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Pacers aim to grow, build on past gains

– Pacers President Donnie Walsh doesn’t think his team has to make many adjustments to be able to contend for an NBA title.

Since coach Frank Vogel took over the team midway through the 2010-11 season, the Pacers have done nothing but take steps forward. They went to the playoffs for the first time in four years in 2011, then lost to the eventual champion Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs last season.

“Continue that, you just continue the way we’ve been,” Walsh said Monday. “The priority of the team is to play like we did at the end of last year, which meant becoming a true team.”

Vogel is ready to take the next step and that means going further in the playoffs.

“We want to grow,” Vogel said. “Looking from a playoff standpoint we got to the second round last year so we’re hoping to get further than that. We got a third season in the regular season, we’re hoping to do better than that. Those would probably be the first steps in taking the next step as a franchise.”

The first changes though were in the front office. Larry Bird stepped down as president of basketball operations and Walsh returned to the organization to fill the position. Kevin Pritchard replaced David Morway as general manager.

Then the roster changes started.

Darren Collison went from starting point guard to the bench and then was sent to the Dallas Mavericks so the Pacers could acquire a back-up center in Ian Mahinmi to play behind Roy Hibbert, who signed a new contract in the offseason. New faces include point guard D.J. Augustin, backing up George Hill, and forward Gerald Green.

“I think our bench will be even better than it was last year,” Pacers forward Danny Granger said. “One guy who I’m really, really impressed with is D.J. Augustin. I think his pass-first mentality and the fact that he’s a starting guard and we have him coming off the bench and I think what Gerald Green did last year in New Jersey, he was a really good scorer for them off the bench.”

The Pacers still don’t have their superstar player and the offseason moves really weren’t big enough to create a great deal of noise on a national scale, but that’s OK with Hibbert.

“We’re the best kept secret,” Hibbert said. “We’ve been working for a while. We’ve been playing and working out together as a team. For the past three weeks we’ve had like 12 guys in the gym.”

When the Pacers begin training camp today, Vogel said he will focus on the little things. “Details and habits,” Vogel said. “The ability to do the little things that we like to do on a daily basis. When you’re able to have the practice time it gives you more time to ingrain those habits and also expand on the things you can do defensively and offensively.”

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