NBA

NBA AM: Pacers On The Ropes, In Serious Trouble

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No doubt about it, the Indiana Pacers are in trouble

You can always evaluate someone’s true character after they’ve come face to face with the highest level of adversity. Simply put, it is gut check time for the Indiana Pacers. Sink or swim. Now or never. Indiana will enter Saturday’s Game 4 versus the Atlanta Hawks with their season essentially on the line, down 2-1, on the ropes and in serious trouble in their first round playoff series.

It isn’t exactly a surprise Atlanta has pulled out two victories versus the Pacers in the series. Most predicted the Hawks to be very competitive in the matchup since they’ve routinely played the Pacers tough over the past few seasons.

However, not many would have imagined the Pacers being in a must-win scenario with their season at stake. The Hawks took Game 3 on Thursday night 98-85 to further position themselves for an upset. But it wasn’t just the loss itself, it was how Indiana loss which could be the most indicative sign that the team’s fate may be sealed.

All-Star center Roy Hibbert scored just four points and grabbed only two rebounds in 19 minutes of action in Game 3, continuing his forgettable second half of the 2014 campaign. The biggest sign of how Hibbert has been rendered completely ineffective in this series is his blocked shot total of zero in 73 minutes of action. But Hibbert has been equally as bad overall, averaging just 6.0 points and 4.7 rebounds  on 28 percent shooting from the floor (7-of-25).

Former All-Star forward David West isn’t ready to hit the panic button, but admits maintaining confidence in certain respects is getting tougher as the losses mount.

“We have a few guys who wear their emotions on their sleeves … guys who are their own biggest critics,” West told the media after Game 3 loss. “When guys aren’t playing well and shots aren’t going in, they show it. We’ve tried to work on that and keep guys confident. … We’re not going to panic. We came down [to Atlanta] to get one game.”

Perhaps the most chilling stat from Game 3 was All-Star forward Paul George’s disappearance act in the fourth quarter when the club had multiple opportunities to make a final run. George played every second of the fourth quarter, but scored just three points and didn’t connect on any of his four field goal attempts.

While Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard took a step easing questions on head coach Frank Vogel’s job security, the fact remains Indiana needs to win three out of their next four games in order to survive the series.

Sacramento Kings still taking aggressive stance regarding roster improvement

The Sacramento Kings haven’t reached the playoffs since 2006 and have only flirted with finishing a campaign at .500 once since then. The 2014 campaign also marked the second straight season the club has posted 54 losses.

So it’s not surprising the team has been extremely aggressive in improving overall team talent. Since the beginning of the season the Kings added Aaron Gray, Derrick Williams, Rudy Gay and Quincy Acy via trade, while dealing (or waiving) Greivis Vasquez, Jimmer Fredette, John Salmons, Marcus Thornton and Patrick Patterson.

Simply put, if there is a deal out there for Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro to explore chances are he already has been working on it and don’t expect him to stop working the phone lines anytime soon. But the executive says there is a certain type of player, certain attributes, the team wants to add to the fold moving forward.

“The one that stands out the most to me is unselfishness,” D’Alessandro said according to Katie Cracchiolo of Kings.com. “I think sometimes it’s one of those very gray-area qualities, but I asked some of the staff, “What does it mean to you? Where do we go with that?” We ultimately came to a consensus it’s not just assists.

“When I first came in I said we need assists, and we still do, but it’s setting a good screen. It’s giving the ball up, it’s seeing the play ahead of time, it’s coming back to the bench and seeing one of your teammates down and putting your arm around him. It’s all of those things you see the great teams have. We will watch one of these playoff games and we’ll see that. I’ve been a part of really good teams and it’s one of the things that always stood out to me: The unselfishness and the camaraderie that comes with it – to not have a gray area, but to specify what that means, and it means really caring about your fellow teammate. It means really sharing, and I think it comes in a lot of ways.”

The Kings are currently projected to pick seventh in this year’s draft, positioning the franchise in a good position to secure a prime young asset.

D’Alessandro believes drafting a player is the easier work, compared to trying to trade for a guy in a different situation.

“I’d say trading, because there are so many moving parts,” D’Alessandro said. “With the draft, we get the list from the league stating the eligible players. Then you’re ranking, you’re watching film and re-ranking, and the variable is which player the teams in front of you pick. When you’re picking in the Lottery, there’s fewer variables in the drafting process.

“When you’re doing a trade, a deal isn’t done until it’s done. I’ve had probably five other deals done this year that weren’t ever completed, but they were right there, and at least one of them that got done was done quickly and out of nowhere. So trades are really difficult in terms of trying to manage the moving parts.”

This will be a big summer for the Kings. The team has just $47 million in guaranteed salaries on the books next season but Gay could opt in to the final year of his deal worth $19.3 million.

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About Lang Greene

Lang Greene

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last seven seasons