While we have good jolly old Santa Clause that delivers presents and good cheer to all good Pacer girls and boys the rest of the league gets to suffer a visit from Krampus the beast like creature that punishes non Pacer fans.
The parts of Santa and Krampus are both played by the same person, Lance Stephenson.
While he is delivering picture perfect dimes and triple doubles for the faithful of the blue and gold he is delivering devastation and misery to the followers of other franchises and he does so while gyrating an extra hip thrust towards old Ebenezer Buck.
Sure on occasion he sometimes delivers coal in the wrong stocking and the Pacer faithful will need a cleaning but far more often than not he is the source of joy and pride for our club.
I donít know that you can ask for better games from Lance than what you have gotten the past three games.
Causing Frank Vogel to age? Check
Causing constipation to Uncle Buck? Check
In other words itís all good.
Iíve said it in the past and Iíll say it again, he is the unstable molecule that mixes things up. Sometimes it blows up in your face but when controlled and used properly he is the nuclear bomb that we drop on opponents and there is almost no defense for him.
Think of it like this. He is a more stable and talented and believe it or not more mentally composed version of Nate Robinson.
Donít get me wrong their games are nothing alike at all but they both share that trait of huge giant enormous talent that can take over a game but can also take you out of a game. However Lance has shown that he can control it and dial it back when need be and well Nate is now on his 5th team in 5 years after spending 5 years with his 6th team the Knicks.
Now while this is superb for this season and as long as he plays like this our team is beyond good, in the long run this is going to hurt because he is going to get paid by someone next season. I hope itís us but right now is not the time for us as fans to worry about that. We have to hope that Bird & Co are already working on a way to keep him, which I have faith in them, but at the end of the day our only real concern right now is that title hunt. Which with Lance playing like this along with our other players that is truly what we are on, a title hunt.
With that in mind and with the Christmas season upon us I want to once again reflect on where we are as a team and how much of a miracle this is.
To the fans of central Indiana, thank you. You have proven this season what many of us were saying all along. Build a winner that plays a style of basketball that we can all understand and appreciate and you will come.
We have 8 sell outs already compared to 9 sell outs all last season, I think our lowest attended game this year was still over 16K (not sure on that though) and we have only really had a couple of marquee name teams visit this year (Miami & Chicago) and a couple of teams that have followings due to size of market (Houston & Boston) neither of these two though brought in large crowds. Chicago brought their usual crowd and Miami brought a few but not many.
What Iím trying to say is that people are attending Pacers games to see the Indiana Pacers because we are the Marque team.
So pardon me for a minute while I offend a few of you.
Up yours random out of state and in a couple of cases out of country Pacers fans who berated the locals for not supporting the team. For telling us that even though we always had a large die hard base that the team should move. You werenít here, you didnít know the whole story, you donít have a clue as to how deep the love for this team does run and what it took to bring them back.
Am I disgusted about band wagon fans? Yes, frankly they do grind my gears (stealing from family guy) but I also know they are a necessary evil. Our fan base did nothing worse than what Philly fans are doing now and you donít see throngs of people rushing to condemn them and call for the team to move.
Sorry, I just had to get that off of my chest because it has been bugging me as a local resident who actually does support the team. I know that there are a lot of fans out there and yes I wish they would come when we are down more as well but thatís life.
Second I just donít feel that I have been grateful enough lately for Frank Vogel. Could we please drop the entire faÁade that Brian Shaw was the real coach and Frank was just some Tony Robbins motivational speaker?
Shaw is gone now and our team is better than ever. That is not a slap at Shaw at all, he is doing a bang up job in Denver and oh btw he is using something called ďsmashmouth basketballĒ Iím not sure where Iíve heard that phrase before but for some reason it sounds familiar to me.
Frank Vogel is coach of the year, period. He should have been coach of the year last year but to have this team working together in unison and everybody buying into the system and everybody still on the same page and NOBODY tuning out the coach and to be winning as often as we are winning and well just because he is the best damned overall coach we have had in the NBA (yea Iím going to go ahead with that analogy so remind me in the future if I donít say it again).
I am also eternally grateful that small ball is dead on our club for the foreseeable future and I hope beyond all hope that the NBA is once again changing back to the day when teams did not try and outshoot each other with no low post offense. I know we still have a lot of mid sized teams but I think Roy and West combo has had such an impact on the league over the past few years that teams are now trying to match up to us.
I am grateful for the great wall of Hibbert and his mastery of verticality.
I am grateful for Paul George, the most talented Pacer in NBA history. I truly believe that he will eventually become the greatest Pacer ever.
I can not tell you how grateful I am for Luis Scola & C.J. Watson. I am not trying to put anyone else down here but I truly believe they are the single difference right now why we are not just one of the better teams in the East but are the single best team in the East right now. They keep getting better and better and to not lose all semblance of offense when our bench comes in sometimes confuses me because itís been so many years. In fact there have been times Iíve been upset with Frank for taking them out of games, can you imagine ever being upset because he took out Tyler or D.J.?
