By CLIFF BRUNT
Big names? Who needs them?
The Pacers don’t think they do.
While Miami added star free agents Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, Indiana moved forward with its plan to catch the Heat by compiling lesser-known players who excel as part of a team. On Friday, he announced that the Pacers have re-signed free agents Roy Hibbert and George Hill.
The Pacers also have added Ian Mahinmi, point guard D.J. Augustin and forward Gerald Green. This comes after the team added center Miles Plumlee and guard Orlando Johnson on draft night. Mahinmi came in a deal that sent point guard Darren Collison and wing player Dahntay Jones to Dallas. Green and Augustin were free agents.
None of those guys are household names. That’s fine with Indiana.
œI think it’s good for us, Hill said. œWe can continue to stay under the radar. Names don’t mean anything. Two names, or a couple names can’t beat a great team, and that’s what we have to focus on _ becoming a great team.
Re-signing Hibbert and Hill gives the Pacers the stability they sought. Adding Green, Johnson and Augustin gives the Pacers more players who can attack the basket and score off the bench. Plumlee and Mahinmi give the Pacers athletic posts who can step in if Hibbert gets into foul trouble.
The moves follow the team’s approach in recent years. Last season, Indiana added Hill and David West, but lesser-known newcomers Leandro Barbosa and Lou Amundson were key contributors.
Outgoing Pacers president Larry Bird often has said the Pacers wouldn’t be able to build with big names because of the fact that Indianapolis is not a destination for stars. With this approach “ build with your own young players and add the right pieces instead of the right names “ the Pacers have become one of the most promising teams in the league.
Hibbert has grown tremendously as a player since the Pacers picked him up on draft night in 2008. He was in and out of the starting lineup under coach Jim O’Brien, but once Frank Vogel replaced O’Brien, he flourished. Signing on Friday morning had extra meaning to Hibbert because of the struggles he had under O’Brien. Last season, the 7-foot-2 Hibbert averaged 12.8 points and 8.8 rebounds and played in his first All-Star game.
Augustin averaged 11.1 points and 6.4 assists last season for Charlotte.
Green is a five-year veteran who has played for five teams in the NBA. The former slam-dunk champion averaged 12.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game for the New Jersey Nets last season and has career averages of 8.3 points and 2.2 rebounds. Just the SportsCenter potential of Green and 2012 slam-dunk participant Paul George should be worth the price of admission.
Mahinmi is a four-year veteran of the NBA, having played for both the Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs. In his career he has played 149 games and has averages of 4.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. He averaged 5.8 points and 4.7 rebounds with the Mavericks last season.
Donnie Walsh said when he came back as president that he was committed to maintaining Bird’s approach. He appears to be satisfied with keeping the ship on its current course. And why not? The Pacers went 42-24 last season and reached the second round of the playoffs. They appear to have filled the holes that cost them against the Heat “ a lack of players who could or would attack from the perimeter and a lack of depth behind Hibbert. We’ll see if it pans out over an entire season and in the face of the Heat next May.
So far, so good.