Here is the funny thing to start with, Uncle Buck and myself both never thought we would lose the game.
That's very odd for me because if you would have asked me that at any time during the last few years at best I would have said I didn't know or more than likely I would have said that we were going to choke and lose.
Not once did it even cross my mind that the team would drop this game and that is a world of differance for me.
Look, before I get carried away after two good wins I will just state right up front that we may be riding that high right now of a team that hasn't been well scouted yet. We all know the NBA is about adjustments and teams will pick up on our weaknesses.
With that in mind let me just go ahead and make this declaration now.
This is NOT the same Indiana Pacers team as we have seen over the past 7 years.
So far there is a fight to them that, to me anyway, harkens back to the beginning of the 93/94 season when Larry Brown took over the team.
You could just tell by watching them to start the year that that team was special even though their initial record was lousy. Well so far we are undefeated (we all know that won't last) but from everything I've seen by every single player who has stepped foot on the floor that this team is special as well.
Not special as in championship level team, or hell maybe not even playoff level team, but they are going to leave it all on the floor every single night.
By the end of this game the fans in the fieldhouse had bonded with this team and were genuinely into this game. The excitement that some of you felt on tv was real and genuine at the game, there was no need for canned heat. As small as the crowd was, they were passionate to end this game.
The crowds being small are to be expected and no winning two games to start the season will not turn the local attitude around right away. But I believe if they continue to play with this level of compassion and emotion and yes win some of them, that the locals will be back. At the very least it will end the bitterness towards the team.
I hate to wax all philisophical on all of you but to me this season is almost as much about how they play the games as it is the results of playing the game.
The fact that right now there is no one star, no one player above the others fits us very well.
In fact can I just take this moment to offer a slight rebuttal to all of the "big city" talk that we have to hear over and over and over again.
Superstar ball is just boring. I'm sorry it is. If the fact that I like ball movement, multiple scoring options, strong team defense and attacking loose balls makes me a hillbilly hick then so be it.
It's called a team sport for a reason.
So while I am not one to throw Rick Carlisle under the bus as I think he is a very good coach and got a bum deal here, I will say this. I don't think he truely knew how to coach a player like Jermaine O'Neal.
Instead of making him a strong weapon in an arsenal, he made him the only big gun. Thus making him the biggest target.
Think of him as one of those old German Railway guns back in WW2. Yes, they were powerfull and if they ever hit you they could wipe you out in a heart beat. However they were easy to spot and once the allies found them they would just pound them till they were destroyed and useless.
J.O. under Rick was very similar. When he got it going he could be devastating, however teams would zone in on him and would just start swatting at him until he was taken out of his game.
Now contrast that with a mobile Howitzer, not nearly as powerfull but the fact that it was mobile, rapid and part of an overall arsenal made it for a far more affective weapon.
J.O. under O'Briens system so far has had less of a shooting role, yet has become a far more deadly weapon due to his movement outside the post and his passing ability.
Seven assist from your powerforward is nothing to sneeze at and these weren't the accidental assist that sometimes get awarded either. These were pinpoint passes to Dunleavy that led directly to scores.
Also while I'm talking about O'Neal let me state this. He was hosed on that sixth foul. Whether he was in the circle or not makes no differance. That circle does not automatically make any solid defensive stance a blocking foul.
He clearly was planted and at worst that should have just been a no call. The refs. have morphed that rule somehow into making anything in that area of the floor a blocking foul which to my understanding is not how the rule was written or intended.
I'm just glad he didn't get a "T" but to be honest with you I would have totally understood if he would have.
Now onto one last thing and frankly I don't know if they showed this on t.v. or not. But down at the end of the game when J.O. had fouled out and during the last time out, J.O. had the five players that were on the court together on the floor giving them what looked like a fiery inspirational speech before they went back into the game.
Dare I say it? Leadership.
Look one game is not going to make me change my mind about the guy and frankly to me he has to prove that he is not going to be a prima dona and yes I'm very concerned that a losing streak or worse yet he only avg. mid teens and doesn't get voted by the fans as an all-star and he will pull the "this isn't working" card out.
But in this one game he played right, fouled out right and acted right.
Now let's talk about O'Brien for a min.
I guess I have to compare Rick and him and this is going to be a slam at Rick and yes it is intended to be even though I don't think he is a bad coach.
There is something to say about inspirational leadership. Rick was a robot and couldn't inspire Shade to eat food if he were dying.
Jim seems to be like a Marine Corps. Sgt. who may use tough love but at the end of the day inspires his men to take the hill.
This game is not all X's & O's and until Rick learns that he will never truely reach the next level as a coach.
Again, doesn't make him a bad coach, but if there was ever truely a differance in coaching styles this is it.
I don't know if I want to break down the players or not because really to me this game wasn't about who hit what shots or who didn't.
To me this game was about the Pacers as a group not giving up, not giving in and believing that they could win.
I will say this though, Kareem Rush probably just earned his salary for the entire year in those two shots.
As Hicks pointed out after the game he was suprised that Bird didn't jump up and point around the fieldhouse yelling "see, I told you so".
This doesn't mean the game didn't have flaws or that the team was perfect. Far from it.
Travis Diener, Marquis Daniels and Jeff Foster have yet to have a good game in this season. Jamaal Tinsley had a decent game but also made some bonehead plays this game. Ike was great in the first half but got caught up in a one on one battle with Zo in the second half. Mike was superb to begin the game, got hit in the head and was never the same after that.
But all of that didn't matter. The team still won and they played the right way.
Granger was as good as I've seen him play, his offense was outstanding but his defense was downright stiffling.
Harrison again was huge going down the stretch and for two games in a row been (gasp) clutch.
I have huge concerns about min. once Troy and Shawne come back as we will have to many front court players who will need time on the floor.
But as long as everybody throws ego out the window and plays in the system I think this year will be special.
Let me define that btw. By special I don't mean championship, I don't even mean playoffs. I mean competative.
Yes, I want a title. But I am realistic enough to know that we need to be competative before we go that far.
Deep playoff run may not be out of the question, but I just want to walk away from every game this year knowing that the team left it all on the floor.
Sorry this post wasn't filled with deep analitical thinking or player evaluations, maybe after tomorrow nights game I'll get back into that.
But for now I just want to enjoy the fact that the entire team played like Warriors born and never gave up.