Every team, at some point or another during the season, has its struggles. The timing of the Pacers' recent slump isn't ideal – they've won seven of their last 17 games – and, not surprisingly, they've had to navigate significant not-so-internal bickering all while trying to stave off the surging Heat.
Maybe you saw Roy Hibbert's quotes about “selfish dudes” on the Pacers, or perhaps you caught a whiff of Indiana's discontent when Hibbert spouted off that his team was “splintering” and “spiraling”.
Miss the quotes? Maybe you saw that George Hill and Lance Stephenson had to be physically separated as the Pacers were getting pummeled by San Antonio earlier this week.
“The Pacers are experiencing a leadership void at the moment,” according to Brian Windhorst, “and the only thing they're racking up faster than turnovers and bad shots is finger pointing.”
Lance Stephenson takes too many ill-advised shots. Paul George is having trouble adjusting to his new-found stardom as evident with several off-the-court incidents. The Danny Granger trade shook-up locker room chemistry. And on and on.
Frank Vogel's tired of it, and he said as much to the Indianapolis Star.
“It bothers me,” Vogel said of the public bickering from his team. “Guys should never air in-house stuff to the media. I talked to the team about it [on Wednesday].
“It was a weird thing. Roy said it a couple days ago [after the loss to the Wizards] and nobody really caught onto it until [recently]. So I made sure to tell them that A) I don't believe we have ‘selfish dudes' in our locker, and B) whatever you might want to say about your teammates, don't say it to the media. We have to get that stopped.”
Vogel's even had to manage a rather poignant jab at himself from his boss, team President Larry Bird. In mid-March, Bird told the Indy Star that he wanted Vogel to hold his players more accountable.
“I think he's got to start going after guys when they're not doing what they're supposed to do,” Bird said of Vogel. “And stay on them. Whether you've got to take them out of the game when they're not doing what they're supposed to do or limit their minutes. I will say he hasn't done that enough.”
Asked specifically if those comments irked Vogel, and he said no.
These are choppy times for the Pacers, who aren't accustomed to being the hunted. But that's part of maturing and progressing, and something their primary competition, Miami, had to deal with as well.
The Pacers, now one game behind Miami in the loss column, can still right the ship with six games left, including one massive matchup at Miami on April 11. But it's going to take restraint and discipline -- two pillars that one of the league's model franchises has been sorely lacking in recent weeks.