The 2021-22 NBA season is set to tip off on Oct. 19 (ET). In preparation for the upcoming season, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.
Up next is the Indiana Pacers.
2020-21 season record
34-38, 9th in Eastern Conference
Chris Duarte, No. 13 pick in 2021 NBA Draft
Isaiah Jackson, No. 22 pick in 2021 NBA Draft
Torrey Craig, free agency
Keifer Sykes, free agency
Aaron Holiday, trade
JaKarr Sampson, free agency
|PG||Malcolm Brogdon||T.J. McConnell||Edmond Sumner*|
|SG||Caris LeVert*||Jeremy Lamb||Chris Duarte|
|SF||Justin Holiday||Torrey Craig||T.J. Warren*|
|PF||Domantas Sabonis||Oshae Brissett||Kelan Martin|
|C||Myles Turner||Goga Bitadze||Isaiah Jackson|
LeVert is dealing with a stress fracture in his back that should only hold him out for two to three weeks.
At Pacers media day, Warren, who is recovering from foot surgery underwent in January 2021, stated that he will "eventually be on the court sometime this season, just don't know when."
On Sept. 14, the Pacers announced that Sumner underwent successful surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon.
Two-way: DeJon Jarreau (guard), Duane Washington Jr. (guard)
Training camp/Exhibit 10: Nate Hinton (guard), Keifer Sykes (guard), Terry Taylor (guard)
3 key storylines
Rick Carlisle's back
After parting ways with Nate Bjorkgren, the Pacers closed in on hiring Carlisle, who returns for a second stint in Indiana after leading the team from 2003-07, a period in which the team made three postseason appearances.
Carlisle's coaching pedigree speaks for itself, with his crown achievement coming in 2011 when he led the Dallas Mavericks to the franchise's only NBA title.
In the 10 years since, Carlisle has failed to win a playoff series, while the Pacers haven't won a postseason series since 2014 when they advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. That said, this hiring represents a fresh start for both parties, with Indiana seemingly finding stability at the head coaching position and Carlisle having a change of scenery after 13 seasons in Dallas.
One of the league's best tacticians, Carlisle will be looked upon to lead the Pacers back into prominence, but a few things need to go their way.
Getting healthy, staying healthy
As NBA.com's Kane Pitman recently outlined, the Pacers have had an awful string of injury misfortune in recent years.
The unfortunate trend continues into the upcoming season, where Indiana will be without a starter in Warren to begin the season and a rotational guard in Sumner for the entirety of the year. Making matters worse is the recently-discovered stress fracture in LeVert's back, which could set him back a few weeks.
On paper, Indiana boasts a very talented roster, but having everyone healthy at the same time has been seemingly impossible over the last few seasons. As simple as it may sound, getting healthy is the first step towards this team reaching its potential.
Getting healthy is half the battle, as staying healthy is just as important. Again, it may sound quite simple, but given the inordinate amount of issues key Pacers players have dealt with over the years, a healthy season can go a long way towards this team making noise in the Eastern Conference.
Sabonis' All-Star follow-up
Is there a back-to-back All-Star in the league who is talked about less than Sabonis?
Last season, the 25-year-old made his second consecutive All-Star appearance as an injury replacement, but the big man was an All-Star level producer all year. He finished the year averaging 20.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists while shooting 53.5 percent from the field.
Those numbers are nothing short of impressive.
Should Indiana get all of its talent back around Sabonis, he could reprise his role as a playmaker, while having an easier time finding his spots offensively with the number of scoring threats around him. If he's able to produce at a similar level, we could be discussing a third-straight All-Star appearance from him in due time.
5 games to watch
Oct. 20 at Charlotte Hornets
The only thing better than a rematch from the inaugural Play-In Tournament is when said rematch comes on opening night. To get the season underway, the Pacers travel to Charlotte to take on the very team they eliminated in May.
Oct. 29 at Brooklyn Nets
Assuming LeVert is back in the lineup, this will be his first appearance at Barclays Center as a visitor after spending the first four seasons of his career with the Nets.
Dec. 1 vs. Atlanta Hawks
There's a lot to unpack here, as former Pacers head coach Nate McMillan is in his first full season as the Hawks' lead man, while former Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce is now Carlisle's top assistant in Indiana. Coaching aside, the Hawks are looking to build off of last season's deep playoff run, while the Pacers are looking to prove themselves against the East's best.
Dec. 3 vs. Miami Heat
It's the second time Indiana and Miami will meet this season, but with this one coming over a month into the season, we could see the Pacers closer to full strength, with the potential of Warren joining the lineup to go against a former teammate in P.J. Tucker and a rival in Jimmy Butler.
Jan. 29 at Dallas Mavericks
13 seasons. 1,033 games. 555 wins. 1 NBA title.
Carlisle makes his return to the American Airlines Center after serving as Dallas' lead man for over a dozen years. They'll be sure to show their appreciation, and it might mean a little extra for him to get the win.
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