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To play the game, the NBA says you have to have eight bodies in uniform, not necessarily warm.

Thanks primarily to the season debut of Kristaps Porzingis, the Dallas Mavericks made it under the NBA’s COVID cut to play the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night.

That night the Mavericks listed five players out because of “Health and Safety Protocols.” Their game, against the New Orleans Pelicans on Jan. 11, was postponed.

The NBA rule is that teams need eight players in uniform, but NBA history says at least two of those players are nonessential workers.

In an obscure piece of NBA history, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle once coached a game with the Indiana Pacers when he had just six guys, and nearly won it.

This will likely never happen again.

Lost in the noise of the infamous “Malice at the Palace” basketbrawl game between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers on Nov. 19, 2004, was the next night.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, “There have been many instances of a team playing as few as six players in a game. The last instance was April 10, 2019 (Portland vs Sacramento).”

The Blazers played six guys that night. What Elias is not sure of is how many times, if ever, an NBA team had only six players available.

The Pacers were scheduled to play the second of a back-to-back less than 24 hours after their fight with the Pistons.

A Pacers team that was expected to contend for the Eastern Conference title was without all of its best players, from Ron Artest to Jermaine O’Neal to Stephen Jackson. They had been suspended.

Veteran Reggie Miller was out with a broken hand, but he offered to play. Carlisle would not let him. Scot Pollard and Cheap Jamaal Tinsley Jersey both suited up for the game, but because of injury they were out.

While postponing a game this season is common, the idea of postponing an NBA game because a team had only six available players was as much of an unknown then as was COVID-19.

That night, there was not enough time for the Pacers to find additional players to put in a uniform. This was before NBA franchises could “call guys up” from their minor league teams.

Led by former Oregon Duck Freddie Jones, the Pacers hosted an Orlando Magic team that had Grant Hill, Steve Francis, Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, DeShawn Stevenson and Hedo Turkoglu.

The Pacers had Jones, David Harrison, Eddie Gill, James Jones, Cheap Austin Croshere Jersey and John Edwards. A team with that roster should have been run out of the state by the Magic.

Carlisle simply told his team that the fight happened, and they still had a job to do.

“It hit me when they announced the suspensions, and I looked around the locker room,” Jones told the Indianapolis Star. “I’m like, ‘Man, there’s just six of us left. And we’ve got a game in three hours!”

Jones and Gill both played 48 minutes. The Pacers’ starters accounted for all but two points.

At halftime, Jermaine O’Neal called Carlisle with advice to give David Harrison: Drink water, and eat a Power Bar.

Two Pacers had five fouls; no one thought the refs would foul out a single player.

The Pacers played with Orlando the entire night, and led by 2 points midway through the fourth quarter. It was growing evident the Pacers were exhausted.

They trailed by 1 point with 13 seconds remaining. Grant Hill hit some free throws, and Freddie Jones missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game.

“I didn’t think it would be that close,” Grant Hill told reporters after the game.

The Pacers lost 86-83, and as their six players left the floor they received a standing ovation from a crowd that was well aware of the situation, and had made every noise possible to encourage a team to win a game that should not have been close.

Cheap Reggie Miller Jersey told his team in the locker room that it was the best game he had ever seen.

NBA roster rules, and the availability of players, essentially make this sort of game not likely to happen again, but if Carlisle has to go with only eight, he knows at least two are nonessential.

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Domantas Sabonis truly is a star, now it’s just time for the world to take notice.

Welcome to Pacer Profile, the series where myself and 8.9 Seconds contributor Aaron Braaksma take turns breaking down and analyzing the players who will be suiting up in that notorious navy and gold for the Indiana Pacers during the 2020-2021 NBA Season.

Today we are breaking down the skill set, strengths, weaknesses, and projected utilization and production of the Pacers’ star big man Domantas Sabonis.

Strengths
Scoring: Interior Dominance

From a scoring perspective, Sabonis is making it hard to warrant putting a single defender on him if stopping an easy two points is the opposing team’s objective. In 2019-20, Sabonis was extremely effective inside the arc because of his borderline unarguable post-game, filled with powerful drop steps, soft-touched post hooks, and some nasty post spins that would make his father Arvydas proud.

Each of these look as if they’ve been done hundreds of times, as his footwork might be some of the purest and fundamentally sound in the league.

In the aforementioned 2019-20 season, he took 92% of his field goals from inside the arc and converted on about 56% of these attempts. This speaks volumes about his ability to convert inside, and he gets lots of these buckets after coming out of a pick and roll, where he is a great diving big man out of this pick and roll situation.

To put the icing on the scoring cake, he appears to have some real upside as a shooter, as his standstill mid-range shooting is already a viable option.

