It’s been a bit of a struggle for the Pacers this season. For the first time in 31 years, they won’t have a winning record at home — breaking an amazing NBA-best stretch.
They have also been missing their two best big men in power forward Domantas Sabonis (back) and center Myles Turner (foot). Both have missed extensive time, especially Turner. There’s timetable on when he may return.
Yet the Pacers are currently sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, fighting for a playoff spot.
Despite the ups and downs and round and rounds, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard appears pleased with how the team has continued to fight under first-year coach Nate Bjorkgren.
“This season has been unlike any I’ve been a part of, and it’s proven to be challenging on many fronts,” Pritchard said in an exclusive interview with Bob Kravitz of The Athletic. “I’ve got a lot of scar tissue from this season; we all do.
“In some ways, it’s been less about basketball than a lot of other things. But look at it, we’re a few games within fourth, and to go through what we’ve gone through as far as injuries, I want to see how this one plays out. We could have shut it down, but we’re playing hard; we’re just severely undermanned right now.”
On the positive note, the Pacers continue to boast the league’s most underrated backcourt. Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert have become quite the duo, with T.J. McConnell providing a valuable ball-moving boost off the bench.
Along with that, new forward Oshae Brissett has become a very nice surprise, signing a three-year contract after a pair of 10-day deals.
But even Pritchard knows the Pacers will need Sabonis and Turner if they really hope to go places. He’s not quite ready to dive too deeply into their statuses, though.
“I’d like to answer that after the playoffs (start) because that’s when it really counts,” Pritchard told Kravitz. “Hopefully, Myles will be back in time.”
Either way, given the under-the-radar rank the franchise will always wear, the Pacers have done fairly well for themselves while facing the usual smaller market challenges.
“We’ve done some things well and haven’t done some things well, but for us, it almost feels like you have to play a perfect game to be hyper-competitive,” Pritchard said. “There are teams who can make personnel mistakes; we really can’t. Our biggest source of players is trades, and that’s really tough. Trades are challenging. I feel good about the ones we’ve made, and we have to draft better, and we will, but I still have a ton of confidence in our scouting staff.
“It’s just, yes, it’s a major challenge given the fact that the bifurcation of the top teams seems to be getting greater in comparison with the mid- and small-market teams. That’s something we’re always going to have to deal with.”