Pacers’ Oladipo showing the promise he once projected

UNTV News   •   December 25, 2017   •   2701

Dec 23, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo (4) drives to the basket against Brooklyn Nets guard Allen Crabbe (33) during the first quarter at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) – Benefiting from an off-season trade, Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is finally becoming the franchise player he was projected to be.

The 2013 top-two draft choice had been seen as ancillary to the deal when Indiana sent cornerstone Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

But Oladipo appears focused on proving his worth in a new lead role with the Pacers.

“I was already motivated before (the trade to Indiana), Oladipo told Reuters following a recent win over Atlanta.

“Then (the trade) just happened. It might have added on a little bit but I was already motivated.”

The fifth-year player has translated his motivation into career-best production as he averages 25.3 points per game on 48.6 percent shooting, which includes 42.5 percent from three-point range.

He adds five rebounds and nearly two steals a night.

The Pacers, who were expected to fall off a cliff in the absence of George, are holding steady at 19-14, the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference.

Oladipo has been particularly devastating in the month of December, erupting for scoring binges that included a 47-point night in a win against Denver.

Always known for his slashing athleticism and versatile defense, Oladipo has found a shooting comfort back in Indiana where he starred as a college player.

“He’s come into the season with confidence, and I think to prove himself,” said Pacers coach Nate McMillan who has enjoyed extensive film sessions with his new guard.

“There was a lot of conversation out there that the Pacers didn’t get enough in (trading away George). I think he’s proven to the league that he has talent.”

The Orlando Magic were intrigued by Oladipo’s talent when they drafted him as the second overall pick in the 2013 draft.

After three solid but not spectacular seasons with the Magic, Oladipo was shipped to the Thunder.

Playing alongside ball-dominant superstar Russell Westbrook, Oladipo had the role of unsung sidekick.

So when the Pacers landed Oladipo, expectations were low.

He is proving otherwise and appears headed for his first ever All Star appearance.

“We felt like he had potential and he’s showing that he did,” McMillan said. “He’s playing with confidence. And when you have that kind of ability and play with that kind of confidence, good things are going to happen for you.”

Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles, editing by Gene Cherry

NBA: Bird officially steps down as president of Pacers

UNTV News   •   May 2, 2017

Apr 12, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (6) stands behind the baseline as Pacers president Larry Bird watching during a game against the Atlanta Hawks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

(The Sports Xchange) – The Indiana Pacers officially announced Monday that Larry Bird is stepping down as president of basketball operations.

Kevin Pritchard, the team’s vice president of basketball operations/general manager, will assume Bird’s position.

Bird will remain with the Pacers in an advisory role.

“I felt it was time to step away in a full-time capacity,” Bird said in a statement. “This has nothing to do with my health or our team. I’m 60 years old and I want to do other things away from basketball. I will do some scouting for the Pacers, NBA, college, international, do some appearances and stay in a capacity to advise senior basketball management.

“I love the Pacers, I grew up with the Pacers and admired them from a very young age. I want to thank the fans for their support throughout my career. I also want to thank Herb Simon for the many years of loyalty and for allowing me to stay with the team in a different role.”

Pacers owner Herb Simon said he is not surprised with Bird’s decision and has the “utmost faith” in Pritchard.

“This is not a shock to me as Larry has always been up front about someday stepping down,” Simon said. “I thank him for all that he has done and am very pleased he is remaining with the Pacers in a different capacity.

“I have the utmost faith in Kevin taking over. He has learned from a couple of great ones, Donnie (Walsh) and Larry, while with the Pacers. We all feel he will do a tremendous job.”

Bird was the president of basketball operations for the Pacers from 2003-2012, winning the NBA’s Executive of the Year award in 2012, before stepping away for a year, citing health reasons. He took on the role again before the 2013 season.

Bird, the Hall of Famer as player with the Boston Celtics, first joined the Pacers organization in 1997 when he was named head coach. As coach, the Pacers went to the NBA Finals in his final season in 1999-2000, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

The Pacers finished this season with a 42-40 record before being swept in the Eastern Conference first-round playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Indiana lost all four games by a combined 16 points.

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, an Indianapolis native, crossed paths with Bird while coaching at Butler University.

“I’ve obviously admired (Bird) since he played for the Celtics and I thought that he did a tremendous job as a coach and front office person in Indiana,” Stevens said. “When I was there, the runs they went on for all the years he was there was really impressive. So whatever he chooses to do and look forward to, we certainly all wish him the best.”

The 49-year-old Pritchard has been with the Pacers for five years, first as director of player personnel before becoming general manager and executive vice president of basketball operations/GM. The Bloomington, Ind., native previously was general manager for the Portland Trail Blazers from 2007-10.

“I want to thank Herb, Larry and Donnie for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime,” Pritchard said. “As someone who grew up in Indiana, I’ve always felt the Pacers’ pride. The goal is always going to be the same as it has been through Donnie and Larry: to make this a world-class organization.”

Pritchard played collegiately at Kansas and was part of the Jayhawks’ 1988 national championship team. He played in the NBA with Golden State, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami and Washington.

After playing, he was the coach/general manager of the Kansas City Knights of the ABA, winning a championship in 2002. He then scouted for San Antonio, became Portland’s director of player personnel in 2004 and in the 2004-05 season was the Trail Blazers’ interim coach for 27 games. In 2006, he became Portland’s assistant general manager before becoming GM in 2007.