Passing: 6-foot-11 offensive hub

Simply put, Cheap Domantas Sabonis Jersey is in the same tier as a player like Nikola Jokic when it comes to big men who pass like elite floor generals. It’s difficult to find plays where the Pacers’ point forward doesn’t hit the right man in an offensive set, and he routinely manipulates defenses with his needle threading passes to cutters or open three-point bombers like Cheap T.J. Warren Jersey, Cheap Malcolm Brogdon Jersey, Cheap Doug McDermott Jersey, and Cheap Justin Holiday Jersey.

He seems to know exactly where everyone is on the floor at any given time and he even makes passes based on assumption, not actually seeing a teammate yet, a skill only possessed by elite passers. He is a bit dependent on his left hand when making these plays, but his decision making is quick enough to mitigate this deficiency.

To throw some stats at you, in the 2019-20 season Sabonis made 67 passes a game, which was in the top three of players in the entire league, ahead of star passers like Luka Doncic and Lebron James. Although he only averaged five assists a game, he dished out 8.2 “potential assists” a game, which shows his ability to hit teammates in scoring position.

Rebounding: A real glass-gobbler

Sabonis is becoming one of the better rebounders in the league, and that is largely due to his instinctual “nose for the ball” and more importantly how he utilizes his superior strength and box out skills. Domantas has developed the ability to box out out of necessity because he can’t just out-length everyone like some bigs. Although he is 6-foot-11, his wingspan matches that, which doesn’t allow a lot of error when playing against players with over 7-foot wingspans.

Domantas actually seems to use this as a biological advantage, because it seems that this “average” wingspan for his size has actually allowed him to throw on much more muscle than his tall peers, which in turn can boost his post scoring and the aforementioned rebounding.

In 2019-20, he averaged 12.4 rebounds, which put him in the top five, while being top twelve in offensive rebounding with around three a game. They say whoever controls the glass will win the game, and there are nights when it seems like he is doing that all by himself.

With all of the previously listed strengths being enough to put him among the best big men in the league, there are still serious chinks in his armor that are holding the 24 year old back from superstardom.

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Domantas Sabonis is quickly becoming one of the best offensive big men in the game.

Domantas Sabonis has had quite the evolution during his four-year stint in the NBA. In the first year of his career, which was spent with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the former Gonzaga star looked like a bust, as his 39 percent shooting percentage was evidence he wasn’t ready for the vicious world of the NBA low post.

After moving to the Indiana Pacers in the deal that also forced Cheap Paul George Jersey and Cheap Victor Oladipo Jersey to swap places, Sabonis become one of the best reserves in the league, routinely bulldozing second-unit centers and helping the Pacers become part of the furniture in the Eastern Conference postseason.

Last year, Sabonis stepped on the accelerator, making his first All-Star team while averaging 18.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game, all of which are new career highs. He is also one of the best in the league when it comes to production that doesn’t show up in the box score, as only Rudy Gobert was more effective at setting screens last year than him. With an offensive-minded coach in Nate Bjorkgren taking over for the defensive mastermind that is Nate McMillan, expect those numbers to increase this season.

The son of EuroLeague legend, Portland Trail Blazers stud, and Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, Domantas might not have his dad’s trademark bulk on the interior, but he has made up for it by becoming a lean, rim-running machine with excellent passing and improving defense.

Though it’s a few months later than usual, coming in early-December instead of late-September, tantalizing-training-camp-video season is here just the same. With ball movement aplenty and nary a missed shot, the latest 56-second offering from Pacers Sports and Entertainment has it all, from the continued use of (mostly small) hybrid lineups to Domantas Sabonis knocking down a three while playing alongside another big that isn’t Myles Turner.

Cutting further through the noise and clutter, however, is an early glimpse at Nate Bjorkgren’s playbook. For the first 20 seconds, as the ball hops around the perimeter with all the crisp speed of a flat stone skipping across the surface of water, two evenly dispersed units are shown orchestrating the same set, which just so happens to be an old favorite of the double-big Pelicans and offensive guru Chris Finch, who — as you may recall — the Pacers interviewed for their coaching vacancy.

With Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins operating like rotating shields, the play is designed to use the four and five-men as double screeners (twice!) to generate open looks for multiple ball-handlers.

Let’s break it down.

Step 1: First, Davis and Cousins set a stagger for Jrue Holiday to come get the ball from Rajon Rondo at the top of the key.

Despite the funky camera angle, and the fact that the action is developing on the opposite side of the floor, that’s also what’s happening, here, when Cheap T.J. McConnell Jersey makes a brief cameo to fire the ball to Cheap Edmond Sumner Jersey on the move.

Step 2: From there, Davis and Cousins shift to the area of floor where middle pindowns are typically set to chase the first stagger with a second. This time, freeing Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore to receive a pass from Holiday.

Again, this exact same choreography is performed by the Pacers, as Cheap Doug McDermott Jersey and Myles Turner shift closer to the baseline to set a second set of consecutive picks, with Cheap Kelan Martin Jersey cutting to the wing in the role of Moore.

