Don' pay much attention to the question or first paragraph, the last pargraph is good
Q. I check the Pacers website on a daily basis and I am constantly amazed at how critical our fans are of the team. Instead of focusing on every bump in the road, our fans should recognize the great accomplishments of this outstanding organization. The Pacers hold the best record in the Eastern Conference and the second-best record in the league. This franchise has given the city of Indianapolis something to be proud of for more than a decade. Fans should understand how difficult it is to build and maintain a playoff team in a small market such as Indy. It seems that all the great teams have die-hard fans. In your opinion, are Pacers fans on par with the best fans in the league? (From Keerthi in Cincinnati)
A. It seems the Pacers may be victims of their own high standards in that regard, because some fans definitely are taking a wait-and-see approach. From 1993-2000, the team reached the Conference Finals five times, won one Eastern Conference championship and reached the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. That era raised the bar. The past three years have brought alternating highs and lows during the regular season, including the incredibly damaging second-half collapse last year. The postseason has brought mostly frustration - again, compounded last year. But that’s why Donnie Walsh made sweeping changes, hiring Larry Bird and Rick Carlisle. Frankly, there is plenty to get excited about. This team has a legitimate MVP candidate in Jermaine O’Neal; a likely All-Star and possible Defensive Player of the Year in Ron Artest; a future Hall of Famer in Reggie Miller; the top Sixth Man Award candidate in Al Harrington; and a leading Coach of the Year contender in Rick Carlisle.
The record has never been this good at this stage of the season. The team is on pace to break the franchise record for regular-season victories (58) and has to be considered one of two teams in the East to harbor legitimate championship hopes.
Perhaps some fans felt burned by last season’s collapse, and wonder if it might happen again. But that was then and this is now. That was a team experiencing real success for the first time.
[size=18:4fd8a1dc9c]This one was hardened by that experience. Though most of the players are the same, this team is different from the top down. The increased discipline and maturity has been evident in end-game situations. This clearly is a team that not only believes it is going to win the close games, it knows how. There has been increased toughness, both mental and physical, in dealing with what has to be the league’s most difficult schedule to this point. To quote Harrington, “We’re for real, baby.” Keep waiting. You’ll see. [/size]