Hello again everyone from beautiful southern Indiana. Before we start, let's all for a moment praise and honor the many veterans who have made this country great and free, and all of us able to have the freedom to be able to argue about such trivial matters as our Pacers.
Now, on to the discussions of today.
I got to visit this weekend with two very different hall of fame high school coaches. One of the topics they both discussed (one still coaching, one blissfully enjoying retirement) was how no matter where you coach, or what you do, that the fundamental, core beliefs that you have never change....the same things that were true 20 years ago are still true today. What they meant was that while kids and players may change, that circumstances may change, that your outlook may change...but at its heart and soul the game never does. That discussion led me to later, while watching our Pacers play last night and in the previous 5 games, think about some of the old coaching staple phrases that most of us have heard many times and often just dismiss as tired and old, and realize that many of them are still ringing true where our Pacers are concerned. I think in many ways, they summarize my own thinking about our season, roster, coaching staff, and entire organization so far:
1. YOU LIVE BY THE JUMPER, YOU'LL DIE BY THE JUMPER.
Let's face it, our Pacers are a jump shooting team, playing for a staff that believes in the outside shot more than most. By nature, this will make our team more streaky than most.....especially when we have mediocre players taking most of the shots.
2. YOU ARE WHAT YOU ARE.
I'm not nearly as mad or upset as many of you are, especially following last night's game against Denver. Why? Because in reality, Denver is much better than we are.....more talented, better put together, more cohesive, and more experienced. Instead of being upset that we blew such a mammoth lead, I'm gratified that we were able enough to get that big of a lead in the first place.
When it comes to our roster as individuals, we simply aren't that talented.....it's a fact I think most of realize but struggle to accept. We all WANT TO BELIEVE, but we know that in reality that we have to play at a very high level to beat any good team in the league.
Tinsley IS WHO HE IS: A very streaky and moody point guard who struggles shooting from the perimeter, and lacks the athleticism to drive consistently and create or to stop any decent opposing point guard from scoring.
Jermaine IS WHO HE IS: A big man who has lots of talent, but is beginning to show signs of losing his burst and athleticism. A low post player without a dependable "go to" low post move. A smart defender who is a nice piece, but no longer capable (if he ever was) of being the premier player on a championship team. A player who looks unhappy, uninspired, and old.....not all the time, but enough to be worried.
Dunleavy, Murphy, Harrison, Daniels, Granger, Deiner, Rush, etc etc.....THEY ALL ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE. Jim O'Brien? He is EXACTLY WHO WE THOUGHT HE WAS.....playing and coaching exactly the way that he believes is best. For better or worse, this is who we have and how we are going to play.
3. YOU ARE NEVER AS BAD AS YOU SEEM WHEN YOU ARE LOSING, AND NEVER AS GOOD AS YOU SEEM TO BE WHILE WINNING.....and it's companion phrase, YOU CAN'T GET TOO HIGH AFTER A WIN OR TOO LOW AFTER A LOSS.
I chuckled while reading this board after some of our wins. I chuckled again while reading this board after the last three games. This axiom is about as true as can possibly be, and everyone's mental health would be better if you can remember it during the next game we play as you watch us either get hot and win big, or struggle and lose badly.
Players do this too sometimes, especially the immature ones, of which our Pacers unfortunately have too many of. If things are going well....everything is great, if we start to struggle.... then all hands abandon ship. Our team's biggest problem right now from a mental standpoint is an alarming lack of mental toughness. It's this weakness that concerns me the most.
Fans like us are bad about this too, and so are coaches. In my younger days one of my teams would have a particularly good practice and I'd tell people how tough we were going to be, how we could blow people out, how well things were going, etc etc. The very next day, with the very same players, we'd stink up the place and I'd be convinced that we'd never win a game. Niether of course is true....you simply have to stay steady and stay the course.
I have to laugh at some of our game threads and post game threads.....if you want a good chuckle, go back and read them about a week after the game, and compare the same people who one night loved a particular player (David Harrison comes to mind), and who want him cut and burned at the stake a few days later. There is nothing wrong with being this emotional, after all its part of being a fan, but I think a little perspective based upon our long term goals as fans needs to be utilized sometimes....I worry about some of the people on here sometimes, I really do.
