INDIANAPOLIS — Kevin Pritchard hired Nate Bjorkgren to take the Indiana Pacers in a new direction.
They went the wrong way.
A season filled with defensive struggles, missed chances and locker room drama resulted Wednesday in the firing of Bjorkgren after only one season as coach.
“This was my decision," said Pritchard, the Pacers' president of basketball operations. “This was a really tough decision, one that had a lot of thought behind it. I brought in my management team, something we didn’t do lightly.”
Pritchard expected the 45-year-old coach, who spent the previous two seasons as Nick Nurse's top assistant in Toronto, to make an impact with his new-age approach and his creativity. When the hiring was announced in October, Pritchard acknowledged he was betting big on a young coach.
It just didn't pay off.
Indiana went 34-38 before finishing the season with an embarrassing 142-115 loss to Washington in the play-in tournament — a fitting end to an abysmal season. The Wizards averaged 140.3 points in sweeping four games from the Pacers.
Indiana finished 25th in defensive scoring average (115.3 points), blew 17 fourth-quarter leads and produced its first losing record at home in 32 seasons.
Sure, injuries played a part in the results.
Indiana's top scorer from 2019-20, T.J. Warren, suffered a season-ending foot injury after playing just four games. NBA blocks champion Myles Turner went down with a season-ending foot injury on April 18.
And after trading two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo for swingman Caris LeVert in January, LeVert missed the next 24 games because team doctors found a cancerous growth on his left kidney.
“I’ve never really seen anything like it," potential free agent Doug McDermott said at season's end.