers were 22nd in overall record, so is it really that surprising that we would rank 24th in a statistic? But let’s dig a bit deeper…. 16 times last season the Pacers were outscored by double figures in a third quarter, but in 10 of these 16 the Pacers were either without Granger, or playing the Lakers, Boston, Cleveland or Dallas… And furthermore…. What about the 11 games last season when it was the Pacers that outscored their opponent by double figures in a third quarter? See that’s the problem with making these kinds of observations, because people tend to forget the times that the 3rd went well, or if they remember them they say it happened in spite of O’Brien and he doesn’t get credit… And let me say, I disagree with the premise that third quarter point differentials are somehow a larger reflection of a coach’s talent at making in-game adjustments…. Sometimes it’s just a matter of the better teams closing the deal. But even if I did agree with it then you’d have to say that O’Brien did well here…. Because in games where the talent-starved Pacers at least had their best player, and weren’t playing teams that either made the NBA finals or were top 1 or 2 seeds in their respective conferences, O’Brien coached 11 positive double digit 3rds, and 6 negatives…. So I don’t know how you extrapolate from this that O’Brien fails to make in-game adjustments?

    In Chapter 5 we will get more into tactical adjustments….

    2). T.J. Ford…. Hey, O’Brien ruined him!! Welcome to the doghouse T.J.!!

    My view—when I examine real examples of how O’Brien connected with and got career-best unselfish production from (what some might call) hard-cases like Iverson, Toine and Tinsley to a lesser extent before the shooting, as well as Kenny Anderson’s taking to O’Brien—and in the process, getting them to take more ownership for their play—I tend to believe that Ford has been the primary problem and not O’Brien.

    And you know what? Ford’s problems preceded his time under O’Brien. To illustrate, The 2007-08 Raptors were 22-29 in the games he played, but 19-12 in the games he missed. They averaged 107.5 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, but 110.8 with him on the bench. And he lost his starting job to Jose Calderon.

    More stats that don’t tell us everything but give us an idea of things: The 08-09 Pacers with Ford as a starter were 18-31, but 18-15 in games that he did not start. The 09-10 Pacers were 13-34 when Ford played, but 19-16 when Ford sat out.

    And I feel for T.J. He’s had a history of spinal cord problems, and in 2007 I was watching the game where he came down hard and it looked like he might be paralyzed. Scary stuff. I give him credit for having the courage to continue his career, but my hunch is that mentally he has had some repercussions from this trauma. And I was never all that high on Ford even before that injury—he was never going to be a game changer for us, injuries or not— but there’s no question that he hasn’t been the same player since. Now whatever the breakdown is between the physical, or mental, or just a bad reaction to Jim O’Brien, I don’t know for sure. But I do know that the criticisms of O’Brien on the Ford front are largely overblown. If Jarrett Jack and Earl Watson can get in sync with both the offensive and defensive programs, then why can’t T.J.? And it’s interesting to note… Ford lost his starting job to Calderon in Toronto, Ford lost his starting job to Jack in Indiana, and Calderon lost his starting job to Jack in Toronto…. So, Jack>Calderon>Ford? Probably oversimplifying things, but maybe Jack was just the better player than Ford all along? Maybe it wasn’t about the “system”? Everyone loves to make it about a clash of personalities, or as a referendum on O’Brien’s entire offensive approach, but I think Ford’s benching in favor of Jack was much more benign, much more simple than a lot of the “stubborn JOB” and “JOB ruined Ford” crap that people love to gossip about. It makes for great copy but I don’t find much value in it… And moreover…. Why would you change your entire offensive approach just to accommodate an average to mediocre point guard? Why risk the gains already made with Dunleavy, Murphy and Granger by giving Ford a Steve Nash level of freedom? That doesn’t make sense. But this speaks to a criticism I have with, well, the general criticism of O’Brien not fully adapting to certain individual players. Hey, even if you believe that O’Brien is the most stubborn SOB on the planet (I don’t obviously), keep in mind that this is the norm among NBA coaches. Granted it’s a different situation since Gregg Popovich has won titles, but when Richard Jefferson went to San Antonio it was Jefferson’s job to adapt to what the Spurs were running, not the other way around. It’s the same when players go to Utah to play for Jerry Sloan. When players go to play for Phil Jackson, they could care less if you struggle to grasp the triangle, it’s sink or swim, you learn it or else…. But anyways, hopefully T.J. can be a decent backup in a contract year.

    3). Roy Hibbert… I’m guessing this is a major one? Well, we’ll discuss him more in Chapter 5…





    But to close out this chapter on O’Brien’s capacity for adapting… let the record show that the Pacers ran a fair amount of pick and rolls with newcomer Darren Collison in the preseason. It hasn’t always been pretty though—it does take 2 to run it and Hibbert going back to his college days has rarely run PnR’s, so it’s going to take a little time. We can’t just run PnR’s every time though, so my hunch is that the 2010-11 Pacers offense will incorporate elements of the PnR with Collison and Price, portions of the motion offense from the past 3 years to set up 3 point shots/hitting cutters under the basket, and Hibbert in the post.



    CHAPTER 5: A CLOSER LOOK AT THE PACERS 2009-10 SEASON



    In Response to Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go?:


    I've stayed away from the JOB topic until now, because everyone pretty much knows how I feel about him. But there's views being thrown around that don't fit the facts.

    1. JOB calls out Rush, saying that they're handling him with kid gloves because he's fragile and that they don't know how to reach him. Does blurting that out to the media help the situation any? How's that going to affect his confidence? What was the point, except to be vindictive and spiteful?
    Posted by Realist1234


    Alright Realist, I will give you a little leeway here, not much but a little bit…. You wrote this before we had 100% verification that Brandon Rush was more devoted to his extracurricular activities than to his NBA career or his team. But it’s interesting that you would lead off with this—no one will admit it, but my personal theory is that a major reason fans don’t like O’Brien is because they personally don’t find him to be a likable guy. He’s normally not about the charm offensives, he’s just into telling it like it is. You obviously put much greater stock into these kinds of surface-level matters of diplomacy than I do. Virtually every coach goes to the media. Off the top of my head I can recall Phil Jackson recently suggesting that they needed to attach electrodes to Lamar Odom to wake him up. Randy S. brought up Jerry Sloan before. Three years ago here’s what he had to say about C.J. Miles who was the youngest player on the team: "I don't care if he's 19 or 30. If he's going to be on the floor in the NBA, he's got to be able to step up and get after it. We can't put diapers on him one night, and a jockstrap the next night. It's just the way it is." You may not agree with the use of this tactic, but by your logic does this mean that every NBA head coach is “vindictive” and “spiteful?” Or is it just Jim O’Brien? Personally I like it when coaches aren’t afraid to speak their mind like this… If an NBA player is going to be troubled by a rather benign comment like that, then I don’t want him on this team. He shouldn’t be here. He seems like the type of player that needs to be challenged and called out from time to time, all part of the developmental process.

    Did this help Brandon Rush? How did it affect his confidence? Well no one can say for sure, but what we do know is that Rush’s first five weeks of the season were rather disappointing and he was in need of some kind of a wake-up call—and perhaps O’Brien was painfully aware of Rush’s bad habits off the court. If the message wasn’t sinking in privately, then maybe saying something publicly was the next best option…. And his all-around game was better the rest of the way. He shot close to 45% from three pointers in 2010, which is obviously a level of accuracy that is very difficult to sustain over a four month period—to me, this indicates that he really put in some extra work and was more determined than ever before. But hey, none of us are privy to what goes on in practice so it’s all speculation at this point. We may not know for sure if O’Brien was successful in motivating the young man or not, but his play in 2010 suggested that his confidence was not shaken at least. Overall he acquitted himself fairly well in the second half, but he has a long way to go before winning me over. Some have praised his all-around play—and that’s wonderful if he’s the 8th or 9th man on a team like Orlando—but on this Pacers team that has lacked reliable offense, that was struggling to stay afloat with Granger sidelined, he didn’t step up like we needed him to during that stretch. That’s when he lost me.

