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INDIANAPOLIS – For the previous 15 seasons, LeBron James played in the Eastern Conference.
And he might as well have been the daddy over the rest of the teams in the East.
James-led teams played in the NBA Finals in each of the last 8 seasons.
The Pacers have been victim to a playoff exit via LeBron on 5 separate occasions over the last 7 years.
There might not be another team, or fan base, in the East happier to see LeBron don a Lakers jersey in 2018-19.
“All of us in the East are looking at that as an opportunity,” Nate McMillan says of LeBron now no longer in the conference.
With LeBron’s exit, McMillan actually thinks the style of play will change a bit in the East.
McMillan thinks the East will go back to a more traditional look in the starting 5 and 4 spots, with teams less inclined to downsize in trying to matchup with the spread looks that LeBron teams usually employed.
“The East doesn’t have those teams that play as small, like a Golden State or a Houston,” McMillan says. “I think you’re going to see it change a little bit and go back to where they played a few years ago with a power forward and a center.”
The Pacers are equipped to handle that change. Even last year, they had a more ‘normal’ look in the starting frontcourt with Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner.
Now, the Pacers don’t have to worry about an opposing team, with LeBron on the floor, going small where McMillan would have to make a decision on how to handle defending the game’s best player.
“It’s a big deal because he had so much dominance in the conference,” Darren Collison says of James exiting the East.
And when you hear Kevin Pritchard talk about LeBron, it sounds like he is speaking for the entire fan base.
“That sucker has beaten us so many times in the playoffs,” Pritchard says. “I was a little sick of it.”
And now we will see if the Pacers can take advantage of an opportunity that hasn’t been there in years.
The Pacers will start their 2018-19 regular season on Oct. 17 vs. Memphis.
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