Frank Vogel has faced his share of challenges since taking over as coach of the Indiana Pacers more than a year ago.
He had to change the culture of a beaten-down team after being named interim coach. Then he had to deal with chemistry issues during a six-game losing streak last March.
But Vogel's challenge during the team's recent five-game losing streak wasn't due to the culture or poor chemistry.
The Pacers' skid was the result of poor play, making his team's struggles easier for Vogel and his coaching staff to correct.
"There's a purity to this group of players," Vogel said. "There's a determination and these guys like each other and they like playing with each other. Managing relationships is the last thing I have to do with this group. This was all about getting us back to playing the type of basketball we were playing earlier in the season."
Vogel isn't one to blame others. He always looks at himself to see what he can do better.
He slept for only about five hours when the team returned from Cleveland after its loss to the Cavaliers early Thursday morning. Vogel watched film on the flight home, then watched more after his daughters left for school, searching for answers to the Pacers' defensive struggles.
The Pacers, who face the Charlotte Bobcats tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, have given up at least 46 percent shooting in seven straight games.
Limited time to practice has made it difficult to teach on the court. Instead of constant running during the little practice time that the Pacers have, Vogel prefers thorough film sessions in which he can teach without worrying about tiring his team even more.
"We're all in this together. I evaluate myself," Vogel said. "My biggest job is tying these guys together, and when they're not together, I have to figure out if in any way, shape or form is it the result of what I'm doing."
Vogel lost his cool toward his players only once during their skid.
The Pacers had a chance to make a statement against the Miami Heat, who were playing their third game in as many days, last week. The Pacers were never in the game, however, trailing by as many as 35 points.
Vogel gave the players an earful about their embarrassing performance during halftime when they trailed the Heat by 29.
"He went off that day," said forward Danny Granger, who played in only the first quarter because of an ankle injury. "He said some things that made you go, 'Wow.' That's not normally his personality.
"I only saw him do that a couple of times last year, but it was the first time this season. He had a right to, considering how we were playing."
Vogel said he reacted that way during that Feb. 14 loss because he knows his team is better than what it showed against the Heat.
"I don't like to snap, but I'm very protective of these guys," he said. "When I go into my office and their effort is challenged, I take it personal that I need to stand up for these guys. The message into that halftime was nothing other than, 'You're better than this.' "
Hill getting closer
Pacers guard George Hill might return to the lineup before the All-Star break after all.
Hill, out since Jan. 31 with a chip fracture in his left ankle, took part in all of practice Saturday with the exception of the scrimmage.
The Pacers will evaluate Hill today to see how his ankle feels. They have missed his scoring and energy off the bench.