    In Response to Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go?:


    2. When Murphy was out early in the year and the Pacers were forced to play small ball with Hibbert in the middle, they went 5-0. When Murphy came back they went 0-5. And I was the first to defend Murph (I'm a big fan) and say that he needed to get his legs under him. But the fact was that every win counted and the small ball lineup was better than the big lineup at the time, yet JOB doggedly stuck to his style despite the damage to our record. Posted by Realist1234

    I’m having a hard time reconciling your second point with what you also said this summer…

    In Response to Re: Starting lineup you wanna see.:


    Assuming we trade Murphy, which is not garuanteed in Pacerland, then Danny should definitely NOT play PF. He's undersized and gets banged up every game. He doesn't rebond well for a SF, let alone a PF …everyone knows I greatly dislike Dahntay Jones.
    Posted by Realist1234

    You’ve got me confused now. Here was our lineup during the five game win streak…

    PG—TJ Ford

    SG—Brandon Rush

    SF—Dahntay Jones

    PF—Danny Granger

    C—Roy Hibbert

    Granger and D. Jones were our starting forwards during that stretch, and you don’t like Granger at PF and you don’t like Dahntay Jones in general…. Yet your critique of Jim O’Brien is that he didn’t stick to that lineup? And earlier… you were essentially criticizing Jim O’Brien for not playing Dahntay Jones MORE… I’m getting dizzy!

    It’s hard for me to respond to your point here since I’m really not sure what it is. I’m not sure whether or not your intent is to demonstrate how JOB “doggedly” playing Troy Murphy was a major culprit for our struggles after the five game winning streak…

    I will, however, review this period in general and make a few points on Roy Hibbert and Troy Murphy.

    1). Let’s review the teams we beat during the five game win streak (Games 4 through 8 on the season):

    @ NY, vs WAS, vs GS, vs BOS, @NJ

    You’re right that every win counts, but the only playoff caliber opponent here was Boston. And it’s worth mentioning that we defeated Boston at home in 08-09 with Troy Murphy as our starting power forward, and came close to a second Boston victory that season but lost in overtime with Murphy again as our starting PF. Going into the New Jersey game they were 0-10 and it wasn’t exactly a “pretty” win, again making it difficult to get a clear read on the effectiveness of this lineup. Also, the competition before the win streak (when Murphy started) was greater--Atlanta, Miami and Denver were all top 5 seed playoff teams. And all had centers that Hibbert could not stop in the post; Horford 24 and 16, J. O’Neal 22 and 12, and Nene 16 and 13.

    Also worth keeping in mind… the 5 game win streak ended BEFORE Troy Murphy came back… we lost at home versus the 1-9 Knicks without Murphy, which was as good of a sign as any that this particular “small ball” lineup (or any other lineup for that matter) would likely struggle to find season-long consistency (But again Realist, it’s hard to tell if you were touting this particular lineup or denigrating it). And once Troy Murphy came back the competition of the opposition picked up (Cleveland was his return game and he came off the bench) and soon after that we had the four game west coast trip. So while it may be convenient for some to blame the team’s subsequent struggles on Murphy’s return (and O’Brien’s decision to start him and to “doggedly stick to his style”), perhaps that blame should be pointed elsewhere….

    If you’d like we can go game by game through this “0-5” stretch, in which case a pattern emerges of JOB “doggedly” playing Roy Hibbert when there are games where the team would have been far better off with a DNP-CD from the Big Fella…

    11/20 Loss vs. Cleveland (no Shaq in the lineup) , R. Hibbert starts… 15 minutes, 5 fouls, 2 rebounds (again, this was Murphy’s first game back and he came off the bench)

    11/22 Loss @ Charlotte, R. Hibbert starts… 24 minutes, 7 points (3-9 shooting), 4 rebounds vs 32 year old journeyman center Nazr Mohammed who finished with 18 points (8-10 shooting) and 5 rebounds in 17 minutes

    11/24 Loss @Toronto, R. Hibbert off the bench… with a productive 8 points in 12 minutes, but it’s not surprising that he has the worst plus/minus of any Pacer that game at -17… big Roy Hibbert chasing Andrea Bargnani on the perimeter=bad idea; in fact, both Raptor centers Rasho Nesterovic and Bargnani drain multiple long twos with Hibbert in the game, and mercifully for Hibbert, Bargnani would miss his threes and “only” finish 6 for 10

    11/25 Win vs LAC, R. Hibbert starts… 25 minutes, 4 points (2-7 shooting), 3 rebounds, 5 fouls

    11/27 Loss vs Dal, R. Hibbert starts… 12 minutes with a -12 plus/minus, 6 points (3-7 shooting), 1 rebound, 2 fouls (O’Brien’s game plan early on likely centered around “exploiting” the Hibbert vs. undersized Drew Gooden matchup and to feed the big fella early—the team went to Hibbert on their first possession, a Hibbert miss-- but the Pacers quickly fell behind early and Hibbert once again could not rebound to save his life. The team played better in the second quarter without Hibbert compared to the first quarter with him, thus giving O’Brien a legitimate reason to not start Hibbert in the 2nd half. But Granger went 5-16 for the game, and when our best player is off (i.e. not 100%) AND we are playing a good team, it’s gonna be tough to stay in the game regardless. (And to repeat, our 7-2 starting center managed one rebound in 12 minutes… wow).

    11/30 Loss @ GSW, R. Hibbert (hey you know this is potentially a disaster matchup for Big Roy going in, so O’Brien smartly does not start him)… His lineup adjustment with Jeff Foster starting in place of Hibbert pays off as Indiana leads by 8 points after one, and Foster finishes with a +1 plus/minus, with a very productive 9 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks in 23 minutes)…. But Hibbert’s 10 minutes off the bench were a disaster, 5 fouls, 2 rebounds, worst plus/minus of any Pacer that night (-24…. Which by the way is rather impressive if you ask me, to only play 10 minutes AND the opposing team outscores you by 24 points during that time???)… We lose by 19.

    12/2 Loss @ Sac, R. Hibbert starts… 15 minutes, 7 points (3-8 shooting), 7 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 3 fouls… picks up 2 fouls within the first 5 minutes. By the time he reenters the game with 7 minutes left in the 2nd quarter, the Pacers have built an 8 point lead without him. But by Halftime, they would trail by 1. And at the start of the 3rd quarter? The inevitable happened as Hibbert made Spencer Hawes look like an all-star. In a five minute stretch Hawes drained two 3 pointers along with a 20 footer, and also hits a layup. 10 quick points and the Kings jump out to a 12 point lead early in the 3rd. Hibbert pads his rebounding stats during this crucial 3rd quarter stretch with a few meaningless offensive rebounds off of his own misses (after which he proceeded to miss some more)… mercifully, O’Brien pulls Hibbert before the big man further makes a fool of himself (and this gave the Pacers the best shot at winning… the team would rally without Hibbert for the rest of the way, but ultimately come up short by 5)… Hibbert’s plus/minus is -16; in contrast, Jeff Foster plays 27 minutes off the bench in relief of Hibbert, has 18 rebounds, and has a +11. The Sacramento frontcourt of Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes had its highest combined point total of the season that night (43 points)—and their perimeter success helped to further open up driving lanes for Tyreke Evans, who finished with 26.

