Pacers' new blue-collar mentality is a hit
MIAMI -- The only things missing when the Indiana Pacers take the court are their hard hats, jeans and lunch pails.
The Pacers may not look like blue-collar workers, but they are playing with that spirit lately.
The days of being a finesse, jump-shooting team are slowly going away. They have replaced that style with a more rugged mentality.
It seems to be working, too, as the Pacers are 4-0 since Frank Vogel took over as coach for the fired Jim O'Brien last week.
The Pacers will have their hands full tonight, though, when they take on the Miami Heat.
"I've been trying to figure out the best use of our talent for 31/2 years," Vogel said.
"We tried some things with coach O'Brien that I was on board with. Those weren't working. This is an approach I think is necessary to try. I believe it's working."
Pacers forward Danny Granger was dressing after Sunday's victory over the New Jersey Nets and pointed across the locker room at the players he feels are responsible for changing their style -- Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough.
"They're rugged, smash-mouth players," Granger said. "We're using them to our advantage, where previously power forward was looked at as our weakness."
McRoberts is an athletic, highflier who can handle the ball like a guard. Hansbrough has a motor that never stops and is known to get under the skin of opponents.
Hansbrough and McRoberts team with centers Roy Hibbert and Jeff Foster in the frontcourt.
"Since the coaching change, they're not looking to shoot the 3(-pointer) as much," New Jersey coach Avery Johnson said of the Pacers' new approach.
"They're still capable, but they're looking to play more inside out than outside in. With the four horses they have inside, those guys understand what their jobs are. There's no child's play inside the paint with those guys."
The Pacers are holding teams to 41 percent shooting and outrebounding them by 14.5 during the past four games.
It was that style that helped the Pacers get off to a solid start.
"The old adage in the NBA is that you win with defense and rebounding," swingman Mike Dunleavy said.
"That's what coach is trying to stress to us. We need to win in the trenches. That's what we did at the start. I think we're trying to take advantage of our strengths."
Vogel said the Pacers are still an offensive-minded team. They have scored at least 100 points in each of his games as coach.
It's how they get those points that's different.
Vogel simplified the offense and moved Hibbert from the foul line area to the low post.
"We're in the process of changing the identity of our team," Vogel said. "We're not just a defensive team. We're going to have poise and patience offensively."
Who gets Wade?
Vogel said he has not decided who will guard Miami's Dwyane Wade.
O'Brien often moved Dunleavy to the bench when the Pacers faced an explosive scorer on the wing. That could open the door for rookie Paul George to start.
Indy Star- Mike Wells