If there is any positive that we can all look for right now it is that barring some unseen new injury, the Pacers will for the first time all season have a full roster of players. Sure there are some bumps and bruises and sore backs and such but I am sure every team in the NBA can also use the same statement.
So with that in mind the Pacers brass has about 3 weeks to evaluate how the team fits together when healthy and see what needs to be done, if anything, at the trade deadline.
It is very hard to judge the first half of the season because frankly the lineup was never really set and there were some significant injury's.
However there certainly were some trends that you can look at.
Poor defense. You can say it is lack of talent, you can say it is the defensive scheme, you can say that differant players are missing assignments or you can say it is because we have a coach that is to concerned with offense. I can see argument for and against all of these.
However what can not be denied, even by the biggest Pacers homer, is that the Pacers just do not play good defense on a routine basis.
We've seen indications that they can and we've seen indications that the system works but overall for the season the defense has been well below what we expected.
Offensively I'm not sure what to say. We can score on most teams, and even the biggest O'Brien hater has to concede that the Pacers do NOT come down and just jack up a three pointer anymore. In fact most nights we actually win the battle of scoring in the paint.
However we have also seen when teams decide to lock down on defense we tend to lose any and all ball movement and tend to panic and shoot the first shot that comes our way.
Some of this can be attributed to the culture of offense that O'Brien uses. I'm not saying it is a bad thing but from what I understand, not only are players encouraged to take open shots they are punished if they do not take open shots too often. Thus I think some times players tend to not know what a good shot vs. bad shot is. Honestly that is really the quality of the players though, not so much the coaching staff.
Let's look at some good things for the first half.
A. The team is likeable. There are no bad apples that we can tell, there have been no off court issues (that we have heard of) and other than Jeff Foster most of our players do not harp at the referee's after every call.
BTW, this is NOT a minor point. This is a huge HUGE victory for the front office because frankly this time two years ago people in this town hated the Pacers. Right now they are disdainfull of the team because of the W/L issue but at least you don't hear the word Pacers followed immediately by the word Thug.
So I think we need to aknowledge that the entire orginazation has worked on this from the owners to the green coats at the game (notice how even they are more friendly I am sure that is not a coincidence) and say good job.
B. The style of play is more entertaining. Ok this is going to be with a caveat of course, losing is not good but an open style that keeps us in most games is far better to watch then being blown out every night.
Again this is not an accident. I believe Bird knew exactly what he was doing and what he was getting with O'Brien. He knew that one of the reasons that the fans were also down on the club, besides all of the off court and on court antics, was that for years we had been under the oppresive superstar offense. While Uncle Buck and myself would like to see a N.Y. vs Indiana 68 point game frankly most fans do not. Even I do not want to see the isolation one on four offense that we had during those years.
BTW, this is not an endorsement of O'Brien, I am just saying he is what he is and Bird knew this and chose to go in this direction. You can disagree with it but remember for those of you that live in other states, city's and country's the bottom line is they have to entertain the people of central Indiana because that is who buys the tickets.
C. The emergence of Danny Granger. When Danny was a rookie both Will Galen and myself said that he was immediately our favorite player. However I can't speak for Will but I can say for myself I had no idea he would be this good.
I hate that people give Bird no credit for drafting him. He is always given the "it was a no brainer" pick when nothing could be closer to the truth. When he was picked we already had two players who were both young and small forwards both of which could start on most teams (Artest & Jackson) and Danny at best was going to be a third wheel. We had several other needs and there were other players who available that might have helped as well. Not to mention 16 other G.M.'s didn't think he was a no brainer, you think some of them would like a do over? I do.
However not only is Danny a great player so far he has shown to be a Pacers P.R. dream. From being a grounded individual to actually being somewhat of a nerd (the guy wears spiderman and batman shirts, how cool is that).
I will no go on to say something that I am sure will probably be the focus of much debate but I am making it anyway.