    12/4 Loss @ Utah, R. Hibbert starts… 15 minutes, 0 points (0-3 shooting), 1 rebound, 2 fouls (notice this trend of Hibbert having games with more fouls than rebounds?) O’Brien TRIES to establish Hibbert early on in their first 2 possessions, but both of his shots are blocked (one even by diminutive Deron Williams!). Hibbert plays the first 5 minutes, Okur drains an outside shot against the slow-footed Hibbert, and big Roy is subsequently relieved by Foster (at which time Utah is already ahead 13-3 and 6-11 Mehmet Okur is outrebounding Hibbert 3-0). Late in the 1st quarter O’Brien reinserts Hibbert, and Okur drains his first three (he was 3-3 on the night from 3’s which was a then-season high for him at the time, although to be fair the last 2 came with Hibbert on the bench, but for a center 3 point shooter like Okur, the worst thing you can do is to allow him the opportunity to get going early). Likely fearing a repeat of the Spencer Hawes debacle from two nights ago, O’Brien decides to give most of the center minutes to Jeff Foster the rest of the way with his team trailing by 18 after the first quarter.

    (From after 12/5/09 and through 1/5/10, Danny Granger is out. During this time the Pacers would lose 8 games in a row).

    Plain and simple, Roy Hibbert sucked during this stretch. In 5 out of these 8 games above, he had more fouls than rebounds, truly an incredible statistic. It wasn’t the lineup or the coach that spelled trouble for the Pacers during this stretch; it was Hibbert’s poor play (followed by Granger’s injury). ROY HIBBERT IS A WORK IN PROGRESS FOLKS, THE UPS AND THE DOWNS WERE TO BE EXPECTED. There’s no way to get around that. (And to the portion of fans who advocated running the offense almost entirely through Roy Hibbert as sort of a cure-all for the team’s problems last season… in the games that Hibbert really got off, stayed out of foul trouble, overcame his conditioning issues and went on to score 20 or more points, the Pacers were 5-8, a slightly lower percentage than the team’s final overall record. By the way some of my fellow fans would tell it, you would think that we were undefeated in those contests!)

    Sometimes he thrilled us, but many other times he killed us…

    A couple things to keep in mind about Hibbert…

    1). He was roughly 15 to 20 pounds overweight last season…. This past summer he lost 25 pounds, and I’d say that the last 10 of those 25 were probably extra credit. Remember, he admitted that conditioning was an issue for him last season. Hibbert dropped from 14% body fat to 8%... but I’ll just throw it out there, James Posey was suspended by Pat Riley in 2007 for having a body fat% that was 3 points lower than Big Roy’s from a year ago… And that’s fantastic that he committed himself into getting into great shape this past summer… hopefully this helps out his terrible rebounding rate.

    2). If I was visiting the IndyStar boards a year ago, I would have made the point that the guy is a project. I would have made the point that Hibbert MIGHT have the potential to develop into a franchise caliber center, but that he really wasn’t close to being at that level. And personally, I think a LOT of Pacers fans have had an overly-inflated view of Hibbert—he is a very likable and charismatic guy, but I never understood the logic behind restructuring our offense through him. Let’s remember, this is the same 7-2 Roy Hibbert who gained national exposure for leading a Georgetown team to the final four, and he still wasn’t a lottery pick. Most scouts understood that it would take him a number of years to even have a shot at developing into a reliable and consistently productive NBA player. Why is his draft position worth mentioning? For purposes of comparison, let’s examine the recent caliber of centers that were taken in the second half of the first round. 2009--Byron Mullens; 2008—Hibbert, Javale Mcgee, Alexis Ajinca, Kosta Koufos; 2007--Sean Williams, Jason Smith; 2006--Oleksiy Pecherov, in 2006 you can also include lottery picks like Hilton Armstrong, Mouhamed Sene and Patrick O’Bryant to see how increasingly unlikely it becomes to even find a serviceable center outside of the top 5. Were all of these teams just so bad at developing their players? When he was still on the market, many people wanted Byron Scott to replace O’Brien… but should we condemn Coach Scott for not getting more out of Hilton Armstrong and for refusing to give him more minutes even with starting center Tyson Chandler missing half of his games in 2008-09? OK let’s keep going back…2005--Johan Petro, Ian Mahinmi; 2004--Pavel Podkolzin, David Harrison, (with lottery pick busts Rafael Araujo and Robert Swift)… You have to go back to 2003 to find the last center taken in the second half of the first round that has been an NBA impact player in Boston’s Kendrick Perkins, and really most of his weaknesses are compensated for by his future Hall of famer teammates, thus allowing him to fit in as a good role player. Point being, you may find some quality guards and forwards outside of the lottery, but quality centers? Sorry, not a good track record.

    So not surprisingly, in his rookie season Hibbert averaged a ridiculous 7.7 fouls per 36 minutes, indicating he was more of a project than anything else. His past season’s average of 5.0 fouls per 36 minutes is encouraging and demonstrates improvement, a true testament to his work ethic and that of the coaching staff, but that number is still too high. There were many, many nights when he was a complete liability to this team. In the above eight game stretch, when Hibbert wasn’t busy getting into early foul trouble, he was instead getting smoked by big men who shoot from the outside (see Bargnani from Toronto, Hawes from Sacramento [remember, Hibbert will see Hawes two more times this season now that he’s in the East] and Okur from Utah… more on this later when we get to the early March Toronto games) … And for the ultimate slam on Big Roy, his rebounding ability has been rather Eddy Curryish, just awful at times for his size. It’s not surprising that Hibbert’s significant increase in playing time also coincided with the 2009-10 Pacers being the worst Jim O’Brien rebounding team by far out of the three seasons.

    But unlike Curry, Hibbert is dedicated and WANTS to get better. And this coach has been nothing but committed to his development. Hibbert’s 11.7 point per game average is phenomenal given what can reasonably be expected from centers taken around his draft order. From year one to year two, Hibbert’s playing time increased from 14 minutes per game to 25 (and would have undoubtedly been higher if Hibbert A). wasn’t so prone to getting into foul trouble, B). was in better physical condition, and C). wasn’t a complete liability in certain matchups). Despite these common matchup liabilities and his struggles with rebounding, O’Brien still allowed Hibbert to start in over 85% of his games. Even Washington’s 2nd year center JaVale Mcgee (taken one pick after Hibbert in 08) only averaged 16 minutes on the season (22 minutes after the Brendan Haywood trade). In certain matchups Hibbert CAN be an asset, and O’Brien has had opportunistic success in making Hibbert the focal point of specific game plans. The best and most obvious example of this was the Orlando game on 1/5/10… the plan was to go to Hibbert early in an attempt to get Dwight Howard in foul trouble, and then to let him work on the block IF Hibbert himself could stay out of foul trouble. That night the plan worked and he had a career night in a Pacers victory, a big step forward in the development of his game and his confidence. Another example was the 4/4 game against Houston… with Hibbert primarily matched up against 6-6 Chuck Hayes he attempted 15 shots (behind only Granger’s 16 attempts), and finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists in a 31 point blowout victory. Of course, critics of Jim O’Brien are quick to question why this doesn’t happen every game. What gets ignored is that in many games O’Brien has tried to establish Hibbert early, yet the big man would lay an egg and struggled to rebound. When a young player is getting killed in a ten minute stretch, a coach is only hurting the player’s development (and the team’s chances of winning) by leaving him out there for another twenty minutes to further fail. If anything, O’Brien may be guilty of being too bullish on Hibbert at times. Here was O’Brien’s quote during the summer league (since many around here are so fond of making a big deal out of sound bites from our coach!)…. “You’re going to see an even better Roy Hibbert next year. He is the hardest working guy I’ve been around in a long time. He has improved A LOT since the end of the season… He’s becoming more agile with each month, so I think he’s going to continue with his development.”

