Mike Wells broadens out a point I made in the recap about the Pacers playing soft against the Raptors. Now that the schedule is back to normal, it doesn't mean the Pacers will be handed a basket of W's just because they played well in several losses earlier in the year. They have to play hard with energy and a sense of urgency regardless of the opponent or else we're all in for a let down. The late-game losses and wins over the Lakers and Celtics combined to raise expectations for what the Pacers are capable of achieving. Now bringing the effort consistently to meet those expectations is the next step and when they don't frustration begins to set in.
"It's pretty hard to be upbeat with a 7-14 record," veteran Jeff Foster said. "It's easy to say we played this team or this team with a good record, but at the end we're still well below .500 and we have three more road games coming up in a row. We just have to find a way to get a win."
This remains a team that is young, talented and can entertain with the best of them on nights they play well. But they have issues that will always hold them back until they're addressed. I say that, knowing the front office is fully aware of these issues and needs time to resolve them properly. For instance, Larry Bird can't just go out this weekend and pick up a stout power forward who can defend and score in the post. But the Pacers still have two games so they have to play with what they have right now. Some nights the legs aren't there and the opponent is too good (Cleveland). Other nights you can't throw it in the ocean and simply don't play well (Toronto).That's just part of the 82-game grind for a mid-level team without the depth of talent to overcome those tough nights.
Another issue is dealing with an immature playing rotation. The rotation is unsettled to say the least and with inconsistent rookie play as part of the equation, the rotation will continue to be a work in progress. There's no way around it right now and it goes back to Bruno's look at the team's depth compared to the top teams around the league. The Pacers are bringing Jarrett Jack, Jeff Foster and a lot of inexperience (Rush, Hibbert, McRoberts, Graham) off the bench. With a little good health news and a bit more time, the Pacers could improve the situation this year. To change things up, JOB could start Rush and bring Mike Dunleavy and Marquis Daniels off the bench with Jack, as I suggested in the preseason. My thought being that Dun and Quisy played real well together last year, so there'd be little if any drop in play with the second unit and they could still finish games. Of course, I didn't expect it to happen nor Dun to miss every game at this point, but now that he has, a role off the bench is likely, at least initially, when (if?) he returns.
Considering these issues, this is why I can't pin every loss on Jim O'Brien and actually appreciate the way he's changed the work ethic and player (player, not fans, player) expectations for the Pacers. He's been dealt the hand of a developing team with few pieces (including his top players) that he can rely on consistently from night to night. Yet, with every successful outing the Pacers have, JOB seems to lose a little rational good will for setbacks. The players have to figure out what it takes for them individually to do what needs to be done for the team to play at a high level consistently. I know JOB is pushing them in this regard and I expect those who can't figure it out won't be around in the long run. I also don't expect it to happen overnight.