The recent Carmelo Anthony trade has only confirmed to me the utter hopelessness of being a fan of an NBA team in a small market under the current CBA with the current generation of NBA players. Sometimes I wonder why I care at all because my beloved Pacers have ZERO...I repeat...ZERO chance of winning it all anytime in the next 10 years. If you are a fan like me and hold deep runs into the playoffs and contender status as the primary goal and the main reason for following and supporting a team then you probably feel the same. If those things don't really matter to you and you're happy with mediocrity or following the game itself then you don't feel the same. If you actually believe the Pacers are on their way to contending, then you are in a serious condition of denial.
The NBA has long reminded me of Professional Wrestling. In particular, the refereeing has not only literally PROVEN to be corrupted, it plays by rules NOT seen in any other American pro sport...just pro wrestling. More on that later. The actual competitive model of the league reminds me of the old WWF from when I was growing up in the 80s and early 90s. One primary way the WWF promoted its product was through a show that broadcast on local TV (I think channel 4 on either Saturday or Sunday, I cannot remember.) I believe it was called "Superstars of Wrestling". The point is, however, that this show featured the old WWF structure of "good guys" and "bad guys" who were the stars of the league. There was nothing in between. On this particular weekly show, the stars, be it 'good guy' or 'bad guy' were showcased by wrestling complete no name stiffs who had absolutely no chance of winning whatsoever. Even as a child I picked up on that. They usually went by some totally generic 'real' name like Steve Jones or Greg Regal. Their only reason for their existence was to be pummeled on a weekly basis by the stars. They were punching bag fillers...nothing more....and had no hope of being anything more. Their job was to give the stars someone to fight. The show would then conclude with a fight between two relevant stars. In other words you were rewarded for tuning in by seeing a big match that actually mattered between flagship wrestlers of the league. The NBA is the exact same. We, the Indiana Pacers among the other majority of small market teams, are the Steve Jones and Greg Regals of the NBA. Our only reason for existence is to donate bonus revenue and be the Washington Generals of the NBA...take beatings and be the stiffs for the real stars such as the Bostons, Chicagos, LA's etc. It's really been like that for years in the NBA.
The fact is very few cities have won NBA championships in the last 30 years and they are almost ALWAYS in big markets. Off the top of my head with no internet help I can practically name them all..something I cannot do with baseball or football. It's LA, Chicago, Boston, Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, Detroit, and San Antonio. I'm sure I'm missing one but I believe that's it. Anyone see a pattern there?? Basically you MUST be a flagship, big market, pro wrestling superstar to win OR be like the Spurs who just so happened to be lucky enough for the following to occur: A. have a superstar center (David Robinson) who got hurt for exactly 1 year plunging their team into the lottery, B. won the draft lottery C. were lucky enough that in that particular year there happened to be a bona fide franchise altering player available who fulfilled his potential (Tim Duncan) D. that same franchise altering player happened to have the 'humble' kind of personality which allowed the Spurs to retain him in free agency.....gee...anyone want to hold their breath for that to happen to the Pacers in today's era? And yeah Detroit can be thrown in there as a small market team and their championship teams are great examples of teams that didn't necessarily have a dominating superstar (although some would argue that I. Thomas was just that). Regardless they are still a VERY rare exception...an exception I would argue that was also lucky enough in two of their titles to have played Laker teams' whose star player was hurt most of the Finals (Magic Johnson) or in serious decline (Shaq).
As for free agency...don't make me laugh. We just cannot draw the big guns to our market..you don't really think the addition of David West, or Jamal Crawford, or Zach Randolph is going to make us a contender do you? Even with the assumed development of our young players, the best I see us achieving in the next decade so long as D. Rose, Lebron-Wade, Dwight, Carmelo, and the hanging on Celtics are in the East is a respectable Atlanta Hawks type of level. It's a superstar league and always has been. In what other pro sport is preferential treatment of star players during the game actually accepted as a RULE?? We all know the stars get calls and are almost never in foul trouble and its not even debated that this is part of the game. This is totally insane to me and the equivalent to cheating. Was Roger Clemens' strike zone bigger than the opposing pitcher's?? hell no it wasn't. Do Peyton or Brady get more roughing the passer calls or pass interference calls than other QBs because they are stars?? hell no they don't. Did Jerry Rice have more pass interference calls go his way strictly because of his name?? not even close. Then there's the make up call....what kind of pathetic joke is that??? Anyway, we can go on and on about absurd NBA officiating.
And yes, I realize we were contenders for 10 years (don't forget we also had a number 2 overall NBA pick on that team-Rik Smits-and retained him which is exactly what I said it takes to contend in a small market). And yes, he was franchise altering...no Smits...no decade of contending...Reggie or not. I LOVED those guys. No Jordan, we win it all in 97-98. And there were/are other small market teams like us who advanced far..but let's face it..we were also-rans...never really getting THAT close. We got to ONE NBA final and were beaten relatively easily. In today's NBA with the one and doners, free agency, collusion, and personalities of this generation, it seems to me completely hopeless if you are looking for championships and contender status. We'd better hope something changes when they re-do the CBA this Summer.