    The Anti-Jim O’Brien crowd may not want to give our coach any credit whatsoever for Hibbert’s development and considerable progress this past season and past summer, but the bottom line is that the Big Fella is on his way to bucking the historical trend for “project” centers. So let’s can the baseless talk of “JOB ruining the kid.” If he was truly “ruined”, then I doubt he would have had the extra motivation to spend the summer working on his game with Bill Walton. Hibbert figured it out; he had to EARN a larger role in the offense by putting in the extra work. He had incentive to do so because he wasn’t given too much too soon, and I give Jim O’Brien credit for always keeping that carrot just out of reach.

    In Response to Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go?:


    3. Danny Granger started the season injured, yet continued to play. He was noticably hobbling throughout games and could not make moves toward the basket. Yet JOB refused to deactivate him. An injury that could have taken a week to heal at the beginning of the season ended up costing Danny over a month of playing time, because he was "our best chance to win." Posted by Realist1234

    Well, Danny Granger is a warrior, and he wants to be the leader on this team. One way to lead is by example. Kobe Bryant played most of the season with a broken index finger and a mangled pinkie, along with a bum knee and later a gimpy ankle. That example was not lost on Andrew Bynum, who also persevered while playing hurt during the playoffs. If you want to be a winner and build a winning culture on a team, then you have to show up sometimes even when you’re not 100%. The medical staff cleared Granger to play at the time because while he may have been hurt, he was not injured. Granger admitted that the bone bruise was painful, but he wanted to play. Also, Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, T.J. Ford, Travis Diener, Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff Foster were all dealing with various injuries at the time, which would have made the loss of our best player at the start of the season even more devastating. There is no reliable understudy on this team for Danny Granger, so there’s no way you’re going to just refuse to play the guy indefinitely unless you have ulterior designs on “tanking.” It was a judgment call for sure, but it may have taken several weeks (if not longer) for all of the pain in his heel to completely go away anyway, and I’m guessing that’s the standard for return that would be used for a player who is hurt but not injured. So since later on in the season he only ended up missing 4 weeks of action anyway it all may have been a wash. But really, I fail to see how this is a valid criticism of the coach. The medical staff cleared him, and Granger was intent on playing.

    While we are on the subject of Granger’s plantar fascia… I’d like to point out that Granger’s decline in overall efficiency and play this past season is likely directly due to the injury. Ask any San Antonio fan about Tim Duncan’s drop-off in 05-06 with the same injury, as he shot a career low in FG% by over 1 point that still stands to this day. Granger may have played in 62 out of 82, but he was never his best self.

    In Response to Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go?:


    4. Flash forward to the middle of the season. JOB relents and installs the small ball lineup...with Murphy playing C. Muphy is a horrible post defender and only requires single coverage on offense, so defenders were able to pack the paint and make the Pacers shoot nothing but 3's. Needless to say, the Pacers continued to lose. Posted by Realist1234

    But wait! There’s more…

    In Response to Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go?:


    In Response to Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go? : And well, part of his unrecognized genius last year I guess was letting TROY MURPHY play CENTER.......a move so nonsensical, I had to see it with my own eyes to believe it. Hey with that kind of "genius" how can we go wrong?
    Posted by GOBIGRED

    With all due respect, we have yet another distortion here. If O’Brien had started Murphy at center for all 82 games then I probably would have questioned our Coach’s overall philosophy as well. But that’s not what happened, not even close. Murphy started at center just seven times, and the Pacers were 3-4 in these games. And the Pacers 3 point shooting attempts did not increase; they averaged 23.1 three attempts in these seven, and on the season the Pacers also averaged 23.1 three attempts per game (for context, the league average was 18). And frankly it’s not difficult to see why O’Brien made this lineup decision in each of these seven games, no matter how “nonsensical” others thought it was.

    1). Versus Phoenix on 1/13/10, a Pacers victory… The opposing team’s starting center was Channing Frye, who averaged nearly 5 three point attempts per game last season. We’ve already gone over the challenges the Pacers faced during the December stretch against stretch 5’s like Hawes and Okur with Hibbert in the game. Murphy is not a very good defender, but at least the team wouldn’t have to worry about cross-matching with Hibbert out there with Pacers bigs scrambling to chase out at Frye on the perimeter. In the first quarter the Pacers were -6 with Murphy in the game, but ultimately Murphy finishes with a +9 (even despite his off 4-16 shooting night) and a game high 14 rebounds. Hibbert is also effective off the bench with a +11 and nearly registers a double-double. The Pacers win the game and hold the league’s highest rated offense to just 42.7% shooting, no small feat. Ultimately it’s difficult to say whether this lineup switch was a key reason behind the victory, but it’s doubtful that it hurt us considering we won the game—and it likely would have paid off in a big way had Murphy’s shot been falling…. And again, it’s easy to see the rationale behind sitting Hibbert at the start with Frye out there.

    2). At Philadelphia on 1/25/10, a Pacers victory…. This is probably the best example of Murphy at center showing a positive result. On Jan 23rd, we host Philadelphia and do a great job of holding them to 41.2% shooting. Normally that should be enough to win, but not this night; rebounding (and turnovers) cost us the game. Hibbert started at center vs Samuel Dalembert. Dalembert (in 3 fewer minutes than Hibbert) has 12 rebounds including 4 offensive, while Hibbert has just 4 rebounds in 24 minutes. Overall the Pacers were -15 with Hibbert in the game. We lose rebounds overall by 8 because of this, and ultimately lose the game despite the Sixers poor shooting.

    So before our road game at Philadelphia on Jan 25, O’Brien decided to make an adjustment upfront by starting Murphy at center and Granger at PF. AND IT WORKED. We again held the Sixers to a below average shooting % of 43.9, only this time we got the win largely because of our +2 edge in rebounding that we didn’t achieve the previous game with Hibbert starting at center. We now had a center in Murphy who was able to match Dalembert rebound for rebound, and the Pacers were +7 with Murphy in the game. Of course, I doubt that O’Brien received much credit for this.

    3). Versus the Lakers on 1/27/10, a Pacers loss…. Admittedly starting Murphy at center was more of a gamble on this night… it could have paid off beautifully or flopped big time. But since we were underdogs anyway going in versus the world champs and had just experienced success with Murphy at center the previous game, O’Brien decides to give it another try. The idea was probably to use Murphy on the perimeter to force Bynum out of the paint and to throw off the Lakers bigs…. And for Murphy to hopefully get hot from 3 thanks to more open looks.

    For example—Look at how Sacramento played the Lakers on New Year’s Day 2010. What made the headlines was Kobe’s bailout game-winning three at the buzzer, but what many people overlooked was Paul Westphal’s effective strategy of using his center Spencer Hawes as a perimeter decoy against slow-footed Bynum, and he went absolutely nuts with the game of his life… 30 points, including 4 of 5 3 point shooting.

    But ultimately for the Pacers it flopped on this particular night. But the logic behind this approach is once again not difficult to discern; this isn’t just a “crazy JOB” thing as some like to portray it, it is a sensible tactic that other coaches besides O’Brien have used in an attempt to exploit one of the few weaknesses that the Lakers actually have working against them.

