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Indianapolis Star

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Kravitz: The Pacers are stuck in purgatory, and the NBA is to blame

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  • Kravitz: The Pacers are stuck in purgatory, and the NBA is to blame

    All throughout certain portions of the NBA, a manic game of musical chairs was being played before and during the leagueís free-agency period. Superstars were changing locations as free agents. Others were forcing trades from their current teams so they could join forces with another superstar. The big names were flying about with big-market teams, or better yet, big-revenue teams, finding a seat among the leagueís elite.

    And the Indiana Pacers?

    They couldnít even get meetings. They couldnít get meetings with the Tier I free agents, which comes as no great surprise. But even after decades of sustained success ó and by success, we mean being a playoff team year in and year out ó they couldnít even get a meeting with the representatives of the second-tier free agents. Khris Middleton? Not interested. Tobias Harris? Thanks, but no thanks.

    Thatís not to say the Pacers struck out this offseason. Fact is, they did as well or even better than expected, pulling off a sign-and-trade for former Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, dealing for former Phoenix forward T.J. Warren (in exchange for cash) and signing free agent Jeremy Lamb. If Victor Oladipo can return from his injury sometime in December or January ó there is no established timetable, or at least thereís not one the Pacers are willing to share externally ó Indiana figures to be a playoff team once again. One thing about the Pacers is, they always seem to get more bang for their buck than their competitors Ė which is great, but it doesnít necessarily mean the Pacers will be playing deep into the spring.

    And thatís the problem, for Indiana and for so many of the lower-revenue, small-market teams: The most they can promise their fans is that theyíll be good, better than average, competitive. The Pacers have resided in this NBA purgatory for years, having not won a first-round playoff series since 2014. They wonít tank ó ever ó which is both an outdated philosophy and a noble one. So they continue to reside somewhere in the middle, good enough to maintain fan interest but rarely great enough to make a run at an NBA title.

    The one thing sports can do is sell hope, something the parity-driven NFL does better than anybody. In the NFL, worst-to-first is not a complete anomaly. A few prescient off-season moves, a great draft like the Colts had last year, and you can go from 4-12 to 10-6 (with a whole lot of help from Andrew Luckís return).

    My fear is, the NBA, with its soft salary cap and more loopholes than the tax code, continues to become a league of haves and have-nots, creating a semi-permanent underclass of teams who are always left picking up the crumbs after the free-agent party passes them by.


    While NBA Twitter was entranced by the wild machinations of free agency and offseason trades, where KD and Kyrie decided to look for their elusive happiness in Brooklyn, where Kawhi and Paul George chose to join forces with the Clippers, where Anthony Davis left New Orleans to join LeBron, where the rich generally got richer, small-market teams were left with their noses pressed up against the glass.

    Is this healthy?

    Let me answer my own question.

    This is not healthy.

    Would a hard cap ó and good luck negotiating that into the next collective bargaining agreement ó level the playing field?

    Let me answer my own question again.

    Absolutely.

    Right now, the salary cap is like a highway speed limit: Itís just a suggestion, a vague parameter. And that allows teams such as the Lakers, arguably one of the most mismanaged franchises the league has seen the past decade, morph into a title contender virtually overnight with the Davis addition.

    Meanwhile, the Pacers, who have been a model of consistency and solid leadership the past 30 years, are resigned to competing with good, but not elite, players.

    Itís not a matter of being unwilling to spend money, although the Pacers figure to have one of the lowest payrolls, if not the lowest payroll, in the league next season. Owner Herb Simon is on record saying he would spend more to make the Pacers a title contender, but if expensive players and their representatives are not interested in so much as taking a meeting with Kevin Pritchard and his staff, who do you pay?

    NBA commissioner Adam Silver has addressed the concept of a hard cap, something thatís utilized in the NFL, NHL and Major League Soccer, but he has suggested he doesnít want to legislate the kind of parity that produces mediocrity (his words). What Iím saying is, the NBA could use a little bit of parity. The NBA needs to establish a system that gives everybody ó that is, well-managed franchises ó some real hope they can succeed at the highest level while operating out of a low-revenue market.

    Clearly, there are anomalies. The San Antonio Spurs have been a beacon of excellence for years while playing in a city that hardly rates as a huge market. The Pacers themselves reached the NBA Finals in 2000 and have made seven other trips to the Eastern Conference Finals since 1994. Toronto, a team that didnít have a single lottery pick and a market that doesnít draw big-time free agents because of its location, won the NBA title last year. Milwaukee, another small market (albeit one that has spent a ton of money), reached the Eastern Conference Finals last year, thanks in large part to the growth of Giannis Antetokounmpo.

    Certainly, less-visible markets are making inroads, such as Portland and Utah, which both figure to be contenders out West next season.

    It has happened and it can happen. But this is the age of super teams, mega-stars conspiring with one another, even tampering, in order to run with their old AAU buddies. The Lakers got richer. The Clippers got richer. The Nets got richer. And everybody else is left to look on. Anybody see a change on the horizon? I donít.

