The Indiana Pacers are trying to navigate tricky waters right now due to rumblings of discontent surrounding the job first-year head coach Nate Bjorkgren has done, to the point that reports indicate he might not get to coach the team once this season ends. The extent to which there are issues came to light in a new piece by Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, which paints a picture of a franchise in a particularly tough place.
The most fascinating detail involves standout forward T.J. Warren, who caught fire in the NBA’s Orlando Bubble and looked set to have a monster 2020-21 campaign. There’s just one problem: Warren has only appeared in four games this year due to a foot injury that eventually needed surgery.
As Fischer’s report explains, Warren was not on board with hiring Bjorkgren from the jump, requesting a trade when the team named him coach. Then, Warren opted to get surgery on his aforementioned foot injury, and while it did include a practical reason, Warren also wasn’t especially keen about playing for Bjorkgren.
Nor did they consult with last year’s Orlando Bubble breakout player T.J. Warren—who played under Bjorkgren in Phoenix—according to sources. When news of Bjorkgren’s hire became public, Warren requested a trade from the Pacers, according to sources.
It’s believed that Warren even opted for an elective season-ending surgery in March, both to better serve his recovery from a stress fracture in his left foot and also to avoid playing for Bjorkgren for the remainder of this season.
Much of the reporting in recent days about Bjorkgren’s future has mentioned that his relationship with members of the locker room is not very good, but this would take things to a different level — players do not opt for season-ending surgery to avoid their coach unless things are particularly bad. Between all of this and the mid-game argument between one of Bjorkgren’s assistants and Goga Bitadze on Wednesday evening, Indiana appears set to embark on some major soul searching this offseason, whenever that may come.