INDIANAPOLIS – It’s time to enter the bubble.
As long as Malcolm Brogdon tests negative for COVID-19, the Pacers will have their entire roster on the team plane Thursday as they head to Orlando to finish the 2019-20 season.
How long the Pacers will be in Florida remains to be seen?
On Wednesday, head coach Nate McMillan met with the media to preview life in Orlando.
What did McMillan have to say?
-On his thoughts about Victor Oladipo’s decision to not play in Orlando: “We support the player, in this case Victor, on his decision. We have always taken that role. The player has to be mentally, physically ready to go. That’s the same approach we took with Victor when he was returning the first time. That’s the approach that we will take now. When he feels he’s ready to play, and we both agree to that, in the sense of his trainer, our training staff, and Victor, then we will put him on the floor. Right now, he feels that he’s not ready to play.”
-On what Oladipo will be doing in Orlando: “He’s going to get to 5-on-5 basketball (in practice), which I’m really looking forward to, with all of our guys. His decision to make that call last week was his call. I guess he just didn’t feel that he would be ready to go. He has always planned to go down to Orlando and play 5-on-5 and he still plans to go down and work out and be involved with all the practices. There are no restrictions as far as his return. I’m looking forward to seeing all of our guys go down there and play again for the first time in 4 or 5 months.”
-On how he learned about Oladipo’s decision to not play: “Pretty much like you guys did (laughs). We knew that he was thinking that, but when that was decided to release that, that was Victor’s call.”
-On Malcolm Brogdon, who tested positive for COVID-19 back in June: “Malcolm is doing well. Quarantine has really ended for him. Now, it’s about testing. And we are currently waiting on results from his testing. And hopefully those tests will come back negative and he can jump on a plane with us tomorrow. The concern is just conditioning. Malcolm has not been able to do anything in terms of cardio in the last two weeks. The first time that he’s going to pick up a basketball will be when he gets down there. We are hoping that he will be able to travel with us tomorrow. Then in a couple of days once we quarantine for 24-36 hours, and we take the floor, that he’ll be there to join us. The concern is conditioning. It’ll be the first time in the last four months that our guys will have played 5-on-5 basketball. I’m really excited to get those guys on the floor, get them together and start working.”
-On adjusting the rotation without Oladipo and Jeremy Lamb: “We’ve been dealing with this all season long because we knew Victor would start off on the injured list. (Jeremy) Lamb would have to step in (and) that was part of our recruiting Lamb to try and get a player who could get that starting role, because we knew Victor would miss a portion of the season. Lamb came in and really did a good, solid job for us. And then Lamb goes down and now we have to adapt again. We’ve been doing it all season long. All of our guys have pretty much missed a game or two. One of the good things that has happened with our group is I think our coaches do a really good job of keeping guys who are not playing ready to play and ready to go. Those guys have been able to step in for us all season long to do some good things. From Aaron Holiday, who has had to step in at that starting point (when Brogdon was out), and starting two guard. He was playing some backup 2, some backup point, really did a solid job for us. JaKarr Sampson came in and he’s done a solid job when we were missing Domas and Myles. Justin Holiday has been that guy who has pretty much filled in at three positions for us, at the 2, 3 and the 4 position because of injury. Ed Sumner has gotten his opportunity to play. Even one of our two-way guys (Naz Mitrou-Long) had a big game for us and helped us win a ball game. We are taking 17 (players down). Of course, Lamb is going to be out, but we are taking all of our guys down and I’ve always told our guys to be ready to play because you never know when that opportunity is going to present itself. Our guys have done that.”
-On the goal of finishing out the 8-game regular season in Orlando: “We still feel that we can move up in the standings so we will be approaching those games to certainly get ready for the playoffs. But we also have an opportunity to move out of that 5th position, or even drop out of that 5th position. Our focus will be to approach those games to get our guys back into a rhythm and get them ready for the playoffs. But our approach is going to be to try and win games. That’s what we play for. Certainly, that first game against Philadelphia is an important game with both teams tied as far as record wise. We want to have ourselves ready for that first game.”
-On the challenges of being in the Orlando bubble for potentially three months: “It’s going to be a challenge, and a mental challenge. I think the team that is going to be the strongest mentally will have some success in this bubble. We are sitting here and packing for 2-3 months. There’s no homecourt. You are going to be playing with no fans. A lot of this is going to be guys self-motivating themselves. I will have to do my part as a coach. And we have some things in place and try to do to get our guys focused and keep them focused down there, but a lot of this is self-motivating the player and getting yourself mentally, physically ready to compete. We will be constantly working on why are we here? Once we land tomorrow, you’ve got to have both feet in. There’s been a lot of questions about the players going down there and going into this bubble. I think once you get there, the focus is all in and the focus has to be on why you are here.”
-On why the Pacers could have success under this environment: “We have been a pretty good practice team. We are a team that still practices. We have intense practices and we work once we get out on the floor. A lot of teams don’t practice anymore. A lot of teams have become pretty much shootarounds and they don’t do a lot of live scrimmaging and playing. And certainly, during the season, where we ended the (regular season in March) we weren’t doing a lot of things live, but we are a team who is accustomed to practicing, going live and going hard for an hour, an hour and a half. Our guys playing in this environment where you have no fans and you have to get yourself ready to go and practice hard and scrimmage hard, they are accustomed to doing that. I think we should be okay competing in this type of environment.”
-On how the scouting process will work for the Pacers in Orlando: “We can only have one scout at a game. Basically, what we will do is our three bench coaches (Dan Burke, Bill Bayno, Popeye Jones) all three guys normally rotate games. We will be watching and scouting games. We will have 2 of our interns back in Indy breaking down games, as well, along with two of our assistant coaches that will be traveling with us. They will be breaking down and logging games from the video. We will be allowed one scout per game. I think we can scout a team, the next two opponents. We will be rotating our guys to go in and scout. But our whole staff cannot attend games is what they are telling us right now. Only one scout can go in and watch the game. That’ll be covered with our coaches. We do have staff here (in Indy) that will be scouting and breaking down games from video and the recordings of the game, but we will also have two of our video coordinators with us in Orlando, breaking down and preparing the video. Then our scouts that scout with us during the season will be working with our assistant coaches on what they’ve seen.”