Domantas Sabonis will look to further evolve as a leader over the summer

2021-05-21T13:45:12+00:00 2021-05-21T20:45:31+00:00.

Antonis Stroggylakis

21/May/21 13:45

Domantas Sabonis is locked on getting busy in offseason to become even stronger.

By Antonis Stroggylakis/

After missing the NBA playoffs for the first time in his career due to injury in 2020, Domantas Sabonis was eager to get back to tasting some postseason action this year. That won’t be the case though since his Indiana Pacers were left out of the Eastern Conference’s Top 8 after tough loss to the Washington Wizards in an elimination game of the Play-In tournament.

With the 2020-21 campaign now behind him, Sabonis will shift his focus on what comes next. And the Lithuanian big man will start from taking advantage of the following months in order to hone his skills even more and further augment his already All-Star-caliber game.

“Every year and summer I just try to improve,” Sabonis told reporters in a zoom call after the Pacers‘ 142 – 115 defeat to the Wizards. He completed the year with a triple-double of 19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists but he and the rest of the Pacers were unable to stop the Wizards’ hot offense. “I look at lot of film over the summer, see where I can be better and help my team more. Just try to use the opportunity this franchise is giving me. They trust me to lead the team. And I’m trying to do my best out there. This summer is another big summer. I have a lot to look over and go over and get better. The goal is always to get better.”

Sabonis considers his individual improvement to also be a significant aspect of his responsibilities as Pacers’ leader. “I’m always ready for a challenge,” Sabonis, who averaged a career-high 20.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists (also a personal best) this season, said. “I always want to help the team win and try to become a better player. I love that challenge. I have a lot to improve and get better on. There’s a lot of film so I just to go over it in summer and see where I can get better.”

The Pacers suffered the wrath of Russell Westbrook who got near a triple-double (18 points, 15 assists, eight rebounds) to redeem for a poor performance in the defeat to the Boston Celtics in the Play-In opener. They also couldn’t stop Bradley Beal’s bucket-dropping (25 points) and Washington’s overall scoring prowess.

Indiana collapsed in the most crucial match of the season and won’t participate in the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

While Sabonis wasn’t looking for alibis that could justify the Pacers’ disappointing performance in such a “win-or-go-home” battle, he couldn’t overlook the many injuries that hindered his team’s progress throughout the season and possibly didn’t allow them to reach their full potential.

“It’s tough,” Sabonis said. “This was a tough season. Like these last two years, we’ve had a lot of injuries. They aren’t excuses but at the same time it hurts when you try to get into rhythm and try to play good and guys go down. I was out a month. It just sucks that way.”

Indiana was minus key contributors such guard Caris LeVert and center Myles Turner against the Wizards while also lacking the services of Jeremy Lamb. Back in March, they saw guard T.J. Warren getting operated and being ruled out for the rest of the season.

“We just got to keep fighting. Put ourselves to a position if we want to make our playoffs. We just got to keep believing in ourselves,” Sabonis added.

What Sabonis will hold dear from this season is the companionship that he and his teammates built and the joy they felt by competing together.

“A lot of ups and downs. But the group we had was special. The locker room was great. Since day 1 and until today we all loved playing with each other.”