It’s a roster of no-names and vaguely familiars, and that includes the head coach.
Dan Burke wouldn’t have it any other way.
The longtime Indiana Pacers assistant coach is again leading the franchise’s rookie/free-agent fortunes at the Orlando Pro Summer League.
Indiana played the first of its five games Saturday morning against Miami.
The team is led by veteran forwards Shayne Whittington and Solomon Hill and includes recent first-round selection Myles Turner and second-round pick Joe Young.
Former Indiana University swingman Christian Watford and Jon Octeus, Purdue’s point guard during the 2014-15 season, also are looking to make the type of impression that could land them a roster spot in the fall.
If not with the Pacers, then somewhere.
Burke, who is in his 19th season with the Pacers, recently spoke with the Daily Journal about what he looks for during Indiana’s annual trek south.
Q: What is the most enjoyable part of being the head coach during the Summer League?
A: It seems like I’ve done it a lot. Maybe I’m doing it until I get it right (laughing). It’s the relationship with the players. They’re fighting hard for jobs. We had several guys from last year we wanted back in camp, but they got good-paying jobs overseas. They’re doing their job, we’re helping them do their job, so that’s always a good feeling.
The other thing is, it’s a good time to experiment. We’re trying different drills. You’re pulling drills out of the drawer you haven’t done in maybe 20 years, so it makes it fun. Some of them you say, “Now I know why we don’t do that drill anymore.” Others you say, “Maybe we should do this drill more.” That makes it fun. It’s like a coaching clinic every day.
Q: How much does desire to play a faster-paced style come into play in Orlando?
A: Right now we’re just trying to keep focus on defense. Getting stops. And part of that is getting easy baskets. We are saying we want to run more. We want to play a faster pace. I think 30 teams say that every summer, and then they say it even more in October. In the half-court we want to play at a better tempo. It doesn’t mean helter-skelter, up-and-down craziness. Get the ball up the court, use the most of the possession, but at a fast pace and make the defense work.
I think the most important message we give to our players coming back and the new players is you’ve got to be in tremendous shape to do this. We’re not going to let down on defense to play this way. We’re not going to rest anywhere so we can run more.
Q: What are your first impressions of the Pacers’ first-round pick, Myles Turner?
A: The length. And he’s got some great hands. He made a couple of grabs, just snatched the ball out of the air, and you never even heard the ball hit his hand. He’s been well-coached; he keeps the ball up. He catches it high, keeps it high, and no one can reach it. He’s got that high release and soft touch. Changes a lot of shots on the defensive end, even when he’s out of position.
He’s going to have an effect on games. He’s going to be good.
Q: Can he make an impact at 19 years old?
A: I always forget he’s 19 when I watch him. The way he carries himself and the way he talks the game, I think he’s going to be a unique talent.
Q: Have any players besides Myles Turner left an impression on you so far?
A: Montas (Kalnietis) from Lithuania; he’s got good length as a backup point guard. He’s intriguing. He’s 28 years old and a heck of a passer. Sometimes too cute of a passer, and we have to remind him to just make the simple pass. He’s shown a lot of ability with pick-and-roll plays, making passes that surprises our bigs.
Another guy, (6-foot-5 guard) Trent (Lockett) is showing a lot of ability on both sides of the ball. Very aggressive defensively and hitting open shots. Jarell Eddie (6-7 guard), knockdown shooter, but can you play at both ends?
Q: How many starting fives do you plan to use in Orlando?
A: Summer League usually does end up being small ball. Seeing Myles and (6-11) Shayne (Whittington) together. Myles and (6-9) Arinze (Onuaku) together. Just different experiences.
Q: And what’s your go-to eating establishment while in Orlando?
A: We like this little Thai place. It’s a mom-and-pop shop. No one’s in there; that’s why I like it.
INDIANA PACERS SUMMER LEAGUE ROSTER
Head coach — Dan Burke