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ChicagoJ
12-16-2004, 04:43 PM
Bob Kravitz
Don't despair, coach; outlook rosy for Pacers
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December 16, 2004
Rick Carlisle called me on the cell phone the other day.

Nothing important.

Just a quick question.

"You want to trade jobs for about a week?" he asked.

Only if we get to trade paychecks, I told him.

What the heck. I could lead the team to what was, at that point, a mere five-game losing streak. Of course, the streak ended at seven games Tuesday night in Atlanta.

After hanging up the phone, I realized, I should have given Carlisle some emotional comfort, this being the season of giving and human kindness.

Here's what I should have reminded him:

That in Game 35, just 14 games from today, Jermaine O'Neal will be back in the lineup, starting against Orlando at Conseco Fieldhouse.

That in Game 40, just 19 games from today, Stephen Jackson will be back in the lineup, playing at Boston.

That no matter how badly the Pacers stink up the joint during this period of enforced mediocrity, they can't possibly play themselves out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

Now, we're not going to go on the annual the-East-is-brutal rant, not after the Pistons ran the table last season and the Pacers, who took those same Pistons to six games with a battered lineup, likely were the second-best team in the NBA.

But when it comes to depth, the West wins the debate.

Put it this way: If the playoffs began today, the Pacers would easily make the postseason out of the East. Through Wednesday, just five other teams were over .500 -- Miami, Washington, Orlando, Cleveland and Detroit. And how much does anybody want to wager that at least two of those teams won't be over .500 when we check back 40 games from now?

In the West, the Pacers wouldn't even be sniffing the playoffs. Going into Wednesday's play, nine teams were over .500, and that didn't even include the Yao-McGrady Houston Rockets.

See, some of us figured the Pacers would have to play around .500 ball if they were going to have a chance of making a second-half run and winning the division.

The important thing was somehow finishing above the Detroit Pistons and winning the Central. By finishing second, realignment would mean being seeded fourth, playing the fifth seed in the first round and, likely, the Pistons in the second round.

But look now.

A .500 mark might just be enough to lead the division, or at least leave the Pacers within a plastic cup's throw of first place. And then the second half? Watch out. A fresh O'Neal. A fresh Jackson. Show me a team who will be playing with a bigger chip on its shoulder.

Meanwhile, let's look at what's happened to the Pistons. Theirs has been the biggest decline since the post-Super Bowl Buccaneers. Or worse, the post-Super Bowl Raiders.

They came out of the brawl relatively unmarked, and yet, they're playing half-hearted .500 ball. And there are questions already whether Larry Brown's heart, and other body parts, are still into coaching this team. It's been a tough summer and fall for Brown, with the Olympic flameout, the hip surgery and then the brawl. Teams have been known to burn out on Brown, and Brown has been known to burn teams out.

There is something else working against the Pistons, who made their mark last year by shutting people down: Scoring is up this year, and referees are calling the physical stuff on the perimeter. It's a little bit like the NFL; the illegal-contact rule was always there, but nobody ever bothered to call it. They're playing a somewhat different game in this year's NBA, a game the Pistons aren't exactly fond of playing.

The Pacers don't need to play .500 ball, after all. They just need to stay out of the tank, which, regrettably, is their current residence. But, to quote Mike Davis, help is on the way. Jamaal Tinsley, who is getting healthier, has shown he is utterly indispensable. And Michael Curry is a good, sound pickup.

If I'm a Pacers fan, I'm not holding my breath on this arbitration case and the whims of somebody named Roger Kaplan. Even if he rules in favor of altering the length of the suspensions, the NBA is waiting to take up the case in federal court. Whatever happens, O'Neal and Jackson will be back in the lineup before any rulings are made.

And I have a hard time imagining that NBA commissioner David Stern will reduce Ron Artest's suspension without the War to End All Wars.

Look at it this way: In each of the past two years, the Pacers have gotten off to some of the greatest starts in franchise history, and where did that get them? A first-round loss to Boston and an Eastern Conference finals loss to Detroit.

So let me save some coin on my cell-phone bill and leave the message for Carlisle right here:

Don't despair.

It could be worse.

At least you didn't try to hit on Kobe's wife.

Related content
http://www.indystar.com/images/clear.gif
Jones sparks Pacers off bench (http://www.indystar.com/articles/8/202503-9378-179.html)
Kravitz: Don't despair, coach; outlook rosy for Pacers (http://www.indystar.com/articles/3/202513-1143-179.html)
Notebook: Pollard eager to return to court (http://www.indystar.com/articles/7/202529-1887-179.html)
Ask the expert: Mark Montieth (http://www.indystar.com/articles/8/025639-4458-116.html)

http://www.indystar.com/articles/3/202513-1143-179.html

Pig Nash
12-16-2004, 04:54 PM
:amen:

Indyfan
12-16-2004, 08:17 PM
I wonder if Kravitz is feeling ok, this is the first article where he has said something positive this year.

ChicagoJ
12-16-2004, 08:18 PM
He's quite a contrarian. Since everyone's "down", its his turn to be "up." :unimpress

Kstat
12-16-2004, 11:41 PM
Hmm....ask kravitz how well he is feeling.the Pistons are still #2 in points allowed, and have held 2 teams already under 70 points this year.....

But yeah, the Pistons cant play defense udner the new rules anymore, he's right :lol2: