Hannah Foslien | Getty Images
INDIANAPOLIS – Even if Nate McMillan isn’t paying too much attention to it, Kevin Pritchard is all-in on the ‘disrespect’ card again this season.
Despite those in Vegas having the Pacers with an over/under total at 47.5 this season, and as the favorite in the Central Division, Pritchard isn’t wavering from his stance.
“I still feel a little disrespected in the East by the national media,” the Pacers team president says.
“We are going to have a chip on our shoulder.”
There’s no denying the Pacers thrived last season with whatever chip that was there.
Picked to be a lottery team in 2017-18, the Pacers shattered that thought with a 48-win season.
It didn’t matter that Paul George was gone, Pritchard’s Plan B construction and McMillan’s impressive meshing sped up the Pacers’ rebuild quicker than either of those two guys even thought was possible.
With the Pacers’ starting lineup returning this season, and some key additions added, this is a team garnering much more national recognition in preseason projections.
Sure, a couple of random prognostications have the Pacers in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
But as much as Pritchard wants to play up the ‘hunter’ mentality, it’s nowhere near the same level as last season.
Where some extra motivation could come from is those questioning whether last year was just a fluke for a team seeing so many players haver career campaigns in 2017-18.
“Everyone thinks we are a one hit wonder,” Pritchard says.
“Can they do it again?” Victor Oladipo adds of how people are viewing the Pacers.
This year’s Pacers won’t be sneaking up on anybody.
An area they can play up the hunting is for those that believe the East, with LeBron finally west of the Mississippi River, is a three-team race involving Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto.
That talk is for fans to debate, says McMillan.
But Pritchard is not shying away from continuing to play that card.
“I felt like we beat Cleveland,” Pritchard says of last season’s brutal seven-game series loss. “One call and we are in the second round against Toronto.
“We are still the hunter. We are still trying to earn that respect.”
The Pacers will start their 2018-19 regular season on Oct. 17 vs. Memphis.