I have been a lifelong Pacers fan and while I certainly respect and love the old ABA guys, I frankly was just to young to see them. I never saw Roger or Mel or Freddy play at all and I did see Big Mac play but he was old and washed up. I saw probably 80% or more of the games that Reggie Miller played as a Pacer. There were several when he was young that was not televised and I didn't get to all of the home games.
Danny Granger is the greatest player I have ever seen as a Pacer.
Yes I know many of you think I will smoke a turd in hell for saying that but I will say it again.
I have never seen a player as good as Danny Granger play for the Pacers.
Mickey Johnson had a good year when he was here and certainly Billy Knight would be right up there. But Danny is alone at the top of the pile of great Pacer players.
Yes, Reggie is a legend and until Danny can do in the playoffs what Reggie accomplished he will never equal Reggie in the heart of Pacers fans but I'm telling you this as a person who saw all of Reggie's big games.
Danny Granger is a better all around player. Yes, Reggie could score but that is about where it stops.
Danny is a lock down defender when he focuses on it. He is a good rebounder, something Reggie never was and right now he can score from any position on the floor.
Sure his stats might be inflated from the scoring point of being the best player on a bad team but that is a double edged sword as well. Other teams also know this and pay more attention to you.
I know that this thread will probably turn into an argument over this statement but I don't care. I waited on purpose till Danny had a bad game to say this because I did not want to be accused of being to high after one of his great games.
D. Improved play from Marquis Daniels. Certainly it is valid to question if the fact that he is in a contract year is helping this, but frankly who cares. We needed him in the first half of the season and he came through for the most part.
E. Suprise wins vs. big name teams. Beating the Celtics at the home opener was huge and set a good tone for the common fan for the season. Beating the Lakers was also good. The fact that we have been in almost every game is a big plus for our team. BillS had a great point in another thread (I forget which one) but he said that losing the close heartbreakers is better for the general fan because it does not make us look like punching bags (I'm paraphrasing, he said it much more eloquent than I)
F. The team fights hard every game. This is a tribute the the coaching, the quality of players and to the management. This has been a very hard season record wise and it would be easy to bow thier heads and give up, but we haven't seen that. Again a positive p.r. piece to work with.
Notice a theme here kids? Positive P.R., would we like more wins? Of course, who wouldn't? But barring that the team had to make some positive moves in the p.r. front and I have to say so far so good.
Ok, it's not all been positive and by no means am I a p.r. person for the Pacers so let's look at what has been bad.
1. Defense, yes I covered this already in the buildup but it is that bad it needs to be said again. Tbird is putting together a seriers of defensive threads and he will cover this far better than I ever could. I will just say that from what I can tell it is a combination of quality defenders and frankly the defensive scheme itself. But I still can't put my finger on the actual problem yet.
2. Point guard dissapointment. Well at least they aren't Tinsely is pretty much the motto we have to go with. That's about it. I have never in my life seen two quality p.g.'s who routinely make such boneheaded decisions. Both of them routinely leave thier feet with the ball before they have a clue as to what they are doing with it. Both also seem to have trouble holding on to the ball, not a great trate for a point guard btw.
I'm not sure if I want to say this here or somewhere else but I guess here is where I will put it. Another problem I have is O'Briens over use of Jarret Jack.
Look the guy is not a bad player, unlike several of you I actually don't mind Jack at all. However he should not be on the floor as often as he is. He should back up T.J. and he should play some spot min. at the shooting guard, however JOB has him in the game all of the time and frankly there are other players who could bring something to the floor. Like I said I am not a Jack hater but I hate the way O'Brien uses him.
3. To many nights when I look on the floor and see Troy Murphy as the center. This is a real problem for me and it will be even worse in the second half because of his aboslute insistance of using Jack at the two. We started the season out with Rasho and Troy up front and Jeff and Roy backing them up. Jeff was back to playing the 4 spot and Rasho was giving us something in at the 5. But now we have Roy who is going to have more DNP's than not probably or what might as well be DNP's when he plays 5 min. or less. and Jeff is now once again back to the center spot.
Controversial statement number 2 coming right up. I am sure this may cause as much of a stir as my Granger statement but here goes.