    If youíre Indiana or any of the other smallish markets in this league, you are operating with one hand tied behind your back. To succeed, you have to ace every offseason. You know game-changing free agents arenít coming ó David West rates as Indianaís biggest-name free-agent acquisition in the teamís history ó so that means winning every trade and drafting brilliantly, often in the middle of the first round (see: the refusal to tank). The margin of error is slimmer than Tacko Fall. The Pacers canít make the same kinds of mistakes the Lakers have made in recent years and have any reason to believe they can turn it all around with one massive move to acquire the likes of an Anthony Davis. And it is a source of perpetual frustration for the men who run franchises like the Pacers, Grizzlies, Kings Ö and the list goes on.

    Meanwhile, Silver has to deal with the ongoing issue of tampering in his league. Nobody around Indy will ever forget Magic Johnsonís absurdly ill-advised appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, where he clearly tampered with then-Pacer Paul George. The Pacers have a tough enough time retaining free agents-to-be without the Lakers then-team president going on national TV and overtly expressing his desire to add George to his lineup. As you might expect, the Pacers were properly incensed and complained to the league.

    The result was laughable: A $500,000 fine. Thatís pocket change. But you know what it is, too? Itís the price of doing business. In the end, George decided to remain in Oklahoma City ó for one additional season, anyway ó but you donít think it was worth the price the Lakers paid? There is no incentive to play by the rules.

    If Silver wants to put some teeth into the tampering rules, he will start taking away draft choices.

    That would stop the tampering in a heartbeat.


    The absurdity of the whole thing was on full display during the free agent period. According to the NBA calendar, teams, players and agents could start discussing the parameters of a free-agent contract beginning June 30 at 6 p.m. But at 6:01, here came all the tweets from The Athleticís Shams Charania and his ilk, telling us about all the epic signings throughout the league. In some cases, journalists reported that several signings were a fait accompli long before the 6 p.m. start time.

    Silver knows he needs to fix the problem. He just doesnít seem to know how at this time.

    ďObviously, if deals are being announced immediately after the discussion period begins, there had been prior discussions,íí Silver told reporters recently. ďI think the consensus at both our committee meetings and the board meeting was that we need to revisit and reset those rules, that some of the rules we have in place may not make sense. I think itís pointless at the end of the day to have rules that we canít enforce. I think it hurt the perception of integrity around the league if people say, ĎWell, you have that rule and itís obvious that teams arenít fully complying, so why do you have it.'Ē

    Look, Iím all for players having power and doing whatís best for them and their families. Itís their collectively bargained right to shape their careers, although Iím chilled by guys forcing trades with years left on their contracts. But thereís got to be some kind of middle ground, a way to keep the revenue disparities, and geographic location, from producing a league that is composed of a small number of super teams and a whole bunch of wannabes.

    Free agency was wild and fun and completely nuts.

    Here in Indiana, and places just like Indiana?

    Yawn.

    Just like always
    .
    Despite their sustained success, the Pacers couldn't even get meetings with top-tier free agents. It seems to happen almost every year.
    Sittin on top of the world!

  • #2
    Let's see ... Kravitz is a well known shill for the Pacers, doing his best PR job to set the fan base up to accept the excuse that they did the best they could while being cheap and stupid.

    Did I get that right?
    BillS

    A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
    Or throw in a first-round pick and flip it for a max-level point guard...

    Comment


    • #3
      Kravitz has been doing Pacers PR for years now, my guess is since he was let go from the Star he had to change his style to survive wouldn't surprise me if he takes the Montieth a** kissing award soon
      @WhatTheFFacts: Studies show that sarcasm enhances the ability of the human mind to solve complex problems!

      Comment


      • #4
        Hey just like KP and Bird failed to put any sort of talent around Paul George while he was a Pacer. The Pelicans failed to put elite talent around Davis, and OKC was so hard up to trade for Paul George they didn't even consider the salary cap ramifications of adding him and resigning him, along with trying to fill out the team with good shooters. In pretty much every case its a situation where the team was built terribly from roster standpoint or the star player was traded for a year before his free agency. Expecting players who have never had a choice in what teams they play for pass up the opportunity to do so in free agency is a red flag in my book. Teams in good situations kept their players.

        This dynamic duo trend is the best thing to happen to the league in years. Its going to be no longer about overwhelming talent to win the championship. Matchups are going to be really important going forward.

        if Indiana play's its hand correctly over the next 2 years, they will be able to make a trade to get a guy like Beal.

        I'd also like to add that it appears star players can be had for essentially multiple first round picks. The Pacers just refuse to pay this kind of price for a star player, even though they have only hit on 2 draft picks in the last 9-10 years? Paul George and Myles Turner. Solomon Hill, Lance Stephenson, Georges Niang, Miles Plumlee, Orlando Johnson...none of these guys were kept around past their rookie deals. Infact trading the draft pick has resulted in George Hill and Thad Young who are solid starters. So if the Pacers expand their trade tolerance to included multiple first round picks....they too can pursue the likes of Westbrook, Jimmy Butler, Anthony Davis, and etc...
        Last edited by graphic-er; 07-16-2019, 03:30 PM.
        You can't get champagne from a garden hose.

