INDIANAPOLIS – As best they can, the Indiana Pacers are preparing as if the NBA season will pick up again this season.
But those preparations have the Pacers scattered across the country as they wait final word from the NBA on what is going to happen.
Currently, the Pacers (39-26) have finished 65 of their 82 regular season games and are slotted 5th in the Eastern Conference standings.
On Tuesday, Pacers team president Kevin Pritchard met the media for the first time since the NBA season was suspended back on March 11.
Pritchard did say that no Pacers player has tested positive for COVID-19. One Indiana player, who Pritchard did not reveal, had some symptoms for about 24 hours. But the team’s medical staff deemed a test wasn’t necessary after that player stopped having systems the next day.
Here are some other highlights from Pritchard meeting the media on Tuesday
-On projecting the rest of the season: “We are preparing like there will be a regular season and playoffs. We are listening to the league in a big way. We just had a presidents meeting with (NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the league’s operations staff) last Friday. I’ll give a hat tip to some of our players, T.J. McConnell, Malcolm (Brogdon), Myles (Turner), Victor (Oladipo), T.J. (Warren), Justin (Holiday), Aaron (Holiday), they are doing a good job of staying together as much as they possibly can…We think we can make some noise in the playoffs.”
-On offseason plans amidst all the unknown: “We are doing our best to prepare for the draft, doing our best to prepare for free agency. We don’t know the timeframe on which that’ll happen, whether there will be a season, then the draft, then free agency. Or a lot of different (possibilities) around that. As of now, we don’t have any (draft) workouts. Probably what will happen more than ever is we will be doing Zoom interviews with the college seniors and ultimately guys that declare for the draft we’ll be doing a lot of face-to-face interviews. All the scouts right now have their zones but they are also not requested, but their duties are to get some background so they are calling and getting background and talking to coaches. We are filling up our database more than ever. I can’t imagine there won’t be a draft and free agency more reviewed than this one. Because that’s the one thing we can control. We can watch film. We can ask people about players. And then we can make our evaluations. There’s the same saying that we have of eyes, ears and numbers. Eyes, watch film. Ears, talk, hear about players, do the background. Numbers, watch the stats. Our analytics department is probably as busy as they’ve ever been because we are working on new projects and new ways of looking at players and new ways of evaluating players. We are not sitting idly, I can tell you this.”
-On what he’s telling his team: “There’s been two words that I’ve said through this whole process is that we are going to have to have an extreme amount of patience and then we are going to have to be disciplined. We don’t have any answers. There aren’t any answers right now. We all have to be patient right now. We all have to show some discipline in staying away from people, do our best to social distance. We want to play our part. The message that is coming from us down to our players, down to everybody is let’s beat this. Let’s beat this virus, because if we do what we are supposed to do, we can be pillars of our community and hopefully Indianapolis and Indiana gets through this faster than anybody and we can come back on the other side much better.”
-On what the team is doing to stay connected: “We are meeting a lot on Zoom and Microsoft Team as a management staff. One of the things that’s been pretty effective that I feel like that has drawn a lot of stimulation is we are each taking a team in the NBA and we are digging really deep and trying to understand what that team is doing. So one person (in the Pacers front office) takes a team and makes a presentation on what they are doing, what they would do and then how can we look at being good partners potentially with trades. Those have been incredibly (beneficial), something that keeps your mind fresh. We are reading books. And then we are having good debates around that. For me, you start getting people how a general manager or a president might be thinking. That’s what we are doing with our staff. Secondly, with our players, we are having a meeting. We are having another meeting this week, it’s more of a check-in with our players on Zoom. And then every player says, ‘Hey, this is what I’m doing.’ Nate (McMillan) really felt like that was important and I totally concurred. Now, we get online for an hour, an hour and a half, once a week and we just check in with the players. What’s been interesting is some players get on and say a few things and then some players are very introspective in this and really want to help communities and want to get involved. What I’ve been most proud of is how some of our players are using this platform to help. Then we have with the whole organization and (COO) Rick Fuson is organizing those and those are daily. We are doing those daily. You could say, ‘Do you need to meet every day?’ Well, right now, maybe we do. Maybe we need to be together more than ever before. With that, we are trying to figure out how to improve our processes. Because this is the one time ever we can say there is not a game, there’s not something that is coming up so how can we really think about ways to improve the organization so we have done that as well.”
