View Full Version : REPOST:Guokas-Pacers looking at lost season

03-05-2005, 03:57 PM
I thought I'd revisit this. He talked about the hole the team would have to climb back out of but he never really talked about 'why' he didn't think they could do it. He focused more on why he thought there would be a 'hole'.

In any case, the theme and these last lines are what has stuck with me ever since I read this article:

Replacing one top player is tough, but replacing three is next to impossible.

The Pacers are finding that out, and never will that message hit home more than in April when Indiana will likely be on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin.

I'll admit, until I read this I was thinking we'd have a worse record than I would've hoped, and without Artest the playoffs would be tougher.... but I still expected things to straighten up and the Pacers be a factor by January (early Feb) when Sjax and JO returned. Maybe not a factor for a championship (tho I didn't discount it because trades were always possible if we were close and MAYBE with Sjax and players stepping up we'd find something) but at least an ECF factor.

Then I read this and I started reining things in. I started thinking about the loss of momentum. The crowd losing their 'buzz' for the team. The team questioning the losses. Players over-extended. Injuries. Chaos. Distractions. Players returning rusty and joining chaos. The odds of Donnie Walsh doing anything but standing pat on trades. That only led to questions to how our coaching would handle this. How could they handle it?

Pretty soon I was adding my "Jim Mora" sig that I've seen no reason to change yet...

But I digress... I should shut up and paste the article.


Pacers Looking at Lost Season

Suspensions could land Indy in the lottery
Pacers guard Fred Jones is a much improved shooter, and his offensive contributions are key for Indiana, which has lost its three top players to lengthy suspensions, says Matt Guokas of NBCSports.com.

By Matt Guokas
NBCSports.com contributor
Updated: 11:01 p.m. ET Dec. 16, 2004

Indiana is paying the price for the long-term suspensions of its three top players after the Nov. 19 brawl at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Some maintain the Pacers' playoff hopes won't be crushed by the loss of Ron Artest, Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson, but it would be a surprise to me if Indiana makes it to the postseason.

Prospects not promising
Once NBA commissioner David Stern announced the suspensions of Artest for the rest of this season, Jackson for 30 games, and O'Neal for 25 games, I thought Indiana would clearly drop out of the playoff race, and not be able to get back in it.

I know some others feel differently, figuring that with the bit of cushion the Pacers had in the standings before the suspensions, and with the talent level being what it is in the Eastern Conference, Indiana could still land the seventh or eighth seed.

But I just think there are enough other teams in the Eastern Conference that will get up close to or above 40 wins, and that will spell doom for the Pacers as I don't see them winning 40 games.

They did win three of their first four games after the suspensions, but I think having the pressure off and the expectations diminished paved the way for them to play loose in those games, and catch their opponents off guard.

But since then the Pacers have been skidding, taking a seven-game losing streak into their Dec. 14 meeting with the Hawks in Atlanta.

There's just not a lot of talent remaining on the Indiana roster, and over time that will catch up with the Pacers.

Between the suspensions and injuries, the Pacers have had 19 players suit up this season, tying a franchise record set in 1996-97.

Already in a bind without Artest, Jackson, and O'Neal, Indiana's load gets even heavier when key players such as Jeff Foster, Scot Pollard, Jamaal Tinsley, Austin Croshere, Jonathan Bender and Reggie Miller are out hurt.

The lower seeds in the Eastern Conference will likely be up for grabs, but I think they will be out of Indiana's reach unless some other teams vying for those spots have key players go down with injuries or never shake off their early-season doldrums.

Tinsley vital to Pacers' cause
Point guard Jamaal Tinsley has missed some time with a sprained ankle, but keeping him healthy is critical for the Pacers.

When Tinsley is playing at a high level, the Pacers play their best basketball.

Tinsley is in kind of a no-lose position because the team's expectations have lowered significantly since it became severely shorthanded.

If things go well people will be singing Tinsley's praises, and if they don't, it will be said that he just doesn't have enough good players around him.

But Tinsley has been doing what has been asked of him, and showing the talent that he possesses.

He has to both score and make passes to create shots for his teammates, and make the right decisions on when to do each of those things.

From what I've seen of him this season, he is running the show pretty well.

With the players they've lost, the Pacers definitely need offense from Tinsley to have a chance to win.

Opposing teams realize that as well, and they may concentrate on shutting down Tinsley, an obvious concern for the Pacers.

Youth is served
After the suspensions, and with some key veterans still injured, Indiana turned to younger players to help pick up the slack.

I was surprised at how well Fred Jones, in his third pro season, and James Jones, a second-year player, stepped up and performed as for a stretch they both were go-to guys for the Pacers.

They haven't played enough minutes, and don't have enough experience for anyone to know if they can sustain a consistently solid level of play through the rest of the season.

And their minutes have lessened with the return of some injured veterans.

Two big questions for Fred Jones when he entered the NBA was what would his shooting range be and how consistent would he be with his offense?

He's become a much better shooter, and that was the case even before his playing time increased considerably after the suspensions.

He was hitting three-pointers at a very high percentage, which is something he never showed he could do before.

He's also shooting the mid-range jumper well, and has always been a good slasher and driver.

James Jones kind of came out of nowhere, and showed he can be a plus.

He looks very confident in his shot, plays with assertiveness, but also plays under control.

He looks like a good middle-to-long-distance shooter, and puts forth a good defensive effort.

If any positives can come out of the suspensions for Indiana, the development of the Joneses is certainly one.

Inside jobs
In their first 20 games, the Pacers used 13 different starting lineups.

Besides Fred Jones and James Jones, I have been impressed with David Harrison, the final pick in the first round of last year's draft.

The 7-foot Harrison has showed me something, and he looks to have the skills to play in the low post.

He has a big body, and isn't shy about getting physical.

Harrison was expected to have a difficult time breaking into the rotation as a rookie, but the suspensions changed that.

The Pacers are hoping that Harrison can back up Jeff Foster, and provide them with another big body to go inside and do a lot of the dirty work.

To me the 6-foot-10 Croshere is a complimentary player, who would be at his best when he is around the Pacers' better players, but I don't think he's a guy Indiana can rely on every game to carry a specific scoring load.

He is a hustle and energy guy, and some nights the shots fall for him and some nights they don't.

Damage is done
Since the suspensions, the Pacers have probably become at least a bit more reliant on the three-pointer, but no matter what route they take, the state of the team has been severely weakened by the absences of Artest, Jackson and O'Neal.

Artest and O'Neal are All-Stars who do so many different things for their team, and the offseason addition of Jackson addressed a need for outside scoring and defense.

Replacing one top player is tough, but replacing three is next to impossible.

The Pacers are finding that out, and never will that message hit home more than in April when Indiana will likely be on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin.

03-05-2005, 05:19 PM
Remember, that was written BEFORE we picked up DD.