The Indiana Pacers begin play on Wednesday with an interesting roster and an almost certain lock-out next year hanging over the league.
This team is not ready to beat Boston, Orlando or Miami but they do have some interesting pieces. Granger had to benefit from practicing with the stars on team USA all summer. I wouldn’t make Roy Hibbert tha next Kareem just yet but he is much improved and should be the focal point of the offense. Darren Collison is an outstanding addition and Dunleavy really does look like he did a couple of years ago. If he proves to be healthy then perhaps Dunleavy is trade bait at some point soon? McRoberts will be a better role player then local talking heads believe and Hansbrough has looked good at times in the pre-season. There is still a place for the Kurt Rambis role player in this league.
This team can be better and much more enjoyable to watch this year. They can pull off some upsets in part because they have filled the two most important positions on the court which are center and point guard. Hibbert is one of the few true centers in the NBA right now and they have Collison to get him the ball.
Still there are red flags and issues to be concerned with.
As of this writing they had not yet made their last cut. It probably isn’t worth much but I would keep Magnum Rolle. This is a young team and I would make it younger by probably cutting Solomon Jones or grit my teeth, shed a tear and cut Jeff Foster. I think Rolle may have a higher upside than Jones and is healthier than Foster. Barring a trade they will likely cut Rolle.
I have issues with how the pre-season has been handled. Jim O’Brien stated that Lance Stephenson would not see playing time until he learns defense. In the regular season I can understand that but isn’t that pre-season is for? To play young players and see what they can do in game situations? J.O.B. did not want to play Rush because the coach said he was going to play his rotation guys and Rush wasn't available for the first five games. Then what happened? Granger got hurt, Rush started and looked good. Well first if you were concerned about your rotation why play Rush much less start him? By the time Rush is off of suspension, Granger will be back and playing. Second point, when has J.O.B. ever really stuck to a rotation anyway?
Already in the pre-season J.O.B. wants Collison to move the ball faster which takes away from the guard’s strength of ball handling and pick and roll action. This is also the same problem O’Brien has had with every point guard the Pacers has had since he has been the coach. He wants defense but won’t play Dahntay Jones because Jones cannot shoot three pointers. I could go on but a large part of coaching is putting people in situations they can succeed at and modifying your system to utilize the talent you have. Every good team has defensive specialists that are not necessarily Reggie Miller when it comes to shooting treys. Don’t ask him to be something he isn’t. I could go on about this but it is a little like the Colts deciding to continue to throw ten passes a game to the tight end even though Dallas Clark is out for the season.
It has been my theory that Jim O’Brien is still the Pacers coach because ownership doesn’t think there will be a NBA season next year. He is on the last year of his contract and you are not going to hire anyone new without committing to a contract of three to five years at the very least and why pay a coach if we aren’t playing next year? Certainly I think if the team starts out really bad there is always a chance of a coaching change but I don’t see that happening before the first of the year at the earliest.
Despite what it sounds like, I don’t hate Jim O’Brien. I am sure he knows a great deal about basketball and don’t forget he was brought in to play bad cop to a team that had the inmates running the asylum. However those guys are gone and his stubbornness and occasional paranoia do not normally fit well in the NBA. Especially with a young team.
I have no delusions about this team competing for the top of the east but barring injuries it should not be a 50 loss team either. I do like many of the pieces they have in place. It will be an interesting season and perhaps the last NBA season we have for a while.