Indiana Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren's future with the team is uncertain, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Per Wojnarowski, Bjorkgren needs to work on his relationships with key players in the locker room, but has shown a willingness to do so. The Pacers are 30-34 on the season, a disappointing outcome for a franchise that has finished below .500 only once in the past 10 seasons.
Further reporting from Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report sheds light on some of the specific issues inside the Pacers' locker room and paints a picture of a combative coach who was hired for his relationship with the front office, rather than with the players or other coaches.
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Most notably, TJ Warren requested a trade when he heard Bjorkgren was going to be hired, and then elected to have season-ending surgery so he wouldn't have to play for him anymore.
Nor did they consult with last year's Orlando Bubble breakout player T.J. Warren—who played under Bjorkgren in Phoenix—according to sources. When news of Bjorkgren's hire became public, Warren requested a trade from the Pacers, according to sources.
It's believed that Warren even opted for an elective season-ending surgery in March, both to better serve his recovery from a stress fracture in his left foot and also to avoid playing for Bjorkgren for the remainder of this season.
Furthermore, longtime assistant coach Billy Bayno's resignation earlier this season was reportedly in part due to a desire to no longer work with Bjorkgren.
Indiana's season was destroyed by injuries. Warren has hardly played this year. Caris LeVert, who was acquired in a midseason blockbuster, missed two months after a mass was found on his kidney during his post-trade physical. Myles Turner has been out since the beginning of April with a foot injury, and Jeremy Lamb has been in and out of the lineup due to knee issues.
Yet Indiana survived two seasons' worth of injuries to Victor Oladipo under Nate McMillan, who is thriving as coach of the Hawks right now. They still have All-Star Domantas Sabonis, and this is an organization that expects to be competitive on a yearly basis. Regardless of the reason, the Pacers have struggled significantly this season, and if the various reporting on the state of Bjorkgren's relationships with key players is true, he is unlikely to garner much sympathy from the locker room.
This has been something of a transitional season in Indiana. The Oladipo trade was surprising, and both Turner and Malcolm Brogdon have been in trade rumors at points since this past offseason. The Pacers have spent the past several seasons trying to make the jump from good to great, but this season, they've gone in the wrong direction, and if Bjorkgren can't change that soon, he may be out of a job in the near future.