“I’m very happy Kevin is stepping in and glad another Hoosier is in line to take over this job,” Bird said. “He has a lot of experience from the past five years as a GM and he’s ready to step into a leading role.

“With us, he has had his own ideas on the draft, players, and now he gets an opportunity to push his basketball abilities to the forefront. His role will be no different than mine was. He will make all final decisions on all basketball-related matters. There can only be one voice and it will be his.”

(This story has been refiled to fix the dateline)

James scores 33 as Cavaliers sweep Pacers

UNTV News   •   April 24, 2017

 

Apr 23, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) is guarded by Indiana Pacers guard Jeff Teague (44) in game four of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

(The Sports Xchange) – When the Cleveland Cavaliers limped into the NBA playoffs with a four-game losing streak to finish the regular season, some wondered if the reigning champions were vulnerable.

LeBron James, at least for one series, removed all doubts.

James scored 33 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:08 remaining, and Cleveland defeated the Indiana Pacers 106-102 on Sunday afternoon, completing a four-game sweep in the opening-round series.

“Once again, we just had to weather the storm,” said James, who made 13 of 25 field-goal attempts and added 10 rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks. “We beat a very good team. We had to make plays at the end, and we did.”

Cleveland’s four victories came by an average of four points, tying the smallest average margin of victory in a four-game series sweep, also set in the 1975 NBA Finals when the Golden State Warriors defeated the then-Washington Bullets.

The Cavaliers also finished — regular season and playoffs — 7-1 against Indiana, winning the last seven in a row, although this one certainly wasn’t easy.

“Offensively, we were not that good,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. “We didn’t play with the same spunk and pace. But defensively, I thought we were really good. We did a great job on Paul George. We kept him to 15 points.”

Indiana, which never had been swept in a best-of-seven series, took a 102-100 lead on a Thaddeus Young tip-in with 1:31 to play, but the Cavaliers scored the game’s final six points to advance to the second round of the Eastern Conference.

For James, it was his 21st consecutive first-round playoff game victory, breaking Magic Johnson’s record of 20 set in the mid-1980s.

“It’s really frustrating to continue losing to the same team or the same person (James),” George said.

“It’s what I work hard for in the summers to try to help lead a team along and ultimately, it’s who I am always going to see and face. But again, we just came up short and didn’t do enough.”

When asked if he hopes to remain with the Pacers, George, whose future has been discussed frequently in Indiana, said: “I ain’t even at that point yet. Next question.”

(Editing by Andrew Both)

Highlights of Tuesday’s NBA games

UNTV News   •   April 12, 2017

Apr 11, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard (8) dunks against the Charlotte Hornets in the first half at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

(The Sports Xchange) – Highlights of Tuesday’s National Basketball Association games:

Hawks 103, Hornets 76

The Atlanta Hawks, behind center Dwight Howard’s 53rd double-double, secured fifth place in the Eastern Conference with a 103-76 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday.

Howard scored 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds as the Hawks extended their winning streak to four games.

It was the first time in four tries that Atlanta defeated Charlotte, and the result guaranteed the Hawks would finish fifth and open the playoffs against the fourth-place Washington Wizards.

The Hawks also received 10 points and seven rebounds from Paul Millsap and 10 points from Ersan Ilyasova. Atlanta rested its regulars in the fourth quarter, but every active player scored.

Thunder 100, Timberwolves 98

Victor Oladipo scored 20 points, including the game-winning jumper with six seconds left, as Oklahoma City held off Minnesota.

Domantas Sabonis had 19 points as six players scored in double figures for the short-handed Thunder, who were without star guard Russell Westbrook as he missed his first game of the season to rest. Oklahoma City is the No. 6 seed in the West.

Kyle Singler tied a season high with 11 points, and Norris Cole had 12 points off the bench for the Thunder, who were also without Andre Roberson (rest), Taj Gibson (rest) and Doug McDermott (knee soreness).

Nuggets 109, Mavericks 91

Gary Harris scored 20 points to lead Denver over Dallas in a game that former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo watched from the bench in a Mavericks uniform.

The Nuggets had four others score in double figures — Mason Plumlee (16), Malik Beasley (16), Juan Hernangomez (14) and Jamal Murray (10). Murray added 10 rebounds for Denver, which was eliminated from playoff contention Sunday.

Dallas was without Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews and Seth Curry, while the Nuggets didn’t suit up Danilo Gallinari, Emmanuel Mudiay, Kenneth Faried, Will Barton and Jameer Nelson.

Lakers 108, Pelicans 96

Metta World Peace scored 18 points and Los Angeles extended its winning streak to five games with a victory over short-handed New Orleans.

Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Ingram contributed 15 points apiece for the Lakers, who won five straight for the first time since the end of the 2012-13 regular season. David Nwaba added 14 points for Los Angeles.

The Pelicans played without DeMarcus Cousins (right Achilles tendinitis) and Anthony Davis (left knee soreness). Cheick Diallo came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 11 rebounds for the Pelicans, who lost their fifth consecutive contest. Alexis Ajinca and Jrue Holiday each chipped in 14 points.

Kings 129, Suns 104

Ty Lawson scored 22 points, handed out 12 assists and grabbed 11 rebounds in what may have been his final home game with Sacramento.

Rookie Buddy Hield led the Kings with a game-high 30 points, complementing Lawson’s first career triple-double, and Sacramento concluded the debut season in its new arena by beating Phoenix for the third time in four meetings.

Tyler Ulis scored 27 points for the Suns, and Marquese Chriss added 22.

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