-On possibly playing games in front of fans: “We are really listening to the commissioner. I’ll give him a lot of credit. He came out very quickly and said no games. I think we are all watching his lead. We have a lot of confidence in his lead. For me to be talking about when we will be playing in front of fans or not, I trust my commissioner implicitly, so that’s what we are going to watch. The thing that he has said and the thing that has been pretty pubic is he’s listening, he’s trying to gather as much information from doctors and he’s listening to new ideas. I don’t think anything is going to be talked about or announced until early May. So that would be the earliest we probably hear anything.”
-On concerns about guys staying in game shape: “Well, the first thing I’d say is the way you guys stay in game shape is you play in games. There’s nothing like being in game shape. But our strength and conditioning staff is in daily contact. They have given them programs. They are checking in on them every day. I think one of the things that has been the most challenging is getting a gym and being the only person in that gym. I know a couple of players that have found gyms that are going in super late at night, go in by themselves and getting their workout and then getting out of there. I applaud that. They are torn because they want to get into the gym. They want to get in a good workout. They want to be playing 1-on-1, 2-on-2, but I think the most important thing that they can possibly do is to adhere to the social distancing rules and get out of this as fast as we can. I know that there’s a poll to get them in to play 1-on-1, 2-on-2 and ultimately get them back into the gym but until we see what the league feels like is there program, and improvement, then we have to be very careful.”
-On the Pacers still in Indy and how long it would take for players to get back into game shape: “We do have a handful of players still in town. Some of them went back to their homes. Some of them wanted to be with their families during this time. What I kind of feel is that they are trickling back because I think once we open up in a small way, I think they can get back into our gym pretty easy. It’s easily accessible and it has everything that they need. There’s only been talk in terms of how long (it would take for players to get back into game shape). I don’t think it would be a week, and then let’s get back and play some games. I think they are going to give us a good amount of time but I don’t think it’s going to be a week. I think 2 or 3 weeks minimum and then play some games. But we have to be cautious because we have to get them back to a point where they are playing at the highest level, too. To throw them out there would be short-term thinking instead of being prepared to get out there and play at the highest level that they possibly can.”
-On the uniqueness in Victor Oladipo coming back after this current break: “It’s a ramp up to play, and then a ramp up in minutes. Let’s say it’s a couple of weeks of practice, I don’t know if the right thing to be would be to put him out there (in a game) for 40 minutes. We’ve had a lot of conversations of ramping him up in a couple of weeks of training camp and then not throwing him out there and play a big amount of minutes. I think we can adjust as we go but there could be some limitations. The one thing I felt really good about this is the communication between Victor, our staff, Victor’s physical therapist, they meet every day. So we want to put a plan in place for him to come back but also you have to be a little bit willing to move the plan a little bit. We will error on the side of long-term and caution, every day and all day, for all of our players. No one game, no one day will we put a player in higher jeopardy than ours. But it does bring some special, unique circumstances.”
-On the injury situations for Malcolm Brogdon (quad) and an update on Jeremy Lamb (knee, season-ending): “Jeremy’s up and walking a little bit. That’s a great feeling for a player, the first day that they can walk. It looks good. He’s on target. He’s working with (the training staff) six days a week. We feel good about that, but it’s going to be a long process. Malcolm says he’s 100 percent and ready to go. I think when I’m communicating with Malcolm, he just wants to get out there. He was so looking forward to him and Victor playing and getting some games in before the playoffs. I think Malcolm is hungry. I think with all these players, not just Malcolm, is the bumps and bruises of the season has gone away, but you’re not in game shape. Malcolm is trying to be as disciplined about his eating probably as much as any player right now. He’s very disciplined around that. He’s also taken up golf. He spoke to our whole staff the other day and he’s ready to take on golf. I think he’s crazy.”