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Within Frank Vogel’s reach during the Feb. 16 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans will be a dry erase board for drawing plays during timeouts and between-quarters huddles.
Whether the Indiana Pacers coach actually uses it remains to be seen. As for the magic marker, well, the cap might never be removed.
The natural strategist within Vogel might be tempted to design something for LeBron James, Paul George, Kyrie Irving and the rest of the Eastern Conference All-Stars, but he’ll eventually catch himself.
At least through the first three quarters.
It’s the All-Star Game, for heaven’s sake. The place where every February any notion of quality defensive stops goes to die.
So how much actual coaching does Vogel plan to do inside New Orleans Arena as the East tries to snap its three-game losing streak to the West?
“Not much,” Vogel said with a laugh. “Substitutions and maybe some end-of-the-game plays if it’s close. (Pacers assistants Dan Burke, Nate McMillan and Popeye Jones) won’t be doing much, either.”
Vogel sewed up the honor on Jan. 14 with Indiana’s 116-92 victory against Sacramento at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Pacers at that point held a 30-7 record, which sealed the Eastern Conference’s best record among coaches eligible to be All-Star coach by the NBA’s Feb. 2 deadline.
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is ineligible after coaching the East at the 2013 event in Houston.
Statistically, the All-Star Game would seem to pose quite the dilemma for Vogel.
Since 2007 the victorious All-Star collection averages 145.3 points per game, the losing team 135.4. Conversely, Vogel’s Pacers so far this season are the league’s stingiest outfit, allowing opponents 90.2 points.
Indiana also leads the NBA in average point differential at 8.2.
However, Vogel understands All-Star Games are the rawest form of basketball entertainment complete with ally-oop and no-look passes and basically no traces of defense.
He wants the 18,500 fans in attendance to get their money’s worth just like he hopes those watching the game on television are glad they tuned in.
No matter the outcome, Vogel will be among friends.
Not only do All-Star coaches get to bring their assistants, Pacers guard George has been voted in as an Eastern Conference starter, while 7-foot-2 post Roy Hibbert is one of seven reserves at Vogel’s disposal.
Both players are making their second All-Star appearance.
The 6-9 George, this year’s third-leading vote getter (1,211,318) behind Miami’s LeBron James (1,416,419) and the West All-Stars’ Kevin Durant (1,396,294), played in last season’s event. Hibbert was an Eastern Conference backup in 2012 for Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
“There’s very little coaching that goes on in the All-Star Game, to tell you the truth. It’s all fun and games. Once the last eight minutes of the game buckles down, that’s when they generally have the starters in there, so it will be a fun game to be on the bench to watch,” Hibbert said.
“(Vogel) is going to make sure everyone gets their minutes, gets their touches and has fun.”
That’s not to say the won’t get serious with the game on the line in the waning seconds. Vogel didn’t become one of the league’s rising coaching stars by not having a competitive streak.
“The fourth quarter we’ll coach like it’s, you know, the championship,” he said.
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