    4). Versus Milwaukee on 2/25/10, a 2 point Pacers loss…. Andrew Bogut had feasted on Hibbert and the Pacers to the tune of 26 point and 13 rebound averages in their first two matchups. And also--In their most recent meeting on 2/6 Hibbert had 5 fouls in 25 minutes. Whether you agree with it or not, there was clearly merit to the idea of saving foul-prone and previously ineffective-defensively Hibbert for spot relief later in the game. And---here is an example of when using Troy Murphy as a “stretch 5” demonstrated some benefit against a more traditional center, particularly in both the first and fourth quarters. Murphy was 4-7 from 3 pointers and had a +8 plus/minus in 32 minutes. Meanwhile, Hibbert did have 12 points in 11 minutes off the bench, but finished with just 1 rebound and a -7 in plus/minus (although to be fair, Murphy struggled to rebound as well, but Earl Watson helped to offset this). And Bogut finished with a relatively more tolerable 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Pacers narrowly lost the game, but certainly not because of O’Brien’s decision to start and finish with Murphy at center…. And I will also add, in their final matchup of the season on 3/14/10, Hibbert once again struggled versus Bogut, with just 4 rebounds, 3 turnovers and 20% shooting in 29 minutes. Hibbert was a -9, Bogut was a +9 with 17 and 12, Murphy was +2 in 40 minutes with 13 rebounds. To borrow Realist’s refrain—NEEDLESS TO SAY, the Pacers lost again to the Bucks with Hibbert starting at center—this time by 4 points largely thanks to a minus 8 rebound differential. Even more frustrating, the Pacers lost yet another game while holding their opponent to an outstanding 42.9% shooting, largely due to the fact that their starting center got killed on the boards by the opposing center. While they finished 0-4 on the season against their central division rival, THE PACERS BEST SHOT AT BEATING THE BUCKS CAME WITH MURPHY AT CENTER AND HIBBERT IN A REDUCED ROLE. That ought to tell you something right there about Mr. Hibbert. Does this oversimplify things a bit? Probably, but here’s the deal. Yes, Troy Murphy at center was not without its shortcomings and weaknesses. But Hibbert was hardly a superior option in these games—Bogut clearly had Hibbert’s number all year—and this important detail almost always gets left out when fans complain about O’Brien shaking things up with Murphy at center versus an opponent like Milwaukee. And don’t give me that tired canard about how this impaired Hibbert’s development… I’d wager to say that on a VAST majority of NBA teams Hibbert would not have even come close to sniffing the 25 mpg/69 starts he did receive a year ago—and Hibbert still had more than enough opportunities to share court time with Bogut in their 4 meetings. So really, why all the fuss?

    5). Versus Chicago on 2/27/10, a Pacers win…. Indiana had just experienced some success with Murphy at center in the previous game vs. Milwaukee, so why not try it out again? Also---Two games prior at Chicago, with Hibbert starting at center, Brad Miller drained 2 threes in the first quarter alone as Chicago outscored Indiana 37 to 18. Clearly there was merit to the idea of saving Hibbert for situational relief later in the game, preferably when the team would not have to concern itself with cross-matching while worrying about Brad Miller on the perimeter… and Big Roy responded with a solid 12, 7 and 3 in 19 minutes.

    6). At Portland on 3/3/10, a Pacers loss….This was the final time Murphy started at center, and it did not work well on this particular night. This was the game following the Lakers blowout, so my guess is that O’Brien was looking to shake things up, and like most coaches, searching for signs of life from ANY lineup. Hey, you can’t win them all…..



    Here’s the disconnect; We hear this talk of JOB as “rigid” and “stubborn,” yet when he had the courage and foresight to experiment and to make the tactical adjustment of starting Murphy at center and the move demonstrated some success in select situations, our coach was lambasted and ridiculed even further by many fans. Go figure—another example of how Jim O’Brien simply cannot win with some people.

    Now, if your personal philosophy is that Hibbert should have started at center 100% of the time regardless of his struggles—especially with rebounding— and regardless of the obvious mismatches against stretch fives, then that’s a different matter entirely and we’ll have to agree to respectfully disagree. But portraying a legitimate and perfectly reasonable basketball tactic as “nonsensical” and extreme and somehow responsible for our struggles is where the rhetoric crosses the line. Again, I would suggest to some people to find some humility and to recognize that a coach who has spent decades in basketball might just have better judgment on these kinds of matters.

    Let me use this as an opportunity to make a general point about tactics as well. This past summer Realist was making a big fuss about a Lakers-Pacers game in 2009 in which the Pacers lost by 2. He made a point to say that O’Brien made a dumb move by pairing Travis Diener and Jarrett Jack in the 4th quarter… As if this is somehow evidence of an O’Brien weakness at managing in-game situations? It was the Diener/Jack combo that enabled Indiana to outscore the Lakers by 10 points in the fourth quarter and to be there in the end. Granger had fouled out, Rush was just a rookie and Dunleavy was hurt… Yet THAT is proof of O’Brien botching things, a 2 point loss on the road against the world champion Lakers?

    Listen, you could take ANY coach in the league, watch enough game footage and criticize their player rotations or find fault with various things they try to do and pick it a part in that fashion. What’s the old saying… if you had enough footage of Michael Moore you could make him out to look like an anorexic conservative? What’s funny is that a lot of the criticisms of O’Brien aren’t even accurate to begin with, but he is the default scapegoat and this becomes universally accepted by many fans. And listen… I don’t care what people say, there is no such thing as a pretty 32 win season. By definition it is going to be ugly. It’s going to stink, it’s going to be messy, especially when your team’s best players are on the shelf and you’ve been out of the playoffs for a number of years….

    And finally…. Yes, I skipped the granddaddy of all the Murphy at center games…. A 15 point loss at Toronto on 1/31/10…. A Perfect segue into our next question….



    In Response to Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go?:


    5. JOB is absent to attend a funeral, and Lester Conner takes over for the night. The Pacers got whupped earlier in the week by the same team, the Raptors, by 15 because of JOB's small ball. Conner chooses to use the traditional lineup (Murphy is healthy now) and we beat the Raptors by 15. Every player gushes about how fun the game was and how exciting that style of play was. JOB comes back and reverts to small ball, with Murphy at C. The Pacers continued to lose, and Lester Conner's contract is not renewed at the end of the season. Posted by Realist1234

    Ah yes, the Toronto home and home on 1/31 and 2/2. Is there another example in recorded history of a fanbase making such a big deal out of one regular season game? From what I can tell, many Pacers fans are in the habit of abstracting a greater meaning from this one game. I have never seen anything quite like it before. And really, what a perfect setup for the O’Brien detractors when you think about it. Night 1 with O’Brien as coach and team loses by 15. Night 2 with Substitute coach against same opponent, and team wins by 15. You even have the perfect symmetry with the margin of victories working for you!! Couldn’t they have pushed the funeral back a day so that Conner could have coached the Detroit game instead?

    But in all seriousness, was the key difference between the two games the O’Brien/Conner switch, or was it a combination of differences? There are pivotal points to this story that are usually dropped from the popular narrative:

    1). One of Danny Granger’s worst games of the season came in the 1/31 O’Brien coached game. This was a complete aberration; 8 points on 23% shooting, and it could have randomly happened on any night (he only had 3 single-digit scoring games for the entire season, including the 1/19 game at Miami in which he scored 8 points (on 12% shooting), a game that Roy Hibbert happened to start at center. These awful performances probably had something to do with conditioning issues after having recently missed over a month’s worth of games due to injury, but were almost assuredly unrelated to “JOB’s small ball.” In the 2/2 Conner coached game Granger bounced back with a more “average” night of 23 points on 42% shooting. But what if Conner was given awful Granger instead of average Granger, and vice versa for O’Brien? THE OUTCOMES OF BOTH GAMES COULD HAVE EASILY SWITCHED.

