Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Indiana Pacers freefall

Revert back to two years ago, the Indiana Pacers had just lost their  second consecutive conference championship to the then Lebron James led Miami Heat. This group, patrolled by coach Frank Vogel had a plethora of talent led by Paul George, Roy Hibbert, George Hill, and arguably one of the games best rebounders in David West. Particularly, in the 2013-2014 playoff run the Pacers had an increased level of depth with on February 1st, 2014 the Pacers signing former Lakers robust center Andrew Bynum and were basking in the emergence of Lance Stephenson.  The "experts" that the NBA on TNT employ, or in other words the biggest crop of personalities the network can find because to consider the likes of Shaquille O'Neal, Kenny Smith or Charles Barkley experts would be grossly misrepresenting what these southerners bring for value purposes, were quite adamant they they felt, and this part I surprisingly don't totally disagree, that the Pacers depth would exceed what the Heat had to offer for a bench. So what did happen that caused the Pacers to bow down in six games?

In my review of the Eastern Conference Final, exteriorly it was evident that two things happened that propelled the Heat and the big three to the final. Now, as a big Lebron fan, heck as one day I will name my dog after him, Lebron became the "manimal"that he usually is and dominated any defensive matchup Vogel and company disposed at him. Lebron improbably posted double doubles in four of the six games to lead the Heat to the series victory. I would've thought going into that series that the blocking presence of both Roy Hibbert and Andrew Bynum along with the ear whisperer himself Lance Stephenson could've done more of a professional job in limiting James because I suffice it is virtually impossible to shut him down completely. Allowing the Heat to score more then one hundred points in three games is unacceptable for a team that was essentially built around the defence in the first place. We've now theorized how the Heat got by the Pacers again, which was no real blunder because after all the big three of the Heat revolutionized the modern game, but a more complex issue is what happened from that point forward that caused the Pacers to enter such a sudden freefall? I enlist my thoughts below.

August 1st, 2014, one of the darker days in Pacers lore in what was already a very dim summer to begin with. Paul George, the Fresno St.alum was participating in workouts and scrimmages for the Team U.S.A, but throughout this evaluation process suffered one of the most gruesome injures known to man kind, rivalling Louisville's Kevin Ware, Donald Brashear of the Canucks in McSorley-gate, and me when I suffered what could've been a  potentially career ending injury running into a wall while auditioning for the point guard position for my high school team in which a certain coach, not to be named didn't tell me to stop as part of the drill was to run with our eyes closed.

Paul George injury

Back to the story at hand, the George injury, that dampened the expectations of a team that was once again supposed to contend in the eastern conference but the minute the injury happened, all hell broke loose as their star player was out for the year and it was up to General Manager Kevin Pritchard to begin scrambling and look for ways to turn the frown upside down with Pacer fans and become legitimate once again. Another blow in this tumultuous off-season was the loss of Lance Stephenson to the Charlotte Bobcats. The thought was that team owner Michael Jordan could re-arrange the reputation that Lance Stephenson was beginning to carve out as a hot-head and someone who would constantly clash with teammates. This was no reason for the supporters of Indianapolis to take solace however as the bottom line was they were losing a premier defender, who like mentioned earlier was constantly given the assignments of covering the opposition's best players, ala Lebron James. So no George, no Stephenson, no problem right? Not so fast, as the dark ages in Indiana basketball had officially consummated. All of these incidents proved to be too much as the Pacers skidded themselves to a 38-44 record which was good enough for a ninth place finish in the conference. All of this leads to that premise of me originally penning this piece, as that's what changed so drastically from two years ago from Indiana becoming a place that people wanted to play to all of a sudden becoming a less desirable destination then the Sacramento Kings for gosh sakes!

Fast forward, or if some of you are wisely skipping the majority of this article, I present to you the 2015-2016 off-season for the newly coined, the Indiana" We need-Playcers". David  West's free agency decision is one I want to spend the most time on. He left twelve million dollars on the table, resorting to the San Antonio  Spurs offer of a 1.4 mill contract. His  reasoning was curiously that he wanted to win a championship. Wait...what? Is this not the same Pacer organization that just two short years ago had just completed another season in which they climbed their way to a conference championship for the second straight year? When I delve back into Indiana Pacers history, moments that stand out are when Reggie Miller, Rick Smits and Chris Mullen were part of dynasty ninety teams that  basically re-solidified the Pacers as a model franchise. I've been to Kentucky, which borders Indiana, and it wasn't something I already didn't know but that part of the country is a basketball mecca. It's the equivalent to the Toronto Maple Leafs of hockey, Barcelona of Soccer, the Dallas Cowboys of football( I could go on and on) but the fact is that Hoosier county loves them some basketball and up until this off-season, the National Basketball Association players did aswell.  If you can be part of the solution that leads the Pacers to a title, you might as well put your candidacy in for president( I mean if Donald Trump did, why can't you?). Somehow, Larry Bird will have to use his hall of famer influence and renew that winning and storied tradition back into the state of Indianapolis. 

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