Hello everyone! It is good to be able to find time to write again, it's been a couple of weeks or so.
I don't really have a full length rant today on any single topic, more of just a random sampling of unrelated thoughts on things in general in Pacerland, on basketball, and other topics. I so rarely get time to write anymore, I decided to just mix it all together in a sort "Peck-like" odd thoughts fashion.
1. I wanted to bring up the idea of fullcourt pressure defense as it relates to the NBA, and particularly the Pacers. We are all in agreement that trying to press fullcourt with the length of the NBA season all the time would be suicide, as the players would eventually totally wear down physically, particularly the made of glass, foot speed lacking Pacers roster. But, I wonder if a little wrinkle here and there with a particularly scheme wouldn't drastically improve our porous defense.
A few coaches have had a lot of success with playing some full court pressing defense with their second units primarily through the years. Hubie Brown was a big proponent of this in his younger days, and I have read that Philadelphia is trying it some lately with Mo Cheeks and Ed Stefonoski trying to utilize their younger second unit guys in a more efficient way. Even Phil Jackson with the Bulls played a little zone press at times.
The Pacers defense is horrific, putrid, and terrible the way they are playing it anyway, so I wonder if it would make some sense to add this to our repotoire. If we did it in a conservative, careful way with our younger players involved in it, it could hide some of our shortcomings defensively, either by limiting the amount of time a team has to attack us (pressuring full court in a 2-2-1 zone press might at least take some time off the shot clock), and maybe let us change the tempo of the game in our favor. We might get an increase of turnovers, letting our second unit guys get easier baskets. Mainly, it might make us somewhat interesting and energizing to watch, and make our opponents prepare for our pressure, instead of just plotting on how to abuse us in the halfcourt.
Im all for this, but I will grant you that as a coach at younger levels I was a big pressure guy, in a lot of various ways. In the very least, one of the players we desperately need next season and beyond is a point guard who can pick up 3/4 court and pressure the opponents ballhandler man to man, much like Haywoode Workman and Travis Best used to do for us.
2. One of the single, most important things in the NBA is not who the head coach is, but who his assistants are. The very best teams in the league often have average head coaches, but have extremely good, smart assistant coaches who are difference makers. Originally, I thought the Pacers under Jim O'Brien had hired a good staff, but I've been extremely disappointed in both the lack of energy they seem to show as a group, and in the lack of how much say they seem to have with Coach O'Brien. I don't know which one caused the other, but if you watch alot of basketball like I do, you notice that perhaps no coach in basketball talks to his assistants less during a game than Jim O'Brien.
I think that is an extremely bad sign going forward, and yet another black mark on the O'Brien regime.
3. I learned long ago that there are different rules for high producers, and low producers, in both basketball and in business. I can see putting up with a certain amount of nonsense from guys who play great or key roles for you. it isn't ideal, but it is understandable. But to put up with off the court nonsense at the professional level from guys on the end of your bench makes no sense, and is indeed counterproductive to winning. So are "secret" benchings, lying about injury statuses, and in general leading a misinformation campaign to your fanbase about situations of discipline or other matters.
It does no good to bench a Shawne Williams or a David Harrison for misbehaving or breaking team rules, if you don't come out and announce you are doing it for that reason. If you do it but don't tell anyone, you again show you are spineless and wishy washy, even if you aren't. The Pacers could have begun to turn the PR battle simply by simply sending Harrison home with pay, while making a public statement saying such behavior will no longer be tolerated at Conseco Fieldhouse. Williams could have been dealt with similarly....since he isnt playing anyway, you might as well have gained a PR advantage from doing it.
If you are trying to give Williams a more subtle hint to shape up than this, Im not sure he will understand the nuance. The public embarrassment to him personally might be the only way to get thru to him.
4. I still firmly believe that for the Pacers to improve next season, the easiest way to do that would be to find/draft/sign an elite wing defender, even if it means dealing a Dunleavy for some other piece. The time to sell high on Mike Dunleavy is this summer, in my opinion.
Dunleavy and Granger are both fine players and people, but I think that they make each other worse, instead of making each other better by complimenting each of their skills. Walsh made a move like this once that greatly helped our franchise....the Detlef Schrempf for Derrick McKey deal. We traded the best player individually, but McKey made the TEAM better. That is the type of move we need to make most of all.
5. Lastly, it is too late now for the most part, but those of you in Indiana may have been missing out on some of the great basketball theatre in all of the country, which is the IHSAA boys high school basketball tournament. (I actually wrote a great and very long, eloquent article on this 10 days ago, only to have my computer crash before I hit send). All across Indiana, small towns and big cities celebrated our love for the game itself in the best of Indiana traditions by sending their respective teams into battle. I don't want to rehash a class basketball debate here at all, but I do want to say that if you think high school basketball is dying in Indiana, you are totally mistaken.