    2). The fluctuation in shooting % of the Raptors role players (meaning, everyone other than Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani) at home versus away. In the 1/31 O’Brien coached game @ Toronto (a Raptors victory)—the top 6 Raptors role players in minutes played were Jarrett Jack, Sonny Weems, Antoine Wright, Jose Calderon, Amir Johnson, and Marco Belinelli, who shot a combined 28-46 (60.8%). In the 2/2 Conner coached game @ Indiana (a Pacers victory)—these same six players shot a combined 13-42 (30.9%)…

    Yeah but, players were “gushing” about how much fun they were having! Clearly the Pacers defense that second night was better with Conner as coach! They wanted to play harder for that guy and not that lousy SOB JOB!! That’s why those 6 players dropped 30% in accuracy from one night to the next!

    Well in general, yes you would expect the Pacers defense (and all-around play) to be better at home (and we’ll get to Conner’s “defense” more in a minute). As for the Raptors—what’s that old cliché about role players’ games not always travelling? And shots falling a little bit better at home?

    Fortunately, Indiana and Toronto played two other times prior to this, so let’s check out what went down in those games:

    In the 11/24 game @ Toronto (a Raptors victory)—the top 6 Raptors role players in minutes played were Jose Calderon, Hedo Turkoglu, Jarrett Jack, Marco Belinelli, Antoine Wright and Rasho Nesterovic, who shot a combined 28-42 (66.6%). In the 1/11 game @ Indiana (a Pacers victory)—the top 6 Raptors role players in minutes played were Hedo Turkoglu, Jarrett Jack, Demar DeRozan, Jose Calderon, Marco Belinelli and Amir Johnson, who shot a combined 14-41 (34.1%).

    What a coincidence, yet another 30% fluctuation in Raptors role players’ shooting percentages between home and away! Talk about symmetry!

    Let’s also examine the fluctuation in shooting % between home and away of one Raptor role player in particular, former Pacer Jarrett Jack. In his two home games vs. the Pacers he shot a combined 13-15 (86.6%), but in his two road games at Indiana he shot a combined 3-15 (20%). The human element of wanting to perform well against his former team might help to explain this fluctuation; at home he may have had success in effectively channeling his “nervous” energy to produce optimal performances, but perhaps he was just too anxious to perform well in Conseco Fieldhouse.

    And, last but not least…..

    3). In the 2/2 Conner coached game, The Raptors frontcourt of Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh combined for its highest scoring total of the entire season (69 points), thanks to a CAREER HIGH 34 from Bargnani. And Marco Belinelli went off for a season high 21. Fortunately for Conner, everyone else on that Raptors team could not buy a basket, otherwise his approach would have backfired….

    LESTER CONNER GAMBLED AND HE WON ANYWAY. Personally, I question his defensive judgment to make that gameplan Hibbert-centric. It comes as no shock that Bargnani and Bosh went off like they did. The Raptors 115 points were the 4th highest point total the Pacers surrendered at home all season (the Pacers were 0-3 in the others). When Toronto defeated Cleveland last season it was largely due to Shaquille O’Neal being exploited in the Bargnani matchup, just as Hibbert was versus Bargnani (and other stretch 5’s like Hawes) all season-long… Shaq had a -25 in that game, while Bargnani went off for 28 points including two threes.

    Folks, Jim O’Brien’s Pacers defeated the Raptors at home as well. Why all the hype over just 1 game? People want to talk about how inspired the Pacers play was under Conner? Well, some of their most inspired play of the entire season came in O’Brien’s Pacers home victory against the Raptors when they rallied from a 23 point first half deficit and held them to just 39% shooting. And what can we say about the 1/11 Raptors game? We were reminded once again of how Hibbert can be a bad bet against that team (as we first saw in the 11/24 game). He started and played seven first half minutes and grabbed ZERO rebounds, two fouls, 1-4 shooting, 2 points, -14 plus/minus (worst on team). O’Brien benched Hibbert in the second half, instead choosing to alternate between Troy Murphy and Solomon Jones at center. AND IT WORKED.

    Finally, for the conspiracy theorists and/or the people that love to get into the gossip about Lester Conner…. People made a big deal about Conner’s statements after the game where he said that he wouldn’t carryover some of the things that O’Brien does …

    “"I think we're different in a bunch of different ways so I take things that I like and the things that I don't, I may keep on the side and use them if need be. But I'm a little different, you know…”

    “"One thing about coaching under Coach O'Brien is that he's always told me to prepare as if I was the head coach even though I was the assistant coach for him so when things like this come up it will all come natural so I'm pretty prepared for this so nothing that will happen will catch me off guard."

    "I've learned everything from him and he's one of the best. It may not have showed over the years here, but he's one of the best coaches that I've been around and I've been around a long time as far as playing and coaching. If you add those together it's almost 25 years, so he's a pretty good coach."

    Lester Conner was so comfortable with O’Brien, so used to speaking his mind in private, and so used to preparing as if he were the head coach, that he had no problem whatsoever admitting publicly that he wouldn’t necessarily do things the same way as O’Brien. LESTER CONNER WORKED FOR JIM O’BRIEN FOR SEVEN SEASONS. Now, why would he do that if his boss didn’t value him, or didn’t seek his counsel, or if O’Brien only wants “yes men” around him?

    I don’t know for sure why Conner wasn’t re-signed, but I’m sure it’s probably a mixture of things…. He was probably ready for a new challenge, and as with any working relationship over that long of a time it might have just been right for both parties to head in separate directions. And there’s no doubt that Conner is in a better situation now… he’s the assistant coach for a probable playoff team with a rookie head coach. But naturally—over the summer after it was announced that Conner would be moving on, The IndyStar, in a Wells blog listed as being posted by “staff,” reposted excerpts from the 2/2 Conner game, a shameless attempt to feed this likely misconception that Jim O’Brien is just a prick who doesn’t work well with others and that he forced him out. Well…. O’Brien must be doing something right if he inspired enough loyalty with his former players that they would want to come back and work for him….

    In Response to Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go?:


    6. Josh McRoberts plays something like 60 minutes through 3/4 of the season. Despite injuries to Foster and Hansbrough, despite our obvious need for size and energy, Josh does not get playing time. Once the season is 3/4 over and we're all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, JOB plays McBob as the backup PF, and he throws up a double-double. JOB called it "irrelevant". Josh continued to play well through the latter part of the season, when the Pacers posted a winning record. Posted by Realist1234

    He played over 3 times what you cite leading up to that game and even started a couple of games, but I have to ask, Is this the same Josh McRoberts who was drafted in the second round by Portland in 2007, and despite a season-long injury to Greg Oden and that team’s obvious need for “size and energy” and finishing 9 games out of the playoffs, was still demoted to the D-League in 2008? Is this the same Josh McRoberts who, after rookie Tyler Hansbrough posted back to back double doubles and went down with the inner ear injury, secured a measly 2 rebounds in 27 minutes the next game 12/29 at Chicago in his big chance to demonstrate to his coach that he could consistently be counted on to crash the boards? Then there was the New York disaster a few games later in which O’Brien started him; in the opening six minute sequence when his team desperately needed him to assert himself on defense and on the glass, McRoberts laid a giant egg; zero rebounds, a turnover, and the Knicks frontcourt players (David Lee and Danilo Gallinari) were 5-6 in that stretch with 12 points, 22-8 New York just like that. Oh McBob made sure to pad his stats a bit during garbage time (which was essentially everything after the first quarter). Let’s forget for a minute how David Lee finished with 16 rebounds and Danilo Gallinari with 8, but how is it that 5-9 Nate Robinson can grab 6 rebounds in roughly the same playing time as McRoberts, who only finished with 5? And it wasn’t just these games, let’s look at the overall picture; When you are blessed with a 6-10 build and on a team that is top 3 in the league in Pace factor, there is something seriously wrong with you if you can only average 8.7 rebounds per 36 minutes. Let’s compare McRoberts to two other young 6-10 players who play on teams that are also top 3 in Pace; Anthony Randolph of Golden State averaged 10.3 boards per 36 minutes despite some injuries (was at 11.6 as a rookie). Kevin Love of Minnesota averaged a ridiculous 13.8 boards per 36 minutes. David Lee at 6-9 averaged 11.3 boards per 36 this past season (and probably would have been higher if he faced McRoberts and Hibbert every night). Jeff Foster in 11 seasons, whether the potential excuse was that he was too young or too old, or too banged up, playing in a system that was too fast, or too slow, has never not averaged in double figures in this category (was at 11.4 last season). If McRoberts wants consistent minutes then he better prove that he can consistently rebound, it’s as simple as that.

