At the beginning of the season, I, like everybody else, expected the Pacers to be a title contender. For a couple of years in a row they have been very good but fallen short. There is good reason to think that they are going to be very good again next year, even if we don't make any big roster moves. So is it appropriate to start talking about a window for the Pacers. We've watched good teams over the years, teams that, had things been a little different, win a championship. A few recent candidates that come to mind are the Ewing Knicks, the Malone Jazz, the Webber Kings, the Wallace Blazers, and the old Pacers. All of these teams came up against a team or two that they just couldn't beat, no matter much other success they had.
All those teams had other things in common: important pieces that were coming to the end of the careers (or at least their best days) or a contract armegeddon that they couldn't avoid. Every collection of guys has a window. When will ours? Some options:
1. It already has. We will miss Reggie far more than we know, our main guys keep getting injured, and Ronnie will never be the player he seemed like he could become. We're stuck in a contract situation where it's going to be tough to improve our team more than at the margins. This team is going to keep sneaking into the playoffs (like it has 3 of the last four years) but never really contend again.
2. We will contend for years, possibly even be the next great sports dynasty. We could have won a title either of the last two years if our guys had been healthy and on the floor. Besides, our starters (Jermaine, Steve, Jamal, and Ronnie) could easily be playing together for 6-8 years. Their contracts are locked in and few will demand big increases for various reasons. And, to top it off, we have several young reserves that seem to be on the verge of breaking it big. And if not, we have a lot of money coming off the books in the next couple of years that can upgrade our roster in various ways. This window is WIDE open.
3. 2-3 years. I really don't see any reason why we can't compete at a very, very high level next year barring further injury. Maybe we've gotten a little bad luck out of our systems and are ready for a run. All of our main guys are locked in for years, and we have a lot of real flexibility to upgrade. We aren't going to bring in a superstar, but we don't need to compete for a championship. Our main guys are entering their prime, and no big contracts will need to be reworked for a few years. If we haven't won by then, Bird is going to start looking to the future and dealing.