New-look Pacers welcome Barnes, Mavericks in opener

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INDIANAPOLIS – The NBA season kicks off on Wednesday night for the
Indiana Pacers and Dallas Mavericks.

New faces in both places breed renewed optimism entering the
2016-17 season.

The Pacers parted with head coach Frank Vogel after last season,
and team president Larry Bird said he wanted to redefine the way
his team plays. The overhaul also brought point guard Jeff Teague,
power forward Thaddeus Young and center Al Jefferson to the Pacers,
who tout superior athleticism and depth than previous seasons.

Indiana’s franchise player Paul George is looking forward to
testing the new-look team in the regular season.

“I don’t want to jump the gun and say this is the best team I’ve
been on, but it’s shaping up to be,” George said. “I’ve got a new
group with unbelievable talent.”

The Pacers face another of their former coaches, Rick Carlisle, who
is entering his ninth season with the Mavericks. Indiana’s new
coach, Nate McMillan brings a style of play to the franchise that
might not be recognized.

“I think our roster puts us in a position to play any style,”
McMillan said. “We want to play with a lot more ball movement. Our
guys have to commit to running.”

There’s a lot of talk about George, Myles Turner and the new Pacer
players, but former Maverick Monta Ellis will have a lot to say
about the team’s success this season after his most diligent
offseason in several years.

“I rededicated myself this summer in the gym,” Ellis told NBA.com.
“Last year was tough. I let the team down. It’s a new beginning and
I wanted to be part of that.”

Ellis is hoping to help the Pacers defeat his former team on
opening night. Last season, he averaged 18.0 points per game
against the Mavericks.

For Dallas, the new faces on the team include two NBA champions
from Golden State- Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. The Mavericks
haven’t made it out of the first round of the playoffs since
winning a championship in 2011, and they will be relying heavily on
these new additions to get over that hump.

“They’re champions,” said Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki. “They’re
great players and they’re part of a championship team, so they know
how to play and they know how to win.”

A lot of eyes will be on Barnes in particular after signing a $94
million contract. His preseason performance brought heaps of
criticism in Dallas.

“There’s going to be bigger expectations and I’ll have a larger
role on this team,” Barnes told ESPN.com. “But the biggest thing
I’ve learned in my four years I’ve been in the league is that
winning is the biggest priority.”

One of the issues for the Mavericks moving forward will be the
aging point guards. Despite the talent, Deron Williams, Devin
Harris and J.J. Barea are all on the wrong side of 30. As the NBA
continues to play a faster game, the Mavs could struggle keeping up
at that position.

Last year, the Mavericks and Pacers had identical offensive numbers.

Dallas averaged 102.3 points per game, while the Pacers averaged
102.2. In Wednesday’s matchup, look for a high scoring contest as
each team will try to get out and run on opening night.

The Pacers won both games against the Mavericks last season.

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