< My favorite smiley
Well, its in outline form, but you'll get the point. Its already taken too long and as you've seen, I just get angry when I work on it.
My working title, as you know, has been Why This Team is Built for the Regular Season, but I think a better title might be, Why I Wouldn't Mind if this Team Were Blown Up This Summer.
Although you can nit-pick, make excuses, or point out extenuating circumstances for many of the points, the Pacers - as currenlty assembled - need just about every one of these concerns to be resolved in their favor to return to elite status. Some of you are magically expecting the team to magically "flip a switch" and become contenders again when they walk into training camp at the beginning of next season, but I don't see it.
Here's a bummer, if JO has surgery in early April, and it takes 4-6 months to heal, he's just barely going to have begun basketball-type workouts (as opposed to physical therapy) when training camp starts. If Tinsley's torn ligament requires surgery, he too might not be ready for training camp.
I believe this team's window of opportunity, based on both internal (Reggie) and external (the East isn't as weak anymore) factors, was last season and this season. And yet its come to very similar conclusions in each of the last two seasons: a meltdown by Ron and injuries to JO and Tinsley have combined to eliminate any hope of a championship.
IMO, we'll need to make major changes among our so-called big three to get back to the elite next season. Although its no secret that I hope the team gets rid of Ron, I'm not sure that trading him (and getting a starting-caliber SF in return) is enough.
Anyway, here's my working outline to Why I Wouldn't Mind if this Team Were Blown Up This Summer:
Sure, this team also has some positives, I'm not denying those, that's just not the point of this essay. JO's obviously a great player, and Tinsley, IMO, is one of the best PGs in the game. Rick is, in general a very, very good coach even though he has some flaws that irritate me. Is that enough, given everything that's gone bad over the past twelve months, to point this team back to the elite? Or will it require a bold shakeup help get them there?
- The team’s best player/ first option
- Can be solved during a seven-game series by either ‘gimmick’ defenses such as SVG’s swarming defense or double-teams that push him out from the post.
- Isn’t very good at passing out of the double-team.
- Has the skills to play center but breaks down physically if he spends too much time as the primary post defender
- Is he a guy that can lead a team to a championship (like Duncan, Shaq, Hakeem, etc.) or is he a guy that can just lead a team into thrilling but futile playoff runs (like Uncle Reggie, Barkley, Ewing, Iverson, Garnett, etc.)
- Lots of fans pooh-poohed the idea that our team’s chemistry might not be very good * before * the “Promote my CD” situation
- There isn’t any reason to believe that, when the full team gets together again, the chemistry problems will have been solved – especially if there is any truth to the rumor that JO and Ron are struggling to co-exist on the same team
- Subtracting Reggie from the team, even though he’s never been a “vocal leader”, could remove the one calming influence in the locker room
- There’s no guarantee Dale will re-sign with the Pacers
- The guy many fans believe to be the team’s “second best player” (and some actually consider him to be the team’s MVP) is completely un-reliable when the pressure rises. Enough said.
- The team’s “cog” – the guy that’s truly their second-most important player - their PG – struggles with his physical conditioning
- Generally unable to play more than 30-mpg without a breakdown
- Claims every summer “to be in even better condition than last season” but has yet to show any results late in the season.
- Notable exception – last season. He was benched for the first two months, which effectively postponed his annual breakdown from mid-March to mid-May
- We weren’t even the favorite to win the East this season, and the rest of the conference is improving while we’re in neutral
- Everybody that said last summer that Shaq and Wade weren’t enough to make Miami a contender was just plain wrong
- We’re playing in the same division as the defending champs
- Chicago, Washington, Cleveland, Orlando, etc. have made improvements to close the “talent gap” while our team is largely unchanged, except for our sixth-man
- Even if we were to win the East, we match up well with San Antonio but they’re just a little bit better at every position (except perhaps PG)
- Our coach’s philosophy is to “win now.” He prefers veterans, but our team still has very young players in key positions.
- Is Rick’s lack of patience appropriate for this team, as assembled?
- Should we trade some of our young guys and/ or our upcoming mid-first-round pick for veterans if he’s not going to let them develop?
- I’d be fine with Rick’s approach if he had a veteran team like the teams Bird had, but that’s not the hand he’s been dealt.
- The team’s backup PGs are inadequate replacements at initiating the offense
- Can occasionally have good games
- Offense grows stagnant
- Tendency to let big leads disappear
- Rule changes – already in place for this season – are not favorable to the Pacers
- Hurt our physical defense as the officials are calling more fouls for bumping, holding, etc.
- Our only perimeter player that has been able to take advantage of the rule changes, offensively, is 39 years old and retiring
- The team’s “Center of the future” – for whatever reason – has regressed significantly during his rookie season
- Maybe the rest of the league has figured out how to play him
- Foul magnet
- Pre-draft rumors of always being out-of-shape
- Because the team hasn’t committed the necessary in-game investment, he won’t be ready to start next season, and he might not even be ready to be a permanent member of the rotation
- Individual rebounding still leaves a lot to be desired
- We just gave up on a high-post center that might’ve complimented JO very well because he never received the necessary in-game investment, either
- Even though I was smitten with him early in the season, I’m now 50%/50% between, “He’ll be a legit starting center (Dampier)” and “He’ll drive us all mad with his unfulfilled potential (Jerome James).”
- Regardless, Jeff Foster, would be better suited to be a backup (and as said above, there's no guarantee Dale will re-sign with the Pacers this summer)
- Our SGs not named Reggie are either:
- Very streaky and emotional; or
- Rock solid yet undersized
I know what we're going to hear preached to us - from the front office, from the Walsh Warriors, etc.: patience, building from within, etc.
That's led the Pacers to as many championships as Ron has (and Reggie, for that matter). I'm ready to try something different and bold.
Okay, fire away...