Step 3: After that, Bjorkgren puts a twist on a classic. For the Pelicans, Moore drives and kicks off the catch to Holiday, who then misfires on a pull-up, mid-range jump-shot. However, if Davis were more comfortable moving to a spot to spot-up, the option would be there for him to simply back-pedal out to the three-point line, as does McDermott.

Side-by-side, the plays are identical, with the exception of Bjorkgren’s emphasis on finding the deep corner in lieu of possibly flowing into side pick-and-roll.

It’s that departure that makes the clip most interesting. For one, given that Bjorkgren has said that he hasn’t designated starters yet, it seems notable that most of the footage coming out of practice typically involves balanced lineups; in this case, with Turner and Sabonis anchoring separate units alongside a mobile shooter at the four or occasionally Cheap Goga Bitadze Jersey. That alone shouldn’t be taken to mean that the Pacers will be starting with, or leaning mostly on, a smaller attack, but it does seem to reinforce the idea that the team is preparing for a wide-range of playing combinations, including plenty in which their two bigs, making roughly $18 million apiece, are staggered.

Additionally, look back at how Oklahoma City’s defense is scrambling to guard everyone on that possession. When Andre Roberson goes under on the second pick of the first stagger, Steven Adams stunts toward the ball and then jumps back to Cousins. On the second stagger, Adams fully switches to Moore with Paul George veering in front of Boogie. If any one thing goes awry in that sequence, Cousins could get an easy dunk diving in front of a smaller wing or pop out to three against a lumbering five.

That’s a lot of chaos to keep track of, not counting the fact that the Pacers ranked among the bottom third of the league in corner three frequency last season. To that point, for a team that has long struggled to create offense against switching defenses, there’s upwards of five swaps that have to be made to cover that action in addition to a potentially long contest. Remember: Over the last two postseasons, with Boston switching off-ball screens and Miami clamping down on driving lanes, McDermott has gone 2-of-17 from three with only three (total!) attempts coming from the corners.

Granted, this play provides no guarantee of made shots, but at least it offers a more multi-faceted means for generating attempts with other reads and counters already baked-in.

Plus, if nothing else, there’s an easter egg (staggered staggers!) to keep an eye out for during the preseason slate beginning on Saturday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Can Cheap Domantas Sabonis Jersey continue to become a star while playing alongside Myles Turner?
“In this offense (Turner) can stretch the floor and is really tough to guard,” Bjorkgren said. “You’re going to see him being very active. And that’s for both bigs, whether they are on the floor together at times, or one at a time, they’ll be very active out there.”

The biggest questions that are hanging around Sabonis right now involve his defense and his fit alongside Cheap Myles Turner Jersey, as figuring out which big man to put on the floor is the definition of a double-edged sword. When Turner leaves and Sabonis is by himself in the post, the team allows 111 points per 100 possessions, far below what McMillan wanted. When the two are on the floor together, two 6-11 bigs sharing the floor often creates a logjam on the interior. No team shot fewer threes than Indiana last year, and Turner’s 34 percent clip from three-point range isn’t good enough to make him a true weapon there.

Sabonis’ effort on the defensive end is not in question, but he isn’t a great shot blocker and often struggles against some of the stronger centers in the East. Another year with McMillan could’ve helped make that leap and become an above-average player on that end, but Bjorkgren will likely spend most of his time trying to get Sabonis to expand his offensive creativity.

It’s not hyperbolic to declare that Sabonis is a younger, less-accomplished version of Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic given how similar their games are right now. The elder Sabonis was heralded for his slick passing ability, which remains uncommonly precise for a player of his size to this day. That trait appears to be genetic, as the younger Sabonis can control the offense from the elbow while finding shooters for open looks after passing out of the post.

If he can develop a better jumper to make himself more of an offensive threat away from the basket, that could be the missing ingredient that takes this offense to the next level. Most of Sabonis’ shots attempts came right at the rim, and he only showed the ability to extend his range out to the free-throw line.

Where Jokic excels is his ability to pull up from deep, making him a constant threat with the ball in his hands. Sabonis might have a feathery touch near the rim, but back-to-the-basket big men are going the way of the dinosaur in the NBA, and he needs to work on his three-point game in order to become a true offensive superstar.

What made Sabonis’ production even more impressive, in addition to his limited range, was the lack of dynamic scorers to take attention away from him and pace on offense, both of which adversely affected his scoring numbers. With Bjorkgren now in Indiana, Sabonis is a mortal lock to get at least 20 points per game next year.

Considering that a playoff team like Indiana not only dumped a very qualified head coach, but also decided to switch up their coaching style by hiring Bjorkgren, there are plenty of questions surrounding Sabonis, Oladipo, and the rest of the Pacers. However, if Bjorkgren is able to work with Sabonis and continue his evolution on both ends of the floor, he’ll be much higher on this list in 2021.