    As for “Irrelevant-gate”, I feel that it’s largely irrelevant to even discuss this. We’re getting into a little pop psychology here, but I’ll offer my opinion. You’re the coach, your team just been crushed in your first game of a 4 game road trip…. You have a player in McRoberts who had 15 points and 4 rebounds (worst plus/minus on the team for what it’s worth) in 23 minutes, absolutely inconsequential to the game. You’re trying to install a culture of winning, a culture that values winning above all else and no excuses…. And your mother-in-law has just recently passed away as well, things probably eating away at you personally and professionally… And some reporter asks him to talk about a player’s performance in a blowout loss?

    “Irrelevant. Do it in a winning effort.”

    YESSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!

    What I find remarkable is this talk that O’Brien lost the team. Well, after “Irrelevant-gate” the Pacers went 12-10 in their final 22 games. O’Brien delivered the message, and the players got it loud and clear; we have dealt with a lot of adversity this season, but we are going to still play our hand to the very end, no excuses, no coddling, and we will try to build something positive heading into next season.

    And as for McRoberts personally, he demonstrated that he was mentally tough. He could handle it. If you can’t handle your coach saying something as benign as “Irrelevant when not in a winning effort,” how the heck are you going to overcome your lack of talent to remain in the league for years to come? It’s trial by fire and all part of the developmental process. HIbbert and McRoberts passed and are better for it—both had outstanding summers and demonstrated a commitment to this team—while Rush failed. The cream finds its way to the top.

    I also want to address the criticism of turning McRoberts into a 3 point shooter… look at what Phoenix did with Channing Frye this past season. Like McRoberts, Frye was a poor rebounder for his height. And he was not a 3 point shooter until he got to Phoenix. Yet he worked on it over the summer and added it to his game. O’Brien has said that McRoberts’ playing time will be predicated on rebounding, defense and running the floor… but on a team that is already lacking in offensive firepower, you need him to be a perimeter threat as well.

    And finally for those who knock O’Brien for not giving McRoberts more minutes last year….

    Lester Conner played him less than 2 minutes in Toronto game… was he misguided too? If he had authority to change the starting lineup then surely he had authority to play whoever he wanted as much as he wanted……

    In Response to Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go?:


    7. JOB is a Rick Pitino devotee. He uses his same coaching style, same offense, same defense. He's hardnosed and angry, and yells at his players. He plays at a break-neck uptempo pace, pushing the ball at every opportunity and gives every player the green light to jack up 3's early in the clock. He coaches his players to gamble on defense, sticking their hands in at every opportunity and attempting to draw charge after charge. This is Rick Pitino's system in a nutshell. And Rick Pitno said it doesn't work in the NBA. Posted by Realist1234

    I’ve seen you fall-back on this Rick Pitino line a couple of teams, Realist. First off if we’re talking about being guilty by association—this essentially eliminates Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy as potential hires if the Pacers decide to fire O’Brien. Jackson was rookie of the year with the Knicks as the 18th pick under Pitino, and Van Gundy got his start under Pitino as well. So what?

    But if you are talking about basketball approach, see chapter 1. O’Brien transformed a team that was one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA under Pitino and made it the best. Does this sound like a guy that is just a blind disciple of Pitino? Just as Jim O’Brien working for Pitino in the past does not make O’Brien a Pitino devotee, the fact that Lester Conner worked under O’Brien for almost a decade does not make Conner an O’Brien devotee. Like anyone in any profession, you take some things that you like and discard the ones you don’t.

    And I’m not here to defend Pitino… but my guess, just judging by a pattern I have observed, is that you probably have taken something said by Pitino completely out of context. Maybe in an interview he was overly hard on himself and reflecting on things he got wrong, but hey, look at what he did with the Knicks. Pitino’s main problem was not as a coach but as a team president. He made horrendous personnel decisions and left the cupboard deprived of talent. “Rick Pitino said “it” doesn’t work in the NBA.” And if you observe Pitino on the sidelines vs O’Brien, they are polar opposites. Pitino is oftentimes seen barking out orders and shouting non-stop, while O’Brien is normally the exact opposite…. So really, What does Pitino have to do with anything?

    CONCLUSION

    In Response to Re: What Happens if He Doesn't Go?:


    But with this team, he is a horrible coach. He has no idea how to manage his players' personalities, or injuries, or even the style of play. He demeans his own players to the media, and then wonders why they aren't backing him. His own lead assistant all but outed his lack of coaching ability. The defense that JOB supporters fall back on is the injuries and lack of talent. Ok, the Pacers aren't good. I get that. But the measure of a coach isn't when you have Rondo, KG, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce every night. That's easy. It's when half your lineup is nursing injuries, when you're forced to use that 15th man on the roster, it's when (heaven forbid it ever happens again) your top three players are suspended for a good chunk of the season. That's when you really measure a coach. How does he handle adversity? How does he adapt? How good is he when the chips are down? O'Brien is lacking.
    Posted by Realist1234

    Wow, great speech, and I agree with the part about handling adversity as a good measure of a coach. But maybe it’s you who is lacking in perspective? As a coach, you can look so damn good when you have the best damn point guard in the league, whether it’s John Stockton or Deron Williams in the case of Sloan, and Jason Kidd or Chris Paul in the case of Byron Scott. But when you don’t have that luxury? Are you the 2004-05 Utah Jazz that finished 26-56? Or in the case of Byron Scott’s two seasons in which he didn’t have the luxury of a Kidd or Paul, are you 26-56 and 18-64? Oh, we’ll find out just how good of a coach Byron Scott is this year with the Cavs. I would take Anderson Varejao over either Hansbrough or McRoberts in a Carmel Minute. Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams are proven scorers in this league who have been both been all-stars within the past 3 seasons. J.J. Hickson is oozing with potential, and I’ll confess… I’m a Ramon Sessions fan, he’s going to have a terrific season. And furthermore, that team has players that are accustomed to winning and will have a giant chip on their shoulder. So let’s make a deal, O’Brien detractors. If some of you are going to sing the praises of a Byron Scott, then let’s see how the Cavs do this year compared to the Pacers, b/c on paper I would give the Cavs a slight edge. And if Scott is just a great coach and O’Brien is so horrible, then Scott should have no problem leading Cleveland to more wins than Indiana, right? Yeah, we’ll see about that one…

    And to answer your question literally on what Doc Rivers was doing the season before the Big 3, when he had Paul Pierce, rookie Rondo, Perkins, Al Jefferson and Delonte West in an 06-07 East that was a down year, he was able to get a 24-58 out of his team as well as a franchise record 18 consecutive losses….and he never won a playoff series prior to his championship, in fact he lost to the Pacers in 05 despite having homecourt…

    How does a coach handle adversity? Well, if you’re looking for an example of a coach who handles it well, look at Jim O’Brien’s ENTIRE coaching career.

