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With the NBA Global Games between the Indiana Pacers and the Houston Rockets in Manila just around the corner, I stopped by the Bankers Life Fieldhouse this week during the Pacers’ Media Day to talk to players, coaches as well as returning team president Larry Bird and get their thoughts about their forthcoming basketball expedition.
Here is a list of things to watch out for when the Indiana Pacers hit Manila on October 10 at the Mall of Asia Arena:
The $90 million dollar man
All-Star Paul George just inked a 5-year, $90 million max contract extension with the Pacers.
The 6-8, 225-pound small forward averaged 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game last season, and was also named the NBA’s Most Improved Player.
George is a budding superstar with MVP potential and as h showed during last year’s Eastern Conference Finals showdown with the eventual champions, the Miami Heat, he is also capable of a lot of highlight reel dunks and plays.
All eyes will definitely be locked on number 24.
The new guy
The Pacers acquired a few iportant pieces that will bolster their bench, but none of them more vital than power forward Luis Scola.
Scola, the former Rocket, is one of the best international players of this era and is still capable of starting for any team.
Filipino fans will have an early look at how he can possibly fit in the Pacers’ system in their quest for the title.
The return of Danny Granger
Coming into last season, Danny Granger was the most recognizable Pacer and led the team in scoring for five seasons in a row.
This year, he is coming off a knee injury that sidelined him in all but 5 games last season, and simply looking to find his way back in the mix.
A 100% Granger can mean wonders for the Pacers, but how does it shake up the team’s chemistry?
Larry Bird has a tremendous following around the world, and the Philippines is no different.
On the contrary, his following may even be bigger in the basketball-crazy country than usual.
Although Bird told me he was still not sure if he will travel to Manila with the team, he has left the door open stating he usually does travel with the team in such trips.
Wait and see.
A complete basketball team
The Pacers have one of the most complete lineups in the NBA from top to bottom.
They have a legitimate 7-foot-2 center in Roy Hibbert, a throwback power forward in David West, natural shooting guards and small forwards in Paul George, Danny Granger, Lance Stephenson, with point guard George Hill as the lone player playing out of position in the starting lineup.
Hill has worked hard on his point guard skills, however, and should continue to show his growth as the Pacers’ point man.
This unit is definitely capable of winning it all as evidenced by their series against the Heat last year. With their bench getting a significant upgrade, the sky is the limit for this formidable group.
Former Gin King
Newly-acquired point guard Donald Sloan is a former PBA player for crowd darling Ginebra San Miguel.
Sloan still keeps contact with old teammates such as Mark Caguioa, Mike Cortez and Erik Menk, and calls the Philippines his “second home”.
Fans get to see him return as a member of the Pacers and see his evolution as a basketball player.
Roy Hibbert has beefed and bulked up during the offseason to better handle the physically down low and the grind of the long NBA season ahead.
His colorful personality and blue collar work ethic on the court is something Filipino fans will definitely enjoy witnessing.
Chris Copeland torched the Pacers last season as a rookie with the New York Knicks with his long distance shooting and energy on the floor.
This year, he joins the team that eliminated his old team in an effort to win it all while helping the Pacers’ offense challenged bench from last season.
Danny Granger’s knee is still a big question mark. Although it may be early in the preseason, his performance will be an indication of how much he can bring to the table for the Pacers.
CJ Watson has backed up Derrick Rose in Chicago and Deron Williams in New Jersey in previous seasons. Now he gets a chance to help a legitimate title contender as its top pure point guard and should add size, shooting and experience to the Pacers bench.