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Opinion

SMITH: Sabonis on pace to set records for the Pacers

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It’s easy to be thankful this time of year.  I’m grateful for my family, friends, and the grace of God.  When it comes to the sports world, we can all be thankful that Domantas Sabonis is a Pacer.

With each passing day, Sabonis reminds us that the Pacers clearly won the Paul George trade from a few years ago.  He continues to put up video-game-like numbers, and the fact that he already signed an extension with Indiana makes it all the more sweeter. 

This will be fun to keep an eye on this year:  If Sabonis can stay healthy, he’s probably going to set the Pacers NBA record for rebounds in a season.  Troy Murphy (surprisingly) owns that record with 861 rebounds, set back in 2009.  Domantas Sabonis already has 235 rebounds through the team’s first 20 games.  He’s on pace for nearly 1,000 boards, and he even missed a few games.  At his current rate, he could miss another 10 games this season and still break the record.

As a coach, I like to do the “Rodman rebounding drill” at practice. Maybe I should change the name to “Sabonis” to make it more modern. 

Sabonis has also been a double-double machine.  He’s played in 18 games this season, and has already recorded a double-double in 15 of them.  That’s tied for fourth-best in the NBA, and he has reached 15 double-doubles in six fewer games than anybody else in franchise history.

Sabonis had 15 double-doubles in the entire 2017-2018 season, and that led the Pacers roster that year.  In this decade, putting together 15-20 double-doubles would typically lead the team each season.  That’s just another stat Sabonis will likely obliterate this year.

The all-time Pacers record for double-doubles in a season also belongs to Troy Murphy. He had 49 of them in 2008-2009.  Sabonis could break that franchise record as well.

“He has a high basketball IQ,” said Pacers Head Coach Nate McMillan.  “He really gets after it on the glass. He’s been playing really well with Malcolm (Brogdon). He brings a lot to our team, and it’s great to see.”

If you want some high quality entertainment, go to a Pacers home game and watch opposing players try to guard Domantas Sabonis in person.  This has become one of my favorite traditions over the last few years.  Sabonis shot a franchise record 59% from the field last season, and is shooting 52% so far this year.  The only hope opposing teams have is to try and rough him up and hope they don’t get whistled for a foul.  Otherwise, the beast will feast in the paint all night long.

As Caitlin Cooper recently pointed out (SB Nation), Sabonis is also 2nd in the NBA in screen-assists per game (7.5). If his production doesn’t impress you enough (18.4 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists), consider how many points he also gives the Pacers by setting good screens for his teammates.

“We’re building that trust together, and we’re playing with confidence,” Sabonis said. “That’s good and it’s dangerous.  We feel good about the team we can be.”

While the Pacers patiently wait for their star Victor Oladipo to return, another one is developing before their eyes.  With a 13-7 record to start the season, it’s still a great thing for Pacer fans to know- Even better days are ahead.

Tyler Smith covers the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Hoosier basketball for Indy Sports Legends. Smith is also the youth pastor at New Hope Christian Church, and the varsity girl’s basketball coach at Crawfordsville High School.

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