    Some say he “lost the team” this past season. I disagree. O’brien didn’t lose the team; what’s more likely is, after overachieving in a major way for a couple of years yet still coming up short, the players probably began to question the team’s ability to win as presently constructed; These players aren’t dumb, it’s human nature, sometimes subconsciously, to not go all out when you know you are probably beat. But Jim O’Brien teams don’t quit. They went through the storms with the injuries, and finished last season with a grace and tenacity despite their shortcomings. And isn't it interesting... people want the fairy tale story, the Gene Hackman from Hoosiers scenario where the team beats the odds and goes the distance in spite of the adversity... and judging by his coaching career we may have the closest thing to that already in Jim O'Brien, yet some fans still want to run him out of town...

    So let’s wrap this up… we’ve gone over a lot, said a lot… But let me close by saying this… Give Larry Bird some credit. It would have been so easy for him to fire the coach, to scapegoat the coach for the team’s problems. Most GMs go this route to dodge the heat, saying it's the coach and not the players... but this is a rare Bird, indeed. He knows it’s a personnel issue, not a coaching issue. And this is the guy who fired his best friend in Rick Carlisle… Even though I haven’t been happy with a lot of Bird’s moves, he’s won me over as a GM with this.

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    how hollinger views Rasho LOL

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    my god i cant believe someone took the time to type all this.. im thinking UncleBuck may appreciate this the most.

    again, if anyone has the cliff notes summary, i would greatly appreciate it

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    CHAPTER 2: MIKE WOODSON VS JIM O’BRIEN

    bad coach vs a worse coach lol

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    I started reading it..but I can't...hahah (okay, so I went back and skimmed it)

    I just, from the very begining..I start to disagree.

    Truly, he doesn't seem to get exactly why fans disagree with O'brien, and why fans think he's a bad coach. He skims over the McRoberts issue and doesn't even touch Price, he gives credit to O'brien for Hibbert where it really doesn't apply.

    As for JOB's offensive and defensive systems.

    I was always willing to give JOB a break defensively. There was no way we could be a good defensive team with Murphy and Hibbert in the middle. It just wasn't going to happen. But when he did things such as..play Dun at the 4 instead of Josh..yea..that's JOB's fault.

    Offensively, sometimes it looks good..most of the time last season it looks bad. I like a motion offense. In fact, the best offense I've ever seen was a motion offense...but it was played by four seniors (two of which were all americans, another one should have been an All American, and the fourth was the #1 highschool player in the country when recruited, but was hampered a bit by injuries) and a sophomore that was the best college player in the country at the time. (The point guard and shooting guard are now the starting guards for the Women's olympic team. THAT'S how good that team was) That team got me into basketball. But, there's obviously a lot of chemistry and high IQ needed. Whereas, because this team is so young, it might be better to go with a less complicated offense. Still, I don't necessarily begrudge him for his offensive choice.

    What my problem with him is:
    1. Player rotations
    2. In game adjustments
    3. Priorities and team goals

    And from what I could see (and correct me if I am wrong) those three things weren't discussed much in this essay, at least in the ways that we criticised Obrien.

    Anyway, at some, I'll read it more in detail and come up with a better response.
    Last edited by Sookie; 11-10-2010 at 07:56 PM.

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    I think I could finish Bill Simmons' book before I finish reading this!

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    This is worse than trying to translate a post by pacers4ever

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    Quote Originally Posted by vnzla81 View Post
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    This is worse than trying to translate a post by pacers4ever
    lol

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    Quote Originally Posted by Sookie View Post
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    I started reading it..but I can't...hahah

    I just, from the very begining..I start to disagree.
    ya.. i got through the first couple paragraphs then started skimming the rest.. felt like my head was going to explode trying to take on all that info when im not being graded or recieving some sort of reward for all the effort.

    i cant imagine anyone reading all this.. let alone taking the time to type it all out..

    if O'brien can lead us to the playoffs this year, than im willing to give him another shot, but anything less than the playoffs and i would like to see Bird consider the coaching options.

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    I'll give you cliff notes version soon. Starting to read it now. It looks really good from skimming though.

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    You just made me dislike O'Brien even more...

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    Just finished part of it and my eyes are tired and I need sleep, but this guy is the real deal. I nominate this for post of the year because quite honestly, he gives the most concrete and real proof of Jim O'Brien as a good coach- and uses all the points that I have EVER used and some that I never knew that existed, and put them all in a nice organized little thing.

    I wish I could get this guy over to this forum. He's someone who's levelheaded posting and tone is something that is sorely needed on this side.

    Honestly, I'm in shock again tonight. This makes it three times. And in addition, his writing style is just so much better than mine.

    I wish I could cliff notes this, but I really can only find very little to cut. This thing is amazing.

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    I'm surprised JOB had time to type all that crap.
    "Just look at the flowers ...."

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    Good grief and good read. The question is how many of these PD brain children actually had the mental capacity to read it.

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    Quote Originally Posted by Sookie View Post
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    because this team is so young, it might be better to go with a less complicated offense. Still, I don't necessarily begrudge him for his offensive choice.
    Seriously? I was on teams running motion offenses from 6th grade until I graduated high school. So I don't quite get why the complexity of a motion offense is too much for NBA players to run. The players might not have the chemistry or mentality to run a motion offense, but it certainly isn't too complex.

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    Quote Originally Posted by EmCeE View Post
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    The question is how many of these PD brain children actually had the mental capacity to read it.
    I don't see how this comment can be good for the board.

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    I looked to see how looooog it was and decided it competed with War and Peace. I never read it either. No matter whether I would agree with the content I have to give you an thumbs up for taking the time to construct the post.

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    Quote Originally Posted by Eleazar View Post
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    Seriously? I was on teams running motion offenses from 6th grade until I graduated high school. So I don't quite get why the complexity of a motion offense is too much for NBA players to run. The players might not have the chemistry or mentality to run a motion offense, but it certainly isn't too complex.
    Well that's what I mean, being that they are young and have many new players, the chemistry and mentality isn't there.

    That's why I gave my example of the four seniors and the sophomore that was the best offense I had seen. Chemistry plus mentality.

    So as I said, I have no problem with JOB using this offense. But that doesn't mean I don't think there could be a more a effective offense. Still..I don't criticise him for it.

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    Quote Originally Posted by Hicks View Post
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    I don't see how this comment can be good for the board.
    Very good point.
    JOB is a silly man

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    Why anyone without a vested personal interest in Jim O'Brien's employment would go to these lengths is beyond me.

    I got about one third of the way through. I do intend to read the rest of it at some point, hopefully soon. It is remarkable, in my view, how similar this poster is to O'Bird in phrasing and thought formation, and likewise how similar both are to Jim O'Brien himself, both from quotes in the media, as well as what little I heard his radio shows back when he had those.

    If it actually is O'Brien, or someone from his staff, good. We have something to look at and understand so we can perhaps appreciate what is being done more, or possibly we can quantify why we believe it to be wrong, despite the fact that it can be safely assumed that the vast majority of us have never been NBA coaches. We still understand the game, and I now am coming to believe that, if this indeed is someone who is involved with coaching the Pacers, the gameplan is being massively overthought, and that is why the players, no matter who we have had here, have had such a difficult time executing the O'Brien system, except in spurts.

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    By the way, maybe I'm missing it, but where is the link back to the original place this is written? You said it wasn't by you, but someone on IndyStar, right?

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    Default Re: comments from an O'brien supporter - warning its lengthy :)

    I just found it on the Pluck forums at the Indy Star

    http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dl...6-205613599d42

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