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How the Pacers can improve their defensive identity this season

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For many, October is a time filled with crunchy leaves, spooky decorations and baseball playoffs. It is also the beginning of the NBA season.

Media Day for NBA teams took place Oct. 1. Many from the Indiana Pacers, including Head Coach Rick Carlisle, were in attendance to address the state of the franchise. One of the biggest concerns lies on the defensive side of the ball. Last season, the Indiana Pacers ranked 26 out of 30 in team defense, allowing 117 points per contest. Coach Carlisle believes that the roster changes will help secure a respectable defensive identity.

“We’ve got a roster full of exciting, young, talented guys on great contracts,” Carlisle said. “The term I like is, ‘competitive integrity.’ If you want to be a championship teammate, you have to do all of the hard things. There are a lot of decisions that are going to have to be made in the coming months,” Carlisle said.

One of those “great contracts” Coach Carlisle was referring to was Tyrese Haliburton who signed a five-year $260 million extension with the Pacers. Haliburton had a breakout season last year, averaging 20.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game. Haliburton played 56 games last season. If Haliburton had played an additional two games to meet the league’s minimum of 58 games for stat leaders, he would have finished in the top five of assists per game.

The media asked Haliburton about his biggest takeaway after competing in the FIBA World Cup earlier this summer.

“My biggest takeaway is that I am tired of losing,” Haliburton said. “I just want to win, and it seems like I haven’t had a winning season since the freshman year of college. So, to be honest, I’m just tired. I just want to win games.”

Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle addressing the media on the current state of the team during NBA Media Day at the Ascension St. Vincent Center in downtown Indianapolis on Oct. 2. (Photo/Walt Thomas)

Teammate Buddy Hield asked Haliburton if he is interested in playing in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, France.

“If asked, of course, I would love to,” Haliburton said.

Additionally, the Indiana Pacers secured the services of Denver Nuggets champion forward Bruce Brown. The acquisition of Brown should help improve the team’s defensive rating, just as it did during his time with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray in Denver.

“We have a lot of experience and a young talented team with great players that knows what it takes to get [an NBA Championship],” Brown said. “All of the guys have come to me asking how playing in the Finals was for me, the playoffs, the atmosphere was so, I’ve shared my thoughts on everything.”

Brown’s defense was one of the primary reasons the Pacers chose to go after him during the offseason. He also spoke about the importance of the Pacers having a defensive identity.

“The first thing Rick [Carlisle] said to me is I need to be a great defender,” Brown said. “I have been forcing everyone to get better [on defense], especially Ben Mathurin. He has it, he just has to want to.”

Sophomore shooting guard Bennedict Mathurin had a terrific season last year. The Arizona product averaged 16.7 points per game while shooting 43.4% from the field. Defensively, Mathurin averaged 4.1 boards and a half of a steal per contest, via ESPN.

Mathurin spoke of improving his defense, echoing Brown’s earlier sentiments.

Indiana Pacers; Media Day; Benedict Mathurin
Benedict Mathurin (00) on Media Day on Oct. 2 (Photo/Walt Thomas)

“I would say consistency,” Mathurin said. “There can’t be a day where I have a lot of [defensive] energy then another day where I don’t have a lot of [defensive] energy. I’ve watched film a lot this summer trying to improve my weaknesses. I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job, and I’m more confident going into this year.”

Another key piece to improving the Pacers’ defensive identity is veteran center Myles Turner. The two-time leader in blocks vocalized his opinions regarding the team’s defense.

“When you have guys that have been [to the NBA Finals], like Bruce, it brings a different type of mentality to this team,” Turner said. “I am so glad that we are taking a step in the right direction.

The drafting of Jerace Walker, signing of Obi Toppin, and uncertainty of Buddy Hield, who was in trade talks, were other notable events of the offseason.

The first Pacers’ preseason game is against the Grizzlies in Memphis Oct. 8. The regular season opens with a game against the Washington Wizards in Downtown Indianapolis Oct. 25 at 7 p.m.


Contact multi-media staff writer Noral Parham III at 317-762-7846. Follow him on Twitter @NoralParham. For more Indiana Pacers news all season long, click here.

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