The Indiana Pacers will never truely get better until Jeff Foster is off of this team. Yes, that's right I said it. Now again I will add a caveat to this, if we would get a coach who would use him correctly he would be an asset (like he was when we started the year)
Jeff is not a bad player, far from it. However there is a saying in the field I work in that IMO applies to Jeff in it's own way. You have just enough knowledge to be dangerous.
Well with Jeff it is this, he does just enough of the right things to get by that the Pacers never improve at the position and always end up settling for what Jeff brings them.
As U.B. likes to point out Jeff ends up getting his starting position back every year. There are two sides to that in that this is a true statement but also why does he lose the job every year?
Like I said, he is not a bad player and yes every team in the NBA would love to have a Jeff Foster. I am not denying any of that. I am just saying that for one thing he is a power forward, not a center and until we can get an interior defender who has size and can alter shots we will never improve overall as a team.
Again, I know that this is not going to be popular but it is just how I feel. Jeff is overused and frankly I think over rated. Coach's love him because he does all of the small things and plays the right way. However that is what makes you a great rotational player, not the starting center.
4. The absolute madness that is our rotation. We have players who can do no wrong in our coaching staffs mind (Jack, Foster) and we have player who can do nothing right (McRoberts, Hibbert). Again I blame this on O'Briens absolute fasination with small ball. Has the guy ever coached a big lineup that he used in a regular rotation? I can't think of any. Hibbert is just unbelievable to be honest with you. By no means did he deserve to be the starter but by no means does he deserve to be getting DNP'd either. He wold have gotten a DNP vs. the Spurs but we got blown out so JOB emptied the bench in the 4th. McBob's is just about as aggrivating. He had a series of great games and then goes away. The reason we are given is because he hurts our offense??? Are you kidding me? Did you see complaint number one? Hurting our offense is the last thing that he should worry about.
5. Short rotation. It is a long long season and we are running a motion offense that requires constant movement from the players. Having an 8 man rotation just does not make sense to me. However it gives him more of an excuse to play Jack for 40 plus min. a game.
6. Lack of any real devlopment by our rookies. Rush has been very frustrating in his play. I have no idea what happened there. I thought he was on his way to a solid season and then for whatever reason he fell of the face of the earth. I can't beleive it was the rookie wall because I didn't think he played enough, but maybe. Hibbert is what Hibbert is. He will never be the hard nosed rebounding animal that we need but he is already an offensive threat and has shown the ability and willingness to set screens and picks. Again I implore the Pacers to hire a big man coach to work with Roy. Jeff Foster is not the type of player that Roy is going to be and he is the one working with him. Now don't get me wrong Jeff can help with the fundementals but for God's sake do not let him show him how to set a pick.
You can blame the quality of player here if you want and it would be hard to argue against it. However you also have to look at the coaching staff as well. Why are these guys not getting better? How much time do they spend working with them? Is there one coach who is designated as thier mentor, etc.?
Ok, that is six good and six bad so I'll stop there.
Certainly the schedule was very tough to begin with and it looks like after Friday it will ease up a bit on us. However we actually have to beat these bad teams for the schedule to work in our favor.
The one thing I think I can feel comfortable though about is that with the new management I don't feel like we will have to wait till this summer for them to look to improve the team or make a move to help the future. If there is something out there I feel like they will make a move and I can't say I have ever been able to feel that way for years with this club.
Overall I am thrilled with the owners and managment as I think they have taken the right steps to get where they need to be.
I am holding judgement on the head coach because he has now declared a win now mentality, so if he wins now then great. If not and we don't develop our young players then I think he needs to be held accountable.
I think all of the players are doing what they can and I don't really dislike any of them. I will admit I am just not thrilled with Foster but it is in the way the team uses him.
On a side note as I watched the Spurs game I set and laughed to myself at Kurt Thomas. In my wildest dreams back in the 90's would I ever think to myself that we need a player like Kurt Thomas because our bigs would routinely punk him out. However since the 90's have left us I long for a player like Kurt Thomas.
Not to end on a down note though.
I think Granger will be an all-star.