Wizards

Vogel eager to keep Pacers momentum with new deal

Vogel eager to keep Pacers momentum with new deal

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Indiana Pacers like where they're heading and they want Frank Vogel to finish the job.

One day after the team announced it had given Vogel a new contract extension, he walked out of Tuesday morning's shootaround and told reporters he appreciated the message being sent by management.

``It shows what we're building here, something special,'' Vogel said. ``We've turned the corner and we're going to make some noise the next couple of years.''

The Pacers (20-14) have declined to provide details about the new deal, and Vogel stuck with the company line though he did acknowledge it was a multi-year extension that would keep him in Indianapolis beyond next season.

For the affable 39-year-old Vogel, that was enough of a reward for his accomplishments.

He took over as head coach in January 2011 following the midseason firing of Jim O'Brien, inheriting a struggling team and leading it to the playoffs. The Pacers lost to Chicago in the first round.

That summer, Vogel had to deal with the NBA lockout and weeks of speculation about whether he'd stay in Indy or land someplace else. But team executive Larry Bird decided to make Vogel the permanent coach, and Vogel rewarded the Pacers brass by leading the team to a second straight playoff appearance and their first playoff series win since 2005. In the Eastern Conference semifinals, Indiana took a 2-1 lead on Miami but wound up losing the last three games to the eventual NBA champions.

This year has been rough for another reason: the loss of All-Star forward Danny Granger, who has not played yet because of patellar tendinosis in his left knee. While the veteran has stayed mostly quiet on the injury, Vogel said Tuesday that Granger's recovery was on schedule. On Nov. 7, the Pacers said he could miss up to three months, meaning he could be back by mid-February.

Despite losing Granger, and a tough start, the Pacers have won 10 of their last 13 games. Nothing about Vogel's tenure has been easy, yet he's still managed to go 82-56 and his team has a share of the Central Division lead despite losing its top scorer.

``We had to be patient with our personnel, our young personnel and we had to adjust the offensive philosophy for what we were missing with Danny,'' Vogel said. ``I wouldn't say we're even there yet. It's been a work in progress.''

One thing that has helped make things easier, though, is the development of forward Paul George.

``He's continued to grow and with growth also comes confidence,'' said LeBron James, who worked out with George during the summer. ``The good thing, what's been bad for them but good for him, is that they haven't had Danny Granger so it's allowed him to grow and show more of what he can do.''

The decision to extend Vogel's deal came just as Indiana was preparing to host Miami, the Southeast Division champ, for the first time this season. Coach Erik Spoelstra said the Heat know the Pacers are a physical team.

That's just Vogel's style, and he's not about to change things now.

``I don't know if I've changed a whole lot to be honest with you,'' Vogel said. ``I know I have to be firm with the guys and that I need to have a strong coach-player relationship. This is not a dictatorship that I've been running.''

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 

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