T.J. McConnell on the Pacers' rocky start, frequent lineup changes and low scoring after 10 days
"It’s early, no need to hit the panic button right now. But we’ve got to have a sense of urgency..."
The Pacers started the season without their top two scorers in Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren, they went on the road for their first two games and could have won both. Instead, they were one-point losses.
Four other Pacers have already missed time with injuries, including rookie center Isaiah Jackson. He’s going to be “out for a while” after sustaining a hyperextended left knee. Add into that an entirely new coaching staff for the third straight year, plus a hellacious schedule to get started — 12 of their first 19 on the road, including a stretch coming up with 10 straight games in a different city. That begins on Friday in Portland.
Entering Monday’s matchup against the Spurs, what turned out to be a 131-118 throttling of Gregg Popovich’s retooling team, the Pacers, at 1-6, were below the Pistons with the worst winning percentage (.143) in the Eastern Conference. That’s not indicative of what this team is or what they’re going to be. But considering their circumstances and a couple awful performances, it was a rough start nonetheless.
In fact, it was their worst start since the 2014-15 season when Paul George missed all but the final six games after he suffered a compound leg fracture during a USA Basketball scrimmage. That team finished 38-44 and missed out on the postseason by one game. And since the 2014 postseason, the Pacers have not advanced in the playoffs.
Pacers guard T.J. McConnell is now in his seventh NBA season and he’s been through a lot — having to earn a roster spot with the 76ers in 2015 and being part of The Process, to that franchise not bringing him back, then accepting a partially guaranteed contract with the Pacers, and then signing a new four-year deal in the offseason that will pay him about $8 million per season. That’s double what he was making.
McConnell is levelheaded enough to call out their faults, while also recognizing the challenges of the present. He’s going to be a coach one day, like his dad and others in his family. He’s playing over 25 minutes per game, starting in three of the eight games, and being depended on even more as Brogdon is sidelined with a hamstring strain.
Before recording his first double-double of the season (10 points, 10 assists) and the 15th of his career Monday night against the Spurs, the point guard talked after shootaround about their 1-6 start.
What do you make of the first 10 days as we knew it was going to be a bumpy start?
Yeah, a brutal, brutal schedule to begin. But there were some games where I think could have bounced our way, but just didn’t. Didn’t make enough plays down the stretch, with the exception of probably the game in Toronto where they demolished us from start to finish. There’s obviously some good things there that we’ve seen in the games, but there’s also things we have to clean up and it’s early, no need to hit the panic button right now. But we’ve got to have a sense of urgency, come out and play four quarters.