4. YOU HAVE TO PLAY THEM ONE GAME AT A TIME, and it's corrolary "WINNING IS A HABIT AND IS CONTAGIOUS....SO IS LOSING".
I feel like this team is still emotionally immature, because I consider our 2 best veteran players to be that way in JO and Tinsley. When the going gets tough for us, I don't really feel our 2 vets rise up and play better, I think they shrink......and the rest of our guys seem to shrink with them. I felt like the loss to the Bobcats really carried over last night, as doubt and worry crept into our minds. And fans, we are just as bad, because it happened to all of us too......I'll bet most of us thought Denver would win once they began to rally.
The key now is for our best guys to rise up and play better, to individually lead everyone else to preserve leads....to not play with fear, but to be fearless.....we are not a particularly talented team, so we have to make up for a lack of skill by being tougher and more mentally strong. Do we have it in us?
Now, on to Jim O'Brien for a minute.
Jim O'Brien, again, IS WHO WE THOUGHT HE WAS. We knew he'd rely on the outside shot, we knew he'd play uptempo, we knew his directness and honest approach, we knew he wouldn't call as many plays, we as in depth NBA and Pacer fans who read this board knew Jim O'Brien had a system and was a "true believer" in it, and not an "adapter" like Rick Carlisle was. For the most part, things are playing out pretty much as I expected with a few minor differences.
Right now, I love how Jim O'Brien isn't calling that many timeouts, and isn't calling them nearly as quickly as RC would have. In the 4th quarter of these last 2 losses he let the Pacers play it out, just to see how they would react, and they struggled mightily. That's great coaching for the long-term I think, because to be a real contender you can't just rely on your head coach to pull you out of tough spots....you have to develop the toughness to do it yourself. Coach O'Brien is coaching like a man who is secure in his convictions and beliefs. Someday if need be he will adjust and take a different approach, but for now he is in evaluation mode.....which is exactly the right thing to do. I think this approach maybe cost us a chance to win last night, but I'm ok with that, since the goal isn't to win a game in November 07, it's to build a championship contender by 2009-2010.
Coach O'Brien has some decisions to make eventually. Most of us already have long ago concluded that we will never win with Jamal Tinsley as our point guard (all of us have our various reasons), but O'Brien wants to see for himself.....I respect that, and it isn't like we have any one else who is a viable option anyway. It's a problem that likely won't be rectified until next year's draft.
Coach O'Brien is also going to have to experiment and try and figure out a way to play the same way but get more out of JO. Jermaine is struggling, and his knees and conditioning do not look good. This to me will be the single most interesting thing in the next 3 weeks....how might Coach O'Brien, whom we know doesn't adjust his system for anyone much at all, get more out of JO without slowing our team's offense down? My guess is that he will involve JO alot more in early screen/roll situations as he comes down the floor, and that he'll give JO some screen action inside so he can catch the ball on the move instead of just strictly posting him without any help to get open.....that will interest me alot the rest of this month and on into December.
He also is going to have to figure out a couple of signature plays our guys can run well enough to score when we need a basket bad, he needs to identify which plays from last year he wants to keep and which ones he wants to never use again (I see some of the same sets people, not often, but they are recognizable to me), and he needs to figure out a way to get some low post scoring without Ike being able to sub for JO.
Adversity is here, and it will be very interesting to see how our group of players handle it. If we can string together a few wins right now, all might fade away for a while.....but if we don't, I predict we will start hearing rumblings from our players about the physical and demanding Jim O'Brien practices. It was grumblings from the players that led to his dismissal in Philadelphia, but I don't think that will happen in Indiana.
Basically, what I've been trying to say in this entire thread is that I'm encouraged by our effort, and the fact that I believe just about everyone but JO has bought in all the way to this new system....I think JO is probably on the fence. We all just need to realize that for the first time in a long time that the Pacers seem to have a long term plan, but it's going to take time (and I mean 24-36 months) to fully see it through.
We need to keep our patience, and our perspective.
As always, this is just my opinion.