By Jon R. LaFollette (@JonFilet)

with contributions from David Searle (@DaveSearle)

Pacers Media Day took an unexpected turn when George Hill made

an offhand comment about his summer routine.

"I tweeted a long time ago 'I feel 10 pounds lighter,' and

the media guy wrote a story that I lost 10 pounds," Hill said. "I was

referring to taking a poop."

While Hill was wont to treat his time at the podium like a

stand-up comedy set, pleading for his own television show while boasting of his

prowess as a rapper, he also took responsibility for his role on a team with

serious hopes of winning a championship.

"I want to be the vocal leader on the floor," said

Hill. "I think that's going to be my job this year."

Team President Larry Bird has described the upcoming season as "all

in" in pursuit of the franchise's first NBA title — a sentiment head

coach Frank Vogel echoed.

"When you trade away a future first [round pick] and one of

your young players, like we did to bring in a veteran like Luis Scola, I think

you send a little bit of a message," Vogel said. "This is a go-for-it

time."

Scola, a seven-year pro from Argentina acquired in an offseason

trade with Phoenix, was highly touted by his new teammates.

"Scola can play," center Roy Hibbert said. "He

catches the ball and brings it down [the court] like a point guard himself. He's

such a great passer."

Scola will contribute from the bench along with point guard C.J.

Watson and forward Chris Copeland. Both signed as free agents over the summer.

The trio will look to improve a second string unit ranked near the bottom of

the league just a year ago.

But the team promised an improved bench last season as well. How

is this year different?

"I guess we'll see," Bird said. "I don't have a

magic wand and I don't have a crystal ball. But I like the guys we brought in

and I hope it works out."

Another area of concern involves team captain Danny Granger, a

one-time All-Star who missed all but five games last season to a knee injury.

Despite his absence, however, the Pacers came within one game of

punching a ticket to the NBA Finals. Paul George blossomed in his new role as a

primary scorer and shooting guard Lance Stephenson, once a raw street baller,

refined his game and developed into a three-point threat.

As Granger recovers from surgery and aims to reenter the

starting lineup, some wonder how the three wings, and their various skill sets,

will co-exist.

"You're longer when Danny is in the game," Vogel said

in reference to Granger's height. "And you become a better three-point

shooting team. But you're probably a better running team when Lance is in the

lineup."

Granger remains cautiously optimistic about his return and role

with the team and is more focused on recovering.

"I need to be healthy," Granger said. "Whether I

get the starting job or not is irrelevant at this point. If I'm not healthy

then that's not going to matter."

Granger or no Granger, this Pacers team belongs to Paul George —

who signed a 5-year max contract extension earlier this week.

"I know my role has jumped tremendously," George said.

"I have to be comfortable to be the guy to takeover games and put games

away."

Though George is currently entering his fourth season, his

skills as an elite defender and steady scorer have already garnered recognition

from around the league. He became a first-time All-Star in February, was the

fourth Pacer to receive the Most Improved Player Award and received a nod of

confidence from Miami Heat superstar LeBron James — a reigning

back-to-back NBA champion.

As Indy has stockpiled talent in order to thwart James and

company from a three-peat, so too have other Eastern Conference teams,

including the Brooklyn Nets who acquired future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and

Kevin Garnett from Boston.

The basketball arms race has hit close to home for the

7-foot-2-inch Roy Hibbert, who finds himself a giant among giants in the

Central Division. In a post-center league, each of the five Central Division

teams (Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Indiana, Milwaukee) feature

a traditional center — a growing anomaly in a league captivated by

smaller, nimbler lineups.

Hibbert, who underwent a bevy of strength and conditioning

routines over the summer, caught the eye of many pundits beat writers over the

summer for his bulked-up physique. Hibbert claims to weigh 290 lbs.

"I just put my nose to the ground this summer," Hibbert

said. "I was lifting. I went heavy on the legs and upper body. Hopefully

it pays off this year."

Forward David West spent his summer away from the NBA bubble and

kept as low a profile after signing a 3-year $36 million extension in June.

For West, signing elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent was

not an option.

"At this stage in my career it's about competing as late

into the spring and the summer as possible" West said. "And the

opportunity to do that was best here."

And that's the goal for this Pacers team: Keep playing as the

weather gets warmer, take last year's defensive powers and mesh them with this

season's promising offensive capabilities, play what Vogel calls "smash

mouth basketball," rely on the team chemistry Paul George describes as "unreal,"

lose 10 lbs. and win a ring.

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