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NBA PM: Indiana Pacers Trade Turns Up The Heat
Posted By Bill Ingram On July 29, 2013 @ 5:00 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Indiana Pacers Trade Turns Up the Heat
Last season the Indiana Pacers were one win away from a trip to the NBA Finals. Turned aside by the defending and eventual NBA champion Miami HEAT in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers had come incredibly close to their ultimate goal, only to be denied on the doorstep. Over the summer they have watched as multiple teams in the East have made moves designed to get them closer to the level of the HEAT, but this weekend Indiana may have made the move that trumps them all. They sent Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee and a first round pick to the Phoenix Suns and in return they received veteran big man and international champion Luis Scola.
“First of all, we know he’s a great kid,” Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard said to HOOPSWORLD. “He’s been with some great programs and during the summers he’s had unbelievable success with his national teams. For us, we feel like he’s a natural Pacer because he plays hard, he plays smart and he plays very unselfish basketball. He gives us another true component to what we really feel is important to winning in the playoffs, and that is playing in the post with a guy who can really score. Scola has done that over the last six or seven years, he’s done it at a high level, and the way we play inside out with our bigs we feel like he gives us another component to play with the first team or the second team.”
Scola is a consummate professional, and as such he was content to play the role of veteran leader on a rebuilding franchise. Still, the chance to play for a team with a legitimate shot at winning the championship next season was hardly a disappointment.
“I talked to him for a little bit,” said Pritchard. “He’s coming in today and we’ll get to have a few more conversations with him. He seems elated, and the one thing you can tell from him is that he wants to win and he wants to win at the highest level. We’re in the mix here in the East, though there are some other great teams and other teams got better this summer. We know we have to improve and we feel he helps us in that direction.”
Scola may not be in his prime any more, but much like Miami has stocked up on veterans with high basketball IQ’s, the Pacers believe Scola still brings plenty to the table in terms of the role they have mapped out for him.
“One thing we saw this year, to win deep in the playoffs, you not only have to be talented, you have to be smart,” said Pritchard. “You have to be willing to do all the little stuff to win the big games. It sounds sort of like a misnomer, but you really do. You have to have a smart team, you have to have an athletic team, you have to really have it all. Luis, with his athleticism probably isn’t as good as he was four or five years ago, but he’s still a super-smart post player, he can rebound, he’ll do a lot of the little things, and that’s exactly what we thought we needed. We gave up two good players and a pick to get him, so we really believe in him, and hope that this takes us up another level, but you still have to play the games.”
It doesn’t hurt that Scola’s favorite player coming up was Larry Bird, who is now the President of the Pacers. His ability to pass out of the post is reminiscent of Bird’s own style, and the two expect to compare notes.
“First of all, he demands a double-team because he can really score in the post one-on-one,” said Pritchard. “I think the second part of that is, if you do double-team him, he’s a willing passer. One of the things he told us was that is favorite player is Larry Bird, and now he’s going to have a chance to learn from Larry Bird. Larry was a very good passer out of the post, so I’m sure they’ll have a lot of discussions about that.”
Most of all, Scola brings the Pacers another legit scoring threat, as well as valuable injury insurance that can prove to be the difference in a deep playoff run.
“Larry always talks about having enough players who can go out there and get 20 points on a given night,” Pritchard explains. “Now you look at our team and we’ve added two or maybe even three guys who can do that. C.J. Watson is not known for doing that, but he can do it on a given night. We saw Chris Copeland do it against us in the playoffs, and Scola has been a consistent 15-to-20-point scorer in our league. Not only have we added guys in the post, but we’ve added guys that can really shoot the ball, and Scola can score the ball. In the playoffs, the deeper you get, the more important it is to have plenty of guys who can score and make plays, and Scola is definitely someone who can make plays.”
As impressive as the Pacers’ run was last season, they knew they couldn’t afford to stand pat and hope to get further based on experience alone, even with Danny Granger returning from injury. Copeland and Watson were nice additions, but Luis Scola could turn out to be the key piece that puts Indiana over the top. He’s out to prove he can still play at a high level, and the Pacers would like nothing better than for him to prove that while wearing the gold, blue and white of Indiana.
Nerlens Noel On Pace for December Return
There was once a time when Nerlens Noel was believed to be the top pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, and that was long before he actually donned the uniform of the Kentucky Wildcats. When he tore his left ACL in February, it was believed that his enormous potential might still allow him to be the first overall pick, but when NBA teams were actually on the clock five of them opted to go with a healthy player than to draft one whose return date was potentially ambiguous. His drop to the sixth spot, where he was drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans and then traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, is going to be an ongoing source of motivation Noel.
“It’s something to wake up (to) in the morning and just keep me going,” Noel said in an Associated Press report. “It definitely will put fluid to my fire and wanting to get back and show teams what I’m capable of when I get back.”
Prior to the injury, Noel was leading the nation with 4.4 blocks per game to go along with his 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. He’s currently working out six hours per day, largely with the knee, and patiently following his doctors’ prescription in terms of when he can start playing basketball again.
“The knee feels great,” Noel said. “I’m just definitely staying after it, working hard, staying focused. As opposed to a timetable, I’m just (focused) on being careful, staying patient. I definitely want to come back a lot stronger than I was before.”
It raised more than a few eyebrows when new Sixers GM Sam Hinkie opted to trade an All-Star point guard in Jrue Holiday in order to acquire Noel, but Hinkie is determined to rebuild the franchise, even if that means doing unconventional things.
“I would say that our owners have been very committed since the first time that I met them and they wanted to build something great,” Hinkie told HOOPSWORLD recently. “They made that clear in a number of decisions that they’ve made over the years and in some of the decisions that they’ve made in the brief time since I’ve joined. They’re very serious about building a winner in Philly and they realize that it’s a hard league and everybody is trying to get to the same thing, so on occasion, you might have to do some things unconventionally in an effort to get there.”
Being injured, passed over and then traded will likely temper expectations for Noel when he finally takes the court, perhaps as early as December, and that’s probably for the best. It will take him some time to acclimated to the NBA, especially after being off the court for the better part of a year. Even when he gets the knee up to speed, he will suffer through some natural growing pains, but the Sixers team around him will be doing exactly the same thing. This is the beginning of a rebuild for Philadelphia, and there’s little doubt that Noel will be an important part of their future success.
It’s just important to remember that the future for the team and their new talented big man is still a little ways down the road.
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