"We built something here that's going to give us a chance every
year," Vogel told reporters at his season-closing news conference.
"This group, as constructed, has room to grow."
After a sterling start that produced a 33-7 record in the first half
of the regular season, the Pacers struggled but managed to hang on
to top-seeding in the East with a 56-26 record.
They needed seven games to get past eighth-seeded Atlanta before
losing to LeBron James and the Heat in the conference finals for the
second season in a row.
"We're still very young. I think that experience matters and I think
that going into another year, (there is) more room for growth," said
Despite rumors that Vogel's job was in jeopardy due to the team's
lackluster finish, the coach won support from management following
the playoffs to return for a fifth season.
Vogel said he believed in the Pacers' ability to thrive with two big
players dominating in the middle, center Roy Hibbert and power
forward David West.
Yet Vogel conceded he needed to get more consistent play from
shot-blocker Hibbert, who was a non-factor in numerous games down
"I think we can win at the highest level with this style of play,"
the coach said, adding that Hibbert has "got to continue to work and
continue to raise his level of play."
The emergence of Paul George gave the Pacers reason to be optimistic
for the future and Vogel said he would like to have the mercurial
but talented Lance Stephenson, who is an unrestricted free agent,
stay with the team.
[to top of second column]
Stephenson, one of the team's most creative players, was widely
criticized for his antics in Game Five of the conference finals when
he was caught on camera blowing into LeBron James's ear, walked into
a Heat huddle and was guilty of flopping.
"I'd like to see him back, clearly," said Vogel, who added that team
president Larry Bird and general manager Kevin Pritchard would be
looking into ways to improve the team through free agency.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Gene Cherry)
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