Report: T.J. Warren requested trade from Pacers when they hired Nate Bjorkgren
Update: T.J. Warren pushed back on the initial report:
J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star also reported Warren didn’t request a trade and the Pacers did consult him before hiring Bjorkgren.
Again, there are degrees of trade requests. Warren might have preferred a new team, but he obviously wasn’t so unhappy that he refused to play for Indiana this season. There can also be multiple factors in a decision to undergo surgery. Warren was obviously actually injured.
So, there could be gray areas.
Warren – whatever he did previously – might just want to avoid being associated with this mess now. He doesn’t want to look like a malcontent. Bjorkgren is apparently heading toward getting fired, anyway.
Or maybe the initial report was just flat wrong.
What is going so wrong in Indiana, and how did the Pacers get themselves in this position with their first year coach?Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report:
Nor did they consult with last year’s Orlando bubble breakout player T.J. Warren—who played under Bjorkgren in Phoenix—according to sources. When news of Bjorkgren’s hire became public, Warren requested a trade from the Pacers, according to sources.
It’s believed that Warren even opted for an elective season-ending surgery in March, both to better serve his recovery from a stress fracture in his left foot and also to avoid playing for Bjorkgren for the remainder of this season.
Shortly after Christmas, word began to circulate that Bjorkgren was indeed prone to screaming at longtime Indiana staffers just as he’d done in the G League. His niceness and “infectious” positivity seen during his interview process and training camp began to come across to several Indiana staffers as insincere.
“That’s how he is in general,” added one Indiana staffer. “He’s got like a Jekyll-and-Hyde thing.”
Multiple Pacers personnel contacted by B/R noted Bjorkgren’s introductory, all-staff Zoom meeting as a prime example. After Pritchard and Buchanon opened the session, Bjorkgren began to introduce himself. Staffers separated by the pandemic were expecting Bjorkgren to speak more at length about his vision, philosophy and plans for the roster, but the coach provided very little tangible information. “He used buzzwords like ‘disruption’ and ‘change,’” said the Pacers source.
Bjorkgren didn’t offer any background on himself or his family. After talking for not longer than 90 seconds, Bjorkgren concluded his spiel and the call ended.
There are degrees of intensity with trade requests. Warren might have preferred a different situation, but he still played for the Pacers this season before getting hurt.
It’s difficult for anyone – even Warren – to determine precisely how much Bjorkgren factored into the decision to undergo surgery relative to that just being the prudent course medically.
Still, this anecdote resonates. As do many of the others in Fischer’s story. I highly recommend reading his full piece for many examples of people criticizing Bjorkgren’s interpersonal skills – including the connection between assistant Bill Bayno’s surprising in-season resignation and Bjorkgren.
The individual stories and quotes each seem relatively benign on their own. But together, they paint a picture.
That said, I’d also issue caution. Granted anonymity, people have more latitude to smear someone. Pacers players also took issue with former coach Nate McMillan, who’s now thriving with the Hawks. It’s reasonable to question the coachability of this roster.
But this isn’t just a question of who’s right and who’s wrong. When the coach and players don’t get along, the coach usually gets fired. In this case, not even the assistant coaches appear to support Bjorkgren.
Even if this collection of stories and quotes is unfair to Bjorkgren – and it might be totally fair to him – it’s at least says something that so many people are speaking negatively about him.
That’s a nearly impossible position to survive as NBA head coach.