Ok, last night was game # 41 for the Pacers and as is customary we will hand out mid season report cards. Now since this is all subjective I will try and use my reasoning for giving each grade but as always feel free to disagree and give your own.
The Pacers = F
Sorry there is just no better way of spinning this one for me. I knew coming into the season that we were not going to be real contenders but I had ZERO idea that we were not even going to be contenders for winning 30 games this season.
That's right fans, if we double our first half of the season production our beloved Pacers are on track to win 28 games. For those of you that were saying that the 80's were worse, well yes but not by much.
The most troubling thing for me has simply been the lack of direction for the team. I have no idea what we are doing or even what we are trying to do. I know that we are supposed to be patient and wait for all of the contracts to either be traded away or come off of the books but that process is slow and frankly is not even a guarantee of success. But that is the future, this is now.
Of course coming off of a huge @ss kicking like last night is probably not the best time to evaluate the team but let's be honest here; this wasn't the first game this season we were out of it by mid way through the first quarter. In fact one of the very troubling things this season is that we have had so many games where we are not in it at all. Even last season we were surprisingly close in several games.
Now there are a multitude of excuses that can be employed here. Injuries, illnesses, new players, quirks in the schedule, etc. But at the end of the day they ring hollow and frankly just as more excuses.
I think at the end of the day we do lack overall talent however I think we have talent on hand to be better than we are.
Larry Bird = C
Believe me that is a pretty radical drop for me. Up until about a month or so ago I was going to give him a strong A. However with the team in turmoil and presently floundering with no direction I can look no further than at the top. I would even listen to arguments that his grade should be lower.
I thought he had a brilliant off-season. I thought he brought in the best players that he could with the money that he had on hand. I still think that.
However the talent does not match the current coaching staff and since he has given his seal of approval to the current coach then it now falls on him to get him the type of players that he will use. So from here forward when I see players that I think should be playing but are not I am no longer just mad at the coach but I am now mad at the Director of Basketball Operations for getting contradictory players and coaching staff.
Jim O'Brien = C-
Yea it's a shock to me that I didn't try and give him an F either but here is my argument. He is who he is, his style is known by everybody. I am now of the opinion that Bird either thinks that this style will work or that he is stuck with this.
I won't lie. I don't like it, it's not fun for me to watch some of this stuff and since I have always liked big players you can imagine my disgust at seeing two wings and two point guards in with a 5 who is really a 4 but really plays like a 3.
But it is his style, it has always been his style and he attempts to get the most out of the style he can.
I am now totally on Birds @ss to give this guy players who will play his style or at the very least then trade away all of the players who he relies on to play his preferred style.
Danny Granger - C-
This hurts. This hurts more than I can tell you because I was on here last year arguing that this was the best Pacer I had ever seen play. This year there is something wrong. Now early on his foot was hurting so we all gave him the benefit of the doubt and still do. But just look at that Toronto game and you will see he got p!ssed off and began to care. Once that happened he imposed his will on that game. I carried over to the next night as well. It wasn't that he started hitting shots, although he did, it was that he became physical and dominating on the defensive end. He has now followed that up with two games that makes Brandon Rush shake his head over the inconsistency.
There doesn't seem to be the spark or fire this year. Could all be just the injury but I seem to think it is something else.
Roy Hibbert - B
Why do I have the feeling that if Jeff Foster was not injured that we would not even be seeing half of what Roy is doing on the floor? O'Brien has no one on a shorter leash than Roy. However Roy has done nothing but get better all season long.
He is becoming quite the accomplished passer on offense and has become the type of player that other coach's are now having to adjust to. Defensively he is better than he was as a rookie so you are getting steady improvement there as well.
Still makes dumb mistakes at times but overall I am quite happy with the big fellow. Not to mention this guy truly enjoys life and basketball. Every now and then it doesn't hurt to see someone on the sideline actually rooting on their team mates.
Brandon Rush = C-
Thankfully for him he now has put together a string of about 2 weeks of solid basketball. He had two games where he didn't score a point but he helped out with strong defense and rebounding. We really can't have that happen very often but in those two games other players were getting it on so no harm.
However I will still continue my belief that Brandon really screwed the front office up with his early season play. I am certain they were counting on him to be at least a double figure scorer this season and help Danny by sharing the load. His disappearance on the offensive end at the beginning of the season really put a money wrench in everything. It forced them to try every other guard to help out.
Even O'Brien's biggest critics can't blame him for this as he let Brandon go as long as he could and Rush just threw it all away.
But like I said he has played well for about two weeks so we will see if he can bring this into the second half of the season.
Mike Dunleavy = C
I am going to assume that pain and adjusting to his surgery have taken away from both his conditioning and his shooting ability. I don't think though that it can be accounted for as the trouble for his horrid turnovers lately, but maybe.
