Tagged in: Indiana

Pacers fire Nate McMillan after being swept in first round of playoffs

The Indiana Pacers have fired coach Nate McMillan after his team was swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Miami Heat.

The move comes after the Pacers had reworked the final year of McMillan’s contract for 2020-21 and added a team option for 2021-22 in the form of a soft extension earlier this month.

Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who is in the final year of his contract, will be an Indiana target should he become available, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Indiana also plans to search from a pool of candidates they would consider “program builders” over the long term, sources tell Wojnarowski. In four seasons as the Pacers’ coach, McMillan had a 183-136 record, including 3-16 in the postseason. Indiana was swept in the first round in each of the past two seasons.

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The Pacers haven’t reached the second round since appearing in the Eastern Conference finals in 2013 and 2014, and after Monday’s loss to Miami, Indiana has lost a franchise-record nine consecutive playoff games.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called McMillan’s firing “ridiculous” on Wednesday.

“It seems totally ridiculous. It seems like you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. Just two weeks ago at the beginning of our series you’re giving him an extension, but really it’s just a media fake extension to appease whatever they felt like they needed to appease. And then after this series to make that quick of an emotional decision is really disappointing,” he said.

Injuries have played a key role in the team’s failures. The Pacers played last season without two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo, who suffered a knee injury, and without All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis against the Heat because of a foot injury.

“On behalf of the Simon family and the Pacers organization, I’d like to thank Nate for his years with the team,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said in a statement.

“This was a very hard decision for us to make; but we feel it’s in the best interest of the organization to move in a different direction. Nate and I have been through the good times and the bad times; and it was an honor to work with him for those 11 years (in Indiana and Portland).”

McMillan has a 661-588 career record in 16 seasons as a head coach for Seattle, Portland and Indiana.

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Pacers star Victor Oladipo pondering return during NBA restart

Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo initially ruled out a return for the NBA restart in Orlando, but the two-time All-Star now says there’s a “strong possibility” that could change, though he remains unsure.

“It was hard for me to assess where I was at from the long layover, and obviously [with the coronavirus], couldn’t really control that. But now, coming down here and getting some practices in, getting my feet under me, going out there playing with the guys, there’s a possibility that I could play,” Oladipo told reporters during Wednesday’s Zoom availability.

Oladipo first planned to travel with the team to Orlando while continuing rehab on his quadriceps tendon, but now his “body’s feeling good,” with no limitations from head coach Nate McMillan during practices. He’s trying to give it a go.

Even before traveling to Orlando, the Pacers included him on their travel party list as they worked through his options.

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President of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard and GM Chad Buchanan have publicly supported Oladipo, saying the decision was his to make and giving him no set deadline, despite multiple sources confirming to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that there in an unresolved situation regarding $3 million in salary.

The union feels he should be paid his remaining salary, while the league believes he should not be, according to Windhorst. Either way, Oladipo says returning to basketball is his main focus, not the money.

The Pacers are willing to pay his salary whether or not he plays for the remainder of this shortened season, sources told Windhorst. So there’s no real pressure either way. “These people have been amazing since the day I put on this jersey. It’s no surprise that they back me and they support me,” Oladipo said.

“It’s an amazing organization, amazing people. So I’m just thankful that they’ve got my back. That’s not necessarily a given thing when you’re in a situation like I am, so I just want to let them know that I appreciate that for sure.”

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