        Comment


        • #5
          Two PR articles by different people about how "poor Pacers can't catch a break" it's not coincidence, this has PR campaign written all over.
          @WhatTheFFacts: Studies show that sarcasm enhances the ability of the human mind to solve complex problems!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by vnzla81 View Post
            Two PR articles by different people about how "poor Pacers can't catch a break" it's not coincidence, this has PR campaign written all over.
            The Star article has NBA players quoted in it. They're not doing PR for the Pacers.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by CJ Jones View Post

              The Star article has NBA players quoted in it. They're not doing PR for the Pacers.
              Those NBA players are well known PR flacks for the Pacers. They were told to say those things by Herb Simon.
              BillS

              A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
              Or throw in a first-round pick and flip it for a max-level point guard...

              Comment


              • #8
                I think Kravitz is right.

                The NBA Salary "Cap" is a joke. They need a hard cap.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Instead of refuting that the Pacers cannot land tier 1 or even t2 free agents for the most part - you just bash Kravitz as schilling. I'm sure you have numerous examples through the last 20-30 years of the Pacers luring and attracting big level Free Agents. I know, I know facts and all don't really fit the narrative that Simon's cheap and we aren't trying hard enough, but that's a stupid take grounded in 0 reality. If Leonard, Harris, Butler, or whomever wanted to sign here, we would have made them the offer. Even J. Michael stated as much - we would go into the luxury for a guy that would put us over the hump aka a Leonard. We just never were going to even get a meeting with him or other aforementioned players. That's like getting mad we didn't draft Zion Williamson - just wasn't going to happen no matter what. It's stupid.

                  We only landed Brogdon because of a trade and he wanted to be here. David West was coming off a torn ACL and probably didn't have a ton of offers. Where are all of those other "top"(because West doesn't fall into that bracket) of guys dying to play here? Oh, just the same people whining, being negative, and ignoring reality - gotcha.

                  Dear P_George,
                  You have received an infraction at Pacers Digest.

                  Reason: Unacceptable Comment and/or Content

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    i mean, maybe, then again the ECF was Milwaukee-Toronto

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Pritchard: "everybody thinks because we have 40+ mil to spend that we are going to spend it in one player"


                      Pacers homers and PR people: "bUt nObOdy wAntS tO cOmE tO iNdY pOoR pAcErS"
                      @WhatTheFFacts: Studies show that sarcasm enhances the ability of the human mind to solve complex problems!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Very strange responses in this thread. The article was spot on. Almost word for word correct. Or maybe I am misinterpreting others' views.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Brogdon was a nice pickup and the other two are decent. But we lost Thad, Bojan and Collison. I think we will miss Thad more than people know but are better off overall. With Dipo at half mast I would expect another first round exit. No all-star free agents like these super teams are getting, that's for certain.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            A hard cap and the removal of "max contracts" would solve it all.
                            "man, PG has been really good."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by graphic-er View Post
                              Hey just like KP and Bird failed to put any sort of talent around Paul George while he was a Pacer. The Pelicans failed to put elite talent around Davis, and OKC was so hard up to trade for Paul George they didn't even consider the salary cap ramifications of adding him and resigning him, along with trying to fill out the team with good shooters. In pretty much every case its a situation where the team was built terribly from roster standpoint or the star player was traded for a year before his free agency. Expecting players who have never had a choice in what teams they play for pass up the opportunity to do so in free agency is a red flag in my book. Teams in good situations kept their players.

                              This dynamic duo trend is the best thing to happen to the league in years. Its going to be no longer about overwhelming talent to win the championship. Matchups are going to be really important going forward.

                              if Indiana play's its hand correctly over the next 2 years, they will be able to make a trade to get a guy like Beal.

                              I'd also like to add that it appears star players can be had for essentially multiple first round picks. The Pacers just refuse to pay this kind of price for a star player, even though they have only hit on 2 draft picks in the last 9-10 years? Paul George and Myles Turner. Solomon Hill, Lance Stephenson, Georges Niang, Miles Plumlee, Orlando Johnson...none of these guys were kept around past their rookie deals. Infact trading the draft pick has resulted in George Hill and Thad Young who are solid starters. So if the Pacers expand their trade tolerance to included multiple first round picks....they too can pursue the likes of Westbrook, Jimmy Butler, Anthony Davis, and etc...
                              I disagree with the narrative that OKC did not surround Davis with talent. Jrue Holiday is very good. They also traded for Demarcus Cousins. Pelicans made second round of playoffs two seasons ago. Davis left NO because Lebron recruited him in an underhanded way. Fans of NO deserve better than to have their best player sniped from them. Silver has been terrible as commissioner, and should fire himself. As a Pacer fan, we have been already been affected by this trend, when Paul George demanded a trade. We will probably be facing the same dilemma in a few years when Oladipo's contract is up. New NBA has star players teaming up only in big markets. Days of wanting to compete vs the best are over. Damian Lillard is an outlier, and few players will stick with small markets going forward.
                              Being unable to close out a game in which you have a comfortable lead in the 4th Q = Pulling a Frank Vogel

                              Comment

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