Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle Has no Regrets About Taking Over a Star-less Team: ‘It’s Strength in Numbers’

In a previous life, Rick Carlisle was a star; in fact, Carlisle was so good at basketball, that he was the first point guard named to most All-NBA teams in NBA history. Well, in 2011, Carlisle took over an NBA team that was in disarray as he took over a star-less team. The Pacers struggled to win games and had losing records in each of his first two seasons. But in 2013-14, the Pacers surprised the NBA and the league by winning 62 games and the first seed in the Eastern Conference. Now, the Pacers are a top-heavy team, led by All-Star Paul George, and in the playoffs, they’re a team to be reckoned with. ~~

The NBA offseason has already been a tumultuous one, and the trade that sent Paul George from the Indiana Pacers to the Oklahoma City Thunder was just the latest in a long line of blockbuster trades that have shaken up the league.

Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle is least concerned about his team’s lack of star power. He is more interested in how the group functions as a collective.

The Pacers hired Carlisle after he resigned as head coach of the Dallas Mavericks. The veteran head coach is preparing for his third stint at Indiana, where he was an assistant from 1997-2000 and head coach from 2003-2007. He still has a lot of work to do if the Pacers want to become a real contender in the Eastern Conference.

Pacers hire Rick Carlyle after turbulent 2020-21 season

Sources tell ESPN that the Pacers will appoint Rick Carlisle as their next head coach.

Carlyle was head coach of the Pacers from 2003-2007. He won 181 games and had a .552 winning percentage, the fifth best in NBA history. pic.twitter.com/sbZy8JAS1G

– ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) 24. June 2021

Carlisle becomes Indiana’s second head coach in several seasons. Yeah, the first option didn’t work very well.

The Pacers have contracted Nate Bjorkgren to replace Nate McMillan after the 2019-20 season. That decision proved to be a non-starter, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Bjorkgren had a somewhat shaky relationship with players and teammates.

Indiana still qualified for the tournament as the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference, by beating the Charlotte Hornets in their first game. However, the Pacers lost to the Washington Wizards in the second game and internal turmoil under Bjorkgren’s leadership eventually led to his resignation.

Meanwhile, Carlisle was experiencing his own drama in Dallas. Tim Caton and Sam Emick of The Athletic published an article describing how former Mavericks director of quantitative research and development Haralabos Voulgaris allegedly influenced Carlisle’s overall personnel alignment and decisions.

Mavs general manager Donnie Nelson resigned shortly after the news broke and Carlisle followed shortly after before being hired by the Pacers.

Carlisle compares the Pacers to the Detroit Pistons, who won the championship last year

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Carlisle gained his first experience as a head coach with the Detroit Pistons in 2002. In fact, it was he who laid the groundwork for the Pistons team that eventually defeated the mighty Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals.

For those who don’t remember, these Pistons were largely devoid of that star. In contrast, the Pistons of the 2000s had many key players.

The backcourt consisted of Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton, who scored in a variety of ways. Taishan Prince gave Detroit a long winger who could handle the ball and defend the perimeter well, while the Wallace boys (Rashid and Ben) brought toughness and ring protection to the team.

Carlisle sees a lot of similarities to those Pistons teams in the Pacers’ current roster, which he says is made up of a cohesive team rather than a few big names.

Domantas Sabonis was a star last year, Carlisle said at his introductory press conference, reports JL Kirven of the Indianapolis Star. He’s the one people look up to because he’s in charge, but I really feel like this is a team where, for the best players, there’s strength in numbers.

The Pacers seem to have at least some similarities to the Pistons of the 2000s. Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert form a dynamic and hungry backcourt. Miles Turner rebounds shots from the rim and is able to defend the paint.

Again, there are many differences. While Ben Wallace was more of a center in the paint, Domantas Sabonis expands the perimeter and can become a true playmaker. But unlike the Pistons, the Pacers don’t have a winger as versatile and defensive as Prince.

Is Carlisle wrong about Indiana’s prospects?

Rick Carlisle leads the Indiana Pacers, who finished ninth in the Eastern Conference last season.

Comparisons to the old Pistons are perhaps redundant. In fact, championship teams usually need at least two superstars to take the title.

Both teams have stellar duos in this year’s NBA Finals: Chris Paul and Devin Booker lead the Phoenix Suns against the Milwaukee Bucks, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Chris Middleton. The 2020 NBA champions, the Lakers, had LeBron James and Anthony Davis, while the 2019 Toronto Raptors relied on Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry. Before these two teams, the Golden State Warriors stunned the Bay Area with a dynastic rout.

The Pacers have All-Star Sabonis and star Brogdon, but may lack the top talent to challenge the best teams in the NBA.

It’s entirely possible that Carlisle could unleash something on this Pacers team. But Indiana may need something new to confirm their status as a contender.

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