Notes and quotes from Pacers exit interviews | 2023
After their 35-win season, all 17 players and coach Rick Carlisle met with reporters before heading out for the offseason.
The Pacers were back at the team facility on Monday after wrapping up the season Sunday in New York with a victory. They went 35-47, a 10-win improvement on last season.
This was the third straight season players were made available after the season. It’s much appreciated because previously, the final game of the season was the last time to talk with them. And when they were in the playoffs regularly, that was difficult to plan.
On this day, players make their way through the St. Vincent Center one last time before beginning summer break. They meet individually with the front office, the coaching staff, medical team, strength coach, nutritionist, etc. They discuss this past season — individually and for the team — and look forward to next season.
Among the stops was a visit to Bobby ‘Slick’ Leonard Court, where they sat down at a table and answered questions from local media. (click here for notes from 2022)
Then, each player departed with a binder with a customized plan for the offseason and a framed jersey to recognize their season with the Pacers.
Three players will be free agents in July: Oshae Brissett, James Johnson and George Hill. All three hope to be back.
Two-way players Kendall Brown and Gabe York will also hit free agency.
Below are the key takeaways from each interview.
Buddy Hield — 9:36 a.m.
Buddy jumped the line today because he has a flight out to catch at 12:30 p.m. Tyrese Haliburton went first last season.
“We have an idea of who we are offensively and I feel like we need to get better defensively. When Ty’s on the court, a lot of things change. I feel like that January injury to Ty set us back and we didn’t pick up the slack he provides us.”
Players were asked all day about the defensive end and what needs to change.
“It’s communicating guarding your yard, having your teammates’ back. It takes a collective group. You have to be able to guard a guy for five seconds.
On Ty as a leader helping the young guys: “They have somebody to look up to, especially him with all the accolades of being an All-Star and all the work he put in. The young guys, especially like Benn, Isaiah and Stix, they have somebody to look up to and everybody knows Tyrese is a leader.”
He went from shooting 36% from 3 last season to almost 43%. “It was terrible, right? I think it was getting that gym in my house and staying there all the time. I knew last year I took a step back and I wanted to come in this year and put a stamp on what I’ve been doing my whole career. And next year I can take the next big jump.
He said he hadn’t talked to the front office yet. Only then would he have a better sense of what’s going on and his role next season.
On watching the playoffs: “You got to watch it. That’s what we all look forward to as players. As a kid, I was watching my entire life so I’m not going to stop.”
On the team’s playing style: “It fits me really well because I love to get up and down, I love to run and I think we have a unique point guard who plays the game the way I love to be played.”
On his upcoming summer: “It’s no secret. There’s no need to go try to work on no post moves. I’m an elite floor spacer and I got to keep doing my job at a high level.”
On the young guys: “I think Aaron (Nesmith) took a big step. Being in Boston and not being able to play as much and then coming here into a starting role, just working his way up and proving himself. It’s hard being ahead of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum in Boston. They’re elite guys and he had to wait his turn.”
Called rookie Andrew Nembhard “probably our best defender.”
When asked about the Mavs situation and how he would feel about sitting out a game: “Ask Rick what I told him when he wanted me to miss a game. We get in a fight, we were arguing. That’s their problem (Dallas), that’s not our problem.”
“As a player, I love being out there. And it speaks volumes for the young guys. My whole career, I wanted to play 82 games every year. I don’t want to sit out.”
George Hill — 8:50 a.m.
On his right shoulder injury from the season finale: “It’s just sore, that was expected. Gonna ice it and be fine. Give me five, six days and I’ll be all right.”
On returning to Indy: “I just wanted to be home. It’s a place that meant a lot to me and a place I grew up being a fan.”
He once again referenced Udonis Haslem and his desire to have a similar role here for several more years. Eventually, he wants a role like Dwayne Wade. More on that in an upcoming story.
On the makeup of this group: “It’s a great group, a fun group to be around. A lot younger than when I was here. Core wise and personality wise, it was a fun group to be around. I think Ty kind of leads that.”
He’s comfortable with the team identity — playing fast and getting the ball up the floor. But he acknowledged that the defense needs improvement. That was the backbone of the team the last time he played here.
On teams tanking: “I’m a big believer you go out there and you play to win. … It means something when you wear Indiana on the front of your jersey.”
“I can be out there pretty much with any group. I’ve never been a guy dominant on ball, I’m a utility person.”
On Nembhard running the show recently: “He’s got a lot of upside to him and he’s a lot stronger than you’d think. He has a bright future and is learning. I think the biggest thing I take from him is the willingness to listen and articulate it and go out and try to do it. And not just an “I got it” type guy. He’s always asking questions, always trying to learn.”
On Haliburton: “Being able to put this organization on his back and be the face of this basketball club, this city. And take it in full stride and want that pressure. I think that’s what I love about him the most: he wants it. He’s a midwest type of guy and he loves being here, he loves this city and he embraces it.
James Johnson — 9:04 a.m.
On the locker room: “We’re resilient, real students of the game and our work ethic was beyond anything I’ve seen as far as that many players being that were consistent, every day, for a full year. It’s high-character guys who were willing to work.”
“I always like the saying act like a champion, think like a champion until you become a champion.”
He cited their belief in one another going back to training camp. Even though expectations were low externally, he knew they were going to make some noise and surprise people.
On Haliburton: “You could see how ready he was for this opportunity.”
On his message to the reserve bigs, like Jackson and Smith: “It’s the league, that’s what comes with it. It’s not guaranteed minutes, it’s not guaranteed you’re going to play every night.”