5 things we learned on media day

INDIANAPOLIS — Monday was media day for the Indiana Pacers, and you know what that means: Everyone is in the best shape of their lives. (Jokes aside, that wouldn’t be bad news for a team decimated by injuries last season.)

Myles Turner and his contract were the big talking points at the Ascension St. Vincent Center, but that wasn’t the only discussion worth noting as Indiana gears up for training camp — and what the Coach Rick Carlisle calls “a new era of Pacers basketball.”

Here are five things we learned:

Rick Carlisle embraces the journey, even if it’s not what he expected

When Carlisle returned to Indiana last season for a second stint with the franchise, he was tasked with bringing veteran leadership to a veteran team. As he enters his second season with the team, 11 players on the training camp roster have three years or less of experience. Myles Turner and TJ McConnell are the veterans, and then there’s everyone else.

“It’s a direction of youth, a direction of going all out on a group of guys who are young, talented, have extremely high character and huge upsides,” Carlisle said. “It’s an exciting time.”

Carlisle was quick to say that this season won’t be about wins and losses for Indiana. There will be great victories. There will probably be a lot of ugly losses. But the goal is for things to look better in February than they do when the Pacers announce the regular season next month.

“A big part of that is going to be the eye test,” he said. “Over the course of the season, people who study this team can see that week by week and month by month there are positive advances. … It’s going to be about constantly moving this thing in the right direction.

Carlisle said he “wasn’t very into predictions or deadlines or goals over wins or anything like that. We’re going to come here every day with the right attitude and we’re going to make every positive day.

He said young talent in the gym is “always invigorating”. He saw him with Luka Doncic in Dallas and said he had the same feelings about players like Haliburton, Chris Duarte, Ben Mathurin and others.

Notes: Carlisle is no stranger to facilitating unexpected turnovers. During his rookie season as NBA head coach with Detroit, he took over a team that had won 32 games the previous season and led them to 50 wins and a playoff berth.

March 28, 2022;  Indianapolis, Indiana, USA;  Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) reacts to the basket made in the first half against the Atlanta Hawks at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.  Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski - USA TODAY Sports

Meet Tyrese Haliburton’s team

Haliburton was Indiana Pacer for 230 days. But it’s his team.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard has said so, and the 22-year-old point guard is ready to step into that role. He spent much of his 26 games with Indiana last season finding his footing, living in a hotel room at The Alexander, down the street from Gainbridge Fieldhouse. But he found a home in Indianapolis, and he made it his home. He’s been active in the community (although he didn’t take credit for the Colts’ win over Kansas City on Sunday, despite hitting the anvil before the game). He is gelled with his teammates. He’s ready to learn and he’s ready to lead.

“He recruits guys with an attitude of, ‘Hey, we got a chance to be in something really special here, and that’s what we’re going to do,'” Carlisle said of Haliburton. “My job as lead facilitator is to ensure that.”

It remains to be seen what Haliburton and Turner can do together on the floor (Turner’s injury last season meant the duo never saw the floor together). Turner calls Haliburton “the best young point guard in the league.”

“He’s proven that many times now, and I feel like I’m going to get on well with him,” Turner said. “I already like the way things are looking.”

From Haliburton, Turner said he hopes to help her “expand her potential.”

“He’s shown so much in such a short time, and I want to help him reach that potential. I’ve built this relationship with him. The world is his, and it’s up to him to take it.

Haliburton might have one of the highest caps on the roster, but in many ways he’s not much different from his teammates.

“We have so many guys who feel like they have a lot to prove, not just to the naysayers or the media, but to themselves,” he said. “The most important thing is to go out there and play hard.”

Indiana Pacers' Jalen Smith reacts to a call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, in Milwaukee.

Jalen Smith is back and ready to make a difference

Few expected Jalen Smith to return to Indiana after his 22-game stint with the team last season. But he said he left money on the table to return to a place he felt like home.

“Indiana has always been one of my best returning teams,” he said. “Throughout the summer, I tried to figure out what more teams could offer me than Indiana, outside of money. How comfortable I felt, how I got along with the organization, things like that. Indiana has always been the best. It was comparing everyone to that.

The most Indiana could offer Smith was a two-year contract worth $10.6 million. After being dealt to the Phoenix Pacers, he averaged 13.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in 22 games.

As his time with the Suns ended unceremoniously, Smith found a new life in Indiana. He enters this season as the team’s starting striker and one of seven players in the training camp roster born after 1999.

“Any time you’re around a group of same-age guys who are still learning, it’s fun,” he said.

Carlisle credited the Pacers organization for making Smith want to come back.

“The fact that he’s here is a feather in the cap of this organization, this fanbase, the people who work here who made him feel so welcome and special every day he walked into the building. “, did he declare. “He had other options, and there was more money there. He knows we have the best development situation for him. He searches long and we search long.

Indiana's Chris Duarte shoots during warmups as the Pacers host the Cavaliers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on February 11, 2022.

Can Chris Duarte go from Year 1 to Year 2?

Strange as it may seem, Chris Duarte is only 447 days younger than Myles Turner. The Pacers’ 2021 No. 13 pick is entering his second NBA season, but his age and experience could mean a big leap from a productive rookie campaign (13.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2, 1 apg). He spent the summer playing for the Dominican Republic national team in the FIBA ​​World Cup qualifiers, averaging 15.5 points per game.

“It’s a different feeling when you play for your country,” he said. “You play in front of your family. It was cool to go out there and be in front of all these people who want you to succeed.

Duarte said “the game has slowed down a bit” from what he experienced in his rookie season.

“I (still) have a lot to learn,” he said. “I’m more comfortable. I know what to expect.”

April 10, 2022;  Brooklyn, New York, USA;  Indiana Pacers guard TJ McConnell (9) reacts after hitting a three-pointer in the third quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center.  Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

It’s all new for TJ McConnell

McConnell is the old man in the Pacers locker room. The 30-year-old is entering his eighth NBA season, but he’s never been on a team like this.

“For the most part I’ve been on veteran teams,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you look in the mirror and say, ‘It’s time to take the next step as a leader and do whatever you can to help these guys navigate this. their way. My head was spinning when I came to the NBA, and that’s why I feel like it’s my job to help these guys feel comfortable.

A wrist injury limited McConnell to just 27 games last season. He has taken on the role of a pseudo-coach, which should pay dividends this season.

“Being seated helped me in a way, being a coach on the pitch and seeing things from a different perspective,” he said. “It helped me put guys aside and tell them what I see. I feel like I’m going to do more this year. »

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