After heading home at the conclusion of the regular season for a several years, the Indiana Pacers have made great strides over the past two seasons, as they have become legitimate contenders in the Association’s Eastern Conference. The team needed a new hand to guide them and coach Frank Vogel, has pointed them in the right direction since taking over for his former boss Jim O’Brien, midway through last season.
The Pacers bench boss led his team to the Post Season last year, but they lost their first round series to the Chicago Bulls. They would threaten the Miami Heat in the second round of this year’s Playoffs, grabbing a 2-1 lead in the match-up before Miami came back to win the series.
This will be a critical off-season for Indiana, as they have six players who will become Free Agents next month. Team President Larry Bird told members of the media that he believes the team will have enough salary cap room to keep all six of their players, however there are two talented young men who will become restricted Free Agents, that the club has to sign to keep moving forward. Bird needs to make sure that his squad matches any offers from any franchises in the Association that want to try to take All-Star center Roy Hibbert and starting point guard George Hill away from his team, because these two players should be the cornerstones of the Pacers for years to come.
Hibbert, first grabbed national attention during the 2007 NCAA Post Season, as he dominated games that year as the man in the middle for Georgetown University. Had he come out for the NBA Draft that year, he might have been a top ten pick, however he chose to head back to school for one more year and his stock dropped. He would be taken number 17 in the first round by the Toronto Raptors who then traded him to Indiana.
The big man started 41 games for his team during his rookie campaign, then became the permanent starter in the pivot during his second year. Although his numbers were steadily improving each season, he was constantly berated by O’Brien which took away Hibbert’s confidence. That would change when Vogel took over the bench, as the new coach showed Hibbert that he believed in him as a person and as a player.
Having his coach in his corner, was all that the 7’2″ center needed and this year he was named as a reserve for the Eastern Conference in his first NBA All-Star game. Although there will be plenty of suitors for his services this summer, the Pacers will be able to match any offer sheet he is given by any other club. The big man told the “Associated Press” that even though he is quite happy with his current situation, he is going to allow his business people to negotiate his new deal. Hibbert said “I want to make sure that everyone knows I love Indiana. But as the process goes and we try to get something done, that’s something I’m leaving to my agent.”
There were lots of rumors last summer, that the San Antonio Spurs would trade starting point guard Tony Parker and replace him with George Hill, however they were inaccurate, as Hill went to the Pacers instead. The point guard who just completed his fourth year in the Association, started just nine game for Indiana during the regular campaign, but he started all 11 games this year in the Playoffs, and averaged 13.5 points, 2.9 assists and 2.3 rebounds per contest.
Hill told members of the media that he would like to see the squad remain intact, because he believes that the current roster has great potential. He said “Hopefully, all of us stay together, but we know the Pacers have some tough decisions to make. We just want to continue to play together and grow as a young nucleus.”
Bird, knows how important having the right chemistry is in order for a team to succeed and if he does remain as Team President as expected, he will do what ever he can to make sure that the comfort level and trust that was in the Pacers locker room this year, will be there once training camp starts.