Are the Indiana Pacers on the verge of rebuilding their roster in the offseason? This is a good possibility considering their first-round playoff exit via 4-0 sweep by the Miami Heat. The first order of business that the Pacers management did to right the ship is letting go of head coach Nate McMillan. I believe the Pacers had a good shot to at least advance to the second round with a roster of TJ Warren, Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner and center Domantas Sabonis. Granted that Oladipo and Sabonis were bit by the injury bug, coach McMillan had quality bench support with the likes of Jeremy Lamb, Justin and Aaron Holiday, TJ McConnell, and Doug McDermott.
So what went wrong for the Pacers? Other than the fact that the Heat are playing one of their best basketball in recent years, I think Oladipo is still not 100% and young big man Myles Turner didn’t really step up when Sabonis went down. Granted that injuries were beyond McMillan’s control, the rest of the roster underachieved and pretty much-made things easy for the Heat and this may have caused management to make the painful decision to let the Pacers head coach walk.
McMillan is a veteran NBA player and a solid coach. I am certain he won’t be jobless for long but for the Pacers, the search for the next tactician is on. Rumors circling around is that high on the Pacers’ wish list is incumbent Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni whose contract is set to expire after this season. Unlike players where typically the mother team holds some rights to a contract extension, the head coaching job is a wide-open race. Would d’Antoni even think of handling the Pacers when he already built a proven playoff system in Houston? The answer, I believe, is if the Rockets move first and offer him a modest extension. If things do not materialize between him and the Rockets, I am certain D’Antoni wouldn’t say no to the talent level that Indiana has.
Boston up 1-0 vs Toronto
The Boston Celtics continue to amaze me! With a roster without injured Gordon Hayward, it seems head coach Brad Stevens continues to pull some tricks under his sleeves keeping Boston opponents guessing.
On game 1 of their eastern conference matchup against the defending champion Toronto Raptors, Stevens used 3 blue-collar forwards rotating into Hayward’s minutes: Robert Williams III, Semi Ojeleye, and Grant Williams. All 3 are burly undersized forwards who can play the 3-4-5 positions and matched themselves well with the Raptors bigs Marc Gasol, Serg Ibaka, and Pascal Siakam. The 3 forwards complemented the starting line up of Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Daniel Theis in a 112-94 mastery of the defending champs.
When Hayward went down with an ankle injury, I thought we had seen the last of the Celtics. But based on the output of game 1, I’ve been made a believer of coach Stevens. I am also certain he is being given some good and sound advice by Celtics GM Danny Ainge. Let’s not forget that the Celtics always have that Red Auerbach winning culture.
I know getting game one of the best of seven series doesn’t make for anything just yet and knowing Toronto head coach and NBA coach of the year Nick Nurse’s credentials, I am certain the Raptors will make adjustments to try to tie the series. I think the Raptors and Celtics matchup will boil down to a chess match between two of the youngest and brightest head coaches in the league today.
Hot off the press and as expected, the Los Angeles Clippers moved on to the western conference semifinals with a 111-97 game 6 win over the Dallas Mavericks who tested the Clippers well in the series behind the superhuman efforts of Luka Doncic. The loss of big man Kristaps Porzingis due to injury was the tipping point in what started out as a possible upset by the Mavs but the Clippers’ blue-collar work ethic and with veteran Kawhi Leonard’s consistent play in this series tiding them through, the Clips are now awaiting the winner of the Utah Jazz- Denver Nuggets first-round match
Clippers coach Doc Rivers is using a 10 man rotation which could stretch to as far as 12 should the need arises. Unlike a short 8 – man rotation that some coaches use in the playoffs, Rivers’ bench depth allows the starters some quality minutes of rest that keep their legs fresh when the going gets tough. I really am looking forward to seeing both LA teams match up in western conference finals in the bubble. That series, if it happens, will definitely be a must-watch for all basketball fans.
A PBA Bubble?
In the local front, our very own Philippine Basketball Association is pondering over one conference season format adapting the proven NBA bubble concept. Venues like Clark City in Pampanga, the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Olongapo City, Baguio, and even Dubai are coming out as potential areas to host the 2020 season. The league is set to firm up plans within the next few days and I am sure that cost, logistics, and health and safety will be at the forefront of all decisions they will have to make to launch the season.
I am personally excited to see Philippine sports start this year as it gives us some hope of moving to our new normal. As teams work their way into game shape, it’s looking like the season can open in December with an All Filipino champion being crowned in January.
Happy Birthday, Jelena!
On a personal note, I would like to greet my daughter Jelena Maj a happy 16th birthday. I wish you nothing but the best!
Stay healthy, everyone, and let’s all have a great start to the “Ber” months!
(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)