I am grateful that the past 3 games Ian Mahinmi has seemed to be born again by playing solid defense, rebounding and actually catching the basketball, heís even dropped in a few points along the way. I still wouldnít mind another big to have in reserve but Iím also one of those guys who would say ďwhy rock the boatĒ right now.
I am grateful for David West being David West. Single best power forward in Pacer NBA history, yes I said it, and best free agent signing ever.
I am grateful for George Hill when he is aggressive. I always appreciate his effort but we are just a much better team when George isnít passive and makes his defender actually spend energy guarding him.
I appreciate Solomon Hill, Orlando Johnson, Rasual Butler, Donald Sloan & Chris Copeland for being good team mates. A chain is only as strong as itís weakest link and the main strength of our franchise is chemistry. Any one player, even a bench player, becomes disgruntled with their role and it can disrupt the chain, these guys have proven to be good people and when called upon even good players to a point.
Now Iíve saved Granger for last.
Sadly due to circumstances beyond my control the past two games prior to tonight I could not do one of these, of course the one night I can is the one night that Danny would have been better off not playing. But he played a really solid game last night vs. Boston including some decent defense.
He was gassed tonight, which is to be expected and all of his shots were short which tends to be the legs not having enough energy in them.
I am not going to judge Danny on how well he plays consistently for about a month, unless he is a detriment or becomes a savior type player, because itís going to take at least that long to get into game shape.
I am just more interested in him not going back to the IRL for any reason involving his knee or his calf. I got burned last year by him coming back and even in the last home game I got to see him play in last year vs. L.A. he looked great, then all of a sudden boom, done for the season.
I just donít want to get my hopes up to high. However I will say if we can get him to actually hit a shot that is not a three ever again I can see him and Scola and Watson being the best bench in the NBA by far.
Now being a Granger fan I am grateful for his return. His welcome back the other night was magical, not Reggie retiring magical, but I would say it was the most connected Iíve seen the crowd with a player since Reggie retired.
Also Kudos to Paul George & Lance Stephenson for standing up and getting the crowd to give Danny a standing ovation as he came out of the game.
Iíll be honest Iíve never really known how the locals felt about Danny because well when he was at his best our team was at itís worst and we all know that most of the locals took a Holiday for reasons of their own.
When he came back the state of Danny Granger status in Pacers fans mind was answered loud and clear. Look all props to the G2 Zone & Area 55 they did get the Danny chant going but the regular fans saw him rise up off of that bench for the first time and they rose with him. I watched it later on ESPN and Iím telling you, you didnít get 1/3 of the sound that we got in the fieldhouse. It made me happy as a Pacers fan and happy as a Danny fan.
Also one more piece of Christmas coal. Up yours everyone who wants/needs/must make this a Danny vs. Paul vs. Lance thing.
Itís disgusting, Iím not even slightly joking. The only people more happy that night for Danny than Danny was probably Paul & Lance. Well honestly the only person probably even more than them was Bird. I watched Birds face on camera when he came in and he was actually smiling.
Danny no matter what we think of him is obviously beloved on that bench. For a guy who basically did nothing on the floor he received a heroís welcome when he left and you canít fake the sentiment that they were showing.
Look as a Danny fan let me just say this. This is now Paul & Lanceís team, they are the horses and we will only go as far as they can take us. Dannyís dayís are coming to an end with the team most likely but in the time he has left he can be an asset if he is truly healed. He obviously likes both of these young men and I believe with all of my heart he will try to adjust to fit in with the club. Yes he had a bad night tonight but he had 2 pretty decent games prior to that. He can be a good sub.
So for the love of all that his holy can we put a stop to this endless idiotic bickering. If youíre a Danny fan like me, get over it. Our guy is at the end of his prime and even he himself has said his is just a role player, albeit a great one (at least in my mind). Stop talking about him starting over either of the above. For Godís sake Paul might be the MVP of the league and right now Lance is playing like an all star. Letís just let Danny fit in and help win a title that he so richly deserves. Do you think that David Robinson is thought of as a clinger on for the title he got with Duncan?
If youíre a Paul or Lance fan for the love of God let it go. We know your guy is the future and the present. Danny no matter what you want to say about him was at one point in time a very good basketball player. No he was never playing at the level Paul George is right now, no Pacer ever has in the NBA. But just because he wasnít an MVP level player doesnít mean he was a scrub either. No just because Jim OíBrien was here was he able to score and be a good player. If that were the case then Mike Dunleavy would have been able to translate his success here under Jim for the rest of his career but he couldnít. Danny was able to be a very good player that last year when OíBrien was fired when Frank took over and he was still a very important part of our club up until he got injured.
If nothing else look at it from the standpoint of that Danny is better than having Orlando or Solomon coming off of the bench and yes even though Rasual did a great job in his short time Danny when healthy will be better.
Okay enough talk about that, I am just thrilled to have him back and I donít want this to end on me bickering with people. Itís now Christmas eve and time for all good Pacers fans to rejoice.
This has been by and far the best Pacers season Iíve had since the 90ís and I have a sneaky feeling this will be my best Pacers season ever.
The only grades we are going to do tonight are as follows.
Merry Christmas Everybody