Thousands upon thousands of people, in packed basketball cathedrals in places like Southport, Seymour, Huntingburg, and Washington, have gathered to watch what is still the greatest amateur basketball sporting event in the United States. Seloout crowds, standing room only tickets, and parking on far away city streets were the norm all over the state, especially in the south. Watching our own neighborhood kids play their guts out, not for a paycheck or endorsements, but for the glory of their school, community, and family reinvigorated once again my love for the game of basketball.
I wish some of you could have gone to Washington, in front of 7800 hundred fans (the gym seats 7090) to watch Evansville Memorial, Charlestown, Edgewood, and Washington. I wish some of you would have followed the Borden Braves (in a town of 800), bring many more than that to Indianapolis yesterday to play for the right to go to Conseco. That particular school, Borden, won their first ever sectional this year, after playing basketball since 1917. So many great memories were written about in their local papers there (it is a small town near New Albany, down on the extreme southern edge of Indiana if you didnt know).
I saw great games in Huntingburg, home of the Memorial Coliseum, a gym built in a different era, for a town with a population of only half of what the capacity for the arena is. I saw people scalping tickets outside of Seymour's Owls Nest, which holds nearly 8000 people on a spring Saturday afternoon.
I saw great players and mediocre players, players with an NBA future play against kids with a future in the working class, and I saw great coaches and passionate fans lay it all on the line. I saw love, passion, tears, laughter, pain, families coming together and communities sharing a cause. I saw and felt dreams stay alive, and dreams fall short, right in front of my eyes, and I wouldnt have traded it for anything.
I wonder sometimes if all of you who are reading this and are NBA and Pacer fans would feel the same way I do seeing the contrast between what I have witnessed the last 3 weeks and what I see on television from our Pacers. I wonder if the Pacers players themselves, or the front office, could possibly understand my despair when I see teenagers crying over losing the last game of their lives, compared to millionaires sleepwalking thru another road game in Orlando. So badly, particularly last weekend in Washington (sitting high above the court in the Hatchet House in downtown Washington), I wished I could have Tinsley, Jermaine, Williams, Daniels, and the others with me and just let them SEE AND FEEL what passion and heart was like, and what basketball and playing it the right way could be like if they would just get themselves to do it the right way. I wanted so bad to have Herb, Mel, Larry, and Donnie with me in Brownstown, or at French Lick, to have them see the love for the game of communities all over the state who are ignored and unappreciated by their big city approach to marketing and promotion.
Seriously, how cool would it have been, and how great of an opportunity was just wasted, to gain new life long Pacer fans by NOT sponsoring and being involved in this Indiana tradition? How awesome would it be for the Pacers to make this a great marketing tool for themselves statewide to sponsor a banquet for all sectional winning team, or at least their seniors? How great of a marketing idea would it be for every winning school to get a congratulatary phone call from a Pacer player, owner, or Bird/Walsh?
This Saturday, during the state finals at Conseco, why shouldn't every team be allowed to meet with the Pacers representatives and given a tour of the front offices, weight rooms, locker rooms, etc etc. How awesome would it be for their to be a message from Larry over the jumbotron before each game? How great of a marketing tool would it be to show high school highlights during some of the telecasts?
The Pacers could be KINGS of all things basketball related in this entire state if they chose....our culture and love of the game gives them a unique opportunity to do so, and to help the cause of youth and high school sports and even college basketball in this state. A little imagination and forward thinking could gain the Pacers a legion of young fans, the kind of fans who remain fans their entire lives. Think about it....gymnasiums full every Friday/Saturday night, full of people and players who love basketball, along with kids all over college campuses in Indiana also die hard fans of their schools and the game. Marketing to these people would be like shooting fish in a barrel.....except the Pacers remain clueless.
6. We have alot of talk about the draft on this board, and rightfully so....its a fun topic to talk about. I thought I might mention a player I like who may or may not come out, and one who I am predicting now will be a lottery pick sometime in the next 5 years.
Stephen Curry of Davidson is a player to watch in the tournament. Many of you will remember his father Dell (one of my favorite players...an absolute deadeye shooter) who played in the league a few years ago.
Often, the sons of great players in basketball dont end up measuring up to their parents, but Stephen Curry is going to be better than his Dad I think, an absolute great shooter someday in the league. Stephen Curry makes Davidson an absolute great pick for an early round upset for your office pool, as they will likely be somewhere around a 12 seed.
Tyler Zeller, 7'0" center from Washington high school, likely Mr Basketball winner, is going to North Carolina next season. His brother Luke also was a great high school player who went to Notre Dame, but has mostly fizzled so far in South Bend. Trust me, Tyler will be in the league someday, and be a force offensively. Zeller has the most refined offensive game of anyone Ive ever seen at that age for a big man. I think he will end up being a Rik Smits level player in the league, meaning he will be an elite scorer who may struggle in other aspects...defensively he is weak and is likely to never be a great defender, but he has outstanding offensive fundamentals and skills.
If you want to see a future lottery pick in 2011 or so, head to Conseco next weekend and watch him play in the morning.
Thanks to all who read this long rant.....remember that while our Pacers are down right now, that hope is never far away, and the love will never die.
As always, the above was just my opinion.