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News » Indiana Pacers Getting Inside 2009-10-16

Indiana Pacers Getting Inside 2009-10-16

Indiana Pacers Getting Inside 2009-10-16The Indiana Pacers have been the ninth best team in the Eastern Conference each of the past three years. They say they've got enough talent and they believe they'll be better defensively that they can get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

"We enter this season having looked at what we thought was a weakness from the standpoint of the defensive and drafted and signed guys we believe have the capabilities of making that a strength of ours instead of a weakness," coach Jim O'Brien said. "We are very, very focused on getting the basketball team into the playoffs but surprise, surprise -- it all starts at the defensive end."

The Pacers will only have a chance to make the playoffs if they have a healthy roster, which isn't the case right now. Guard Mike Dunleavy (knee) and forward Tyler Hansbrough (shin), two key rotation players, will be in street clothes when the Pacers start the regular season.

Team officials are classifying the two out indefinitely. The Pacers will likely miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year if Dunleavy is out the lineup for an extended amount of time because he has the team's high basketball IQ.

Dunleavy's absence, in particular, means All-Star Danny Granger will have to carry the offensive scoring load for the time being. Point guard T.J. Ford believes he can be Granger's sidekick after struggling at times in O'Brien's system last season.

"I think T.J. is going to have a big year for us," O'Brien said. "I feel very strongly about that. He's always in remarkably good shape. I'm thrilled to have him back for us."

COACHING STAFF: Head Coach -- Jim O'Brien, 7th year overall, 3rd with Pacers (254-250). Assistants -- Lester Conner, Dick Harter, Frank Vogel.

LAST SEASON, REMEMBERED: 36-46 (4th in Central).

THIS SEASON, PREDICTED: 33-49 (4th in Central).

POSSIBLE CHANGES, PREDICTED: Don't be surprised if Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush are looking over their shoulders throughout the season. The two second-year players will likely open the season starting at center and shooting guard, respectively, but they'll have Solomon Jones and Dahntay Jones trying to take their minutes. Hibbert got a wake-up call early when Jones started the first two preseason games. The slightest sign of lack of confidence could cause Rush to go back to the bench like he did during the middle of last season.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 16, 2009


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