Mike is who Mike is. If he is scoring and driving he is a force that causes teams to adjust and if they don't then he can burn them. However if Mike is not scoring then sadly he is pretty useless. He is at best a moderate defender and at worst he is a turn style. His rebounding doesn't seem to be as strong as it has in the past either but I am going to say that this is the leg.
I think he will be better next season overall but still he is who he is.
Troy Murphy = C
I am basing this purely off of his abilities. What he does do well he usually does pretty well and I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is doing exactly what his coach is telling him to do. Hard to fault him for that.
His shot doesn't seem to be as sure this year as last and there are times I think he actually struggles to get the shot up to the rim, it's kind of like he doesn't have his legs under him.
His rebounding is where it usually is and his passing seems to be about the same as well.
His defense is what it is.
Now if I were basing this on what I want from a power forward he would get an F- but seeing as how he would get an A + from his coach I'll just split the difference and call it a C.
Earl Watson = C +
Some really great passes and solid defense every now and then followed up with some really stupid passes and poor shooting every now and then.
He is who he is, which is one hell of a back up point guard. Sadly though he is our starting one. That is not a slam at him; it is really an indictment on the state of our back court.
I like Earl and have no problem with him staring the rest of the year but next year I would like a little better.
A.J. Price = B
This came from nowhere. Very surprising that a guy picked so low would turn out to be pretty good so soon. From the first time I saw him step on the floor I thought this guy does not play like a rookie. He shoots and passes like a 5 year vet and is not intimidated by any other player. He looked as good against Chris Paul as he did against Raefer Alston.
Like any rookie he is prone to mistakes on occasion and may be to trigger happy (but who knows if that is him or his coach).
I'm not sure who said it but I think there is a lot of truth in this, at worst he is going to be a heck of a backup point guard.
Tyler Hansbrough = B+
Ok, my physical prejudice is coming out here but I can't help it. We are a soft soft soft marsh mellow team and to have someone come out there and bang people around to where they have to whine about it in the press just makes my heart sing with joy.
No, I am not thrilled with his shot. No, his free throw shooting is not acceptable.
However he is a far better defender and rebounder than I was led to believe.
Myself, I would feel comfortable with him at the 4 right now. But again we have to consider what the coach wants.
Dahntay Jones = B -
I bet he regrets coming here now. I'm sure he likes the money but the lack of direction on this team has got to be killing him. He was the best defender for the money that we could get in the off-season and someone with a little attitude on the floor. Yet a week ago or so he got a DNP-CD because we are convinced that we can only win by out shooting the other team.
Now I know my good friend Chicago J does not like D. Jones and I think he is right if people actually thought he was like some LeBron stopper or something but I think most of us thought he was a good solid piece to an overall puzzle.
But instead he may just be another piece that doesn't fit in with this coaching staff.
S. Jones = C
If Jeff Foster were here we would never see him. I think that would be a mistake and I would really like to see a coach that would run S. Jones and Roy together just for a few min. to even try it.
Solomon is not as strong as you would like from a center, he doesn’t rebound quite as well as you would like either.
However he is pretty decent about defending the rim and he is surprisingly a good offensive player.
Luther Head = C
Would be a great spark off of the bench, however when he went down he was our starter. Not a horrid starter by any means but probably not consistent enough to be a solid starter.
Good offense, good shooter, sometimes a good defender but not often enough. Sometimes downright awful defense which goes into the whole consistency thing.
Hell of a quick shot though, I'm not sure there are a lot of players who can get off a shot faster than Luther.
T.J. Ford = C-
Not what we need. Not what a lot of teams need and clearly his contract is going to prohibit us from moving him.
However much like Dunleavy, Murphy and others he is what he is. You are not going to turn him into a point guard who plays off of the ball anymore than you are going to turn him into a sky hook shooting center. It just ain't going to happen.
Hopefully both the team and he can come up with some solution so the guy does not just sit and drain our bank account and whatever basketball playing time he has left.
Josh McRoberts = C
Hard to really give him a grade as he has had so little time. But I think I did see progression from training camp till when he got a little playing time. To me his offensive recognition had improved and he looked more comfortable playing.
That said this is just not a coach who is going to use him. I don't know if a lot of coach's would or would not but I know this one won't unless he is forced to.
When he is on the floor he gives it his all which is pretty much what you as a of a deep bench player.
I will be honest though his status on the team does confuse the hell out of me because of Bird. Larry has gone above and beyond to praise McRoberts; he has brought his name up when he wasn't even the topic of discussion. You would really think to listen to Bird that Josh was important to the team in some capacity.
So I just don't get it.
Ok, overall I know that the grading was inconsistent myself and I was trying my best to be objective. But please feel free to add your own.