NBA Saturday: Indiana’s Unconventional Rebuild
HoopsHype Top 5 Rumors - VIDEO OF THE DAY
Our friends at HoopsHype drop the Top 5 Rumors of the week, which includes some rumblings about the Chicago Bulls.Watch More Video Here
Paul George Personifies Indiana’s Unconventional Rebuilding
There’s no questioning at this point that the Indiana Pacers are a very good basketball team. They came within a single win of playing in last season’s NBA Finals, and there’s little reason to believe that they won’t be right back in the thick of things when the dust settles again this coming spring.
But, as All-Star guard Paul George points out, Indiana’s road to rejuvenation was by no means a typical one for today’s NBA.
“We did it in an unorthodox style,” George told HOOPSWORLD. “Most teams go out and grab guys (in free agency) to make their team elite. We did it in-house. Because we’re a small market, we haven’t had high-profile guys to begin with. We made our own paths, and that’s just not common in the NBA.”
Purgatory for NBA teams is winning too few games to have any real shot in the postseason, but too many to have any real shot at a top-three draft pick. Indiana was once in that exact state of limbo, but George personifies the adeptness the Pacers’ front office showed in finding top-tier talent in the middle portions of the first round in several different drafts.
George, for example, was selected by the Pacers with the 10th overall selection in the 2010 draft. Roy Hibbert was drafted 17th in 2008, and Danny Granger was taken 17th in 2005. And that’s not even considering Lance Stephenson, a steal by Indiana with the 40th overall pick in 2010, and Kawhi Leonard, who was taken with the 15th pick in 2011 but immediately shipped off to San Antonio for George Hill, now the team’s starting point guard.
In short, this is a team built with players that scouts have always loved, but for some reason were passed on by teams who felt other young prospects were better investments.
“I’ve always been in a situation where I was looked over,” George said. “I knew I was better than guys, but I was just always looked over. That kept me hungry and wanting to get better and show that I can be on the same level as some of these guys. That’s just always been what motivated me and gave me the drive to be in the position I’m in.”
He adds that, because so many players on this team have spent their entire careers looking at themselves exactly the same way, the chemistry and selflessness in Indianapolis is very strong.
“We do so well playing together and playing as a team. We don’t care who’s getting the shots; we just get the ball in the hot hand. That’s how we’re going to continue to carry out and continue to win games,” George said.
And if they win enough of those games, they could end up back in the Conference Finals, perhaps once again facing the Miami HEAT in a rematch they’ll all freely admit they’re absolutely dying to get.
That’s several months away, however. George and the Pacers are trying to maintain some perspective in the meantime.
“That’s too far ahead,” George said when asked about a potential return to the Eastern Conference Finals. “As good as we are, we could very well not play up to our capabilities. We’ve got to play it one game at a time. We’d love to play our best game and get back in that situation, but we’ve got to worry about now first and just tackle this preseason.”
As soon as that’s done, though, the really hard work begins, not that this roster is unfamiliar with tough rows to hoe.
Erik Murphy Giddy Over His Opportunity in Chicago
There were a lot of second-round players that the Chicago Bulls could have selected in last June’s draft, including loads of athletic young leapers that fans would have loved to see join the team as a potential late-draft steal. But that’s not the kind of player they used their 49th overall selection on. Instead, they drafted Erik Murphy, a 23-year-old stretch four from Florida known primarily for hitting corner three pointers.
According to Murphy himself, however, there’s more to his game than that.
“Offensively I think my biggest skill is shooting the ball, but I like to mix it up,” he said. “I might not be the most athletic guy or get a lot of shots off in the paint, but I’m not afraid to mix it up down there.”
By “mix it up,” Murphy is referring to playing physically, particularly on the defensive end against some of the league’s stronger and more athletic power forwards. Rookies always talk about how much faster and more physical the NBA is than the college game, but Murphy doesn’t think he’s as overmatched as some of his critics suggest he may be.
“I’m working on my body and trying to continue to get stronger because I don’t shy away from contact,” he said. “[The NBA] is more physical than college, obviously, but it’s something that I don’t mind. I’m still a young guy, and getting stronger will help as my body continues to develop.”
Of course, like any rookie, Murphy has more to develop than just his physique. There is plenty to learn about the NBA early in any player’s professional career, but right now he’s just enjoying the opportunity to play for the Chicago Bulls.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said, grinning proudly. “From draft night to summer league to training camp… to finally get out there and put on the real uniform and play? That was a surreal experience. I can’t even imagine the first regular season game, and especially the first regular season game at home. It’s going to be really fun. To be able to do this, to play the game that I love, it’s just a really good time.”
Beyond the novelty of just being in the league, however, Murphy hopes he really can pitch in for a Bulls team that is expected to be very good this year.
“Whatever the team needs from me. That’s all I want to do,” he said. “This is my first go-round, so if I can help in any way, that’s my goal.”
He is genuinely excited to be in the NBA, even though there’s little chance that he’ll see much of the floor as a rookie. Long-term, though, a stretch four that can hit threes from the corner could be a very nice complement to Derrick Rose. If Murphy can bulk up and carve himself a role on this team, he might not just be happy to be there. He might actually contribute.