INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Kevin Pritchard has a new sales pitch as the Indiana Pacers jump into the NBA's version of an arms race.
On Thursday, the team's president of basketball operations, players and other officials celebrated the opening of the St. Vincent Center, a five-story, state-of-the-art practice facility that is putting the health, training and comfort of players first.
''Indiana is not a small market, Indiana is not a big market, Indiana is good market and this matches that,'' Pritchard said. ''We want players walking in here and thinking about how they can be their best and we want our coaches knowing they can do their best.''
Everything inside the 130,000-square foot facility is intended to put players front and center - from the offices where Pritchard and coach Nate McMillan can watch both courts to the circular locker room to the medical and nutritional facilities upstairs. The top floor has an 18,000-square foot sports performance center. The hydrotherapy room includes a big screen TV. The team meeting room has and the player's lounge both have customized oversized chairs.
The biggest difference might be that the Pacers will now have two full-sized practice courts overlooking Bankers Life Fieldhouse that are devoted exclusively to the NBA franchise. Previously, the team shared one practice court with the WNBA's Indiana Fever and that court also was used for community events.
They don't even have to walk outside, thanks to the tunnel that runs between their home court and their practice courts. Plus, Pacers players will have round-the-clock access to their own courts - named after former team president Donnie Walsh and former coach and longtime radio color analyst Bobby ''Slick'' Leonard.
''I was blown away with the space,'' center Myles Turner said. ''Our locker room is a lot bigger, the weight room is bigger and we have a player's lounge. It's great.''
The timing couldn't be better.
Next year's potential free agent class is full of stars, and the Pacers are projected to be at least $32 million under the luxury tax threshold.
With the Pacers in major rebuild mode, they'll need to find help.
Pritchard did not address the league's investigation into tampering allegations against the Los Angeles Lakers after four-time All-Star Paul George announced in June that he intended to opt out of his deal after this season so he could sign with the Lakers next summer.
The Lakers have said they are cooperating with the league. George was later traded to Oklahoma City for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, prompting the overhaul. The Pacers only have six players left from last season's roster.
If Pritchard is right, the new building that also includes two floors for medical care for patients, players and team employees could be just what the Pacers need to get back on track.
''You look how competitive the league is and the way salaries are going and we wanted to make sure our advantage was taking care of our players,'' Pritchard said. ''To use a baseball analogy, I think we're in the first inning.''
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