Sorry Horford. That shot is ProHibberted!!!!
18 games in and things look good. Not great. Some very alarming things are occurring with a lot more that could plausibly go wrong. But, all in all, realistic expectations from a team perspective have been met. We’ve beat some good teams and are well over .500 against bad teams. That’s a big step forward over last season.
Synergy. That’s what our success has been built on. Synergy and facing lesser teams. But, beating lesser teams isn’t something we did at a very high rate last season. The 2012 Indiana Pacers have to be playing GREAT team ball to stand a chance against good teams. And even then, through a seven game series our boys are going to have to have all their pieces healthy and playing well to stand a chance. This team’s current success is based on the whole being greater than the sum of its parts; SYNERGY. When we get into stretches of games where our parts are just playing ‘their’ game…it’s pretty darn unwatchable.
I’m still standing by my .600 regular season record prediction (plus or minus a couple games…minus a ton of games if West, Hibbert or Granger miss many games). That’s a strong jump from 2010/11 and I actually think we’d be even better with some pre-season practice. But, I guess other teams would be too.
Before I get into 2012Q2-Q4+ predictions, I will say this, if Foster was healthy all season and Danny was playing (read shooting) like he has been lately from game 1 and Danny hadn’t caught that stomach bug in Philly? I actually think we would be 16-2 right now. Miami’s stars and role players were just on fire against us and Orlando matches up well with us and was shooting pretty darn well (no one can stop Howard and we can’t chase the ball to run their off ball 3pt shooters off the line)…otherwise we lost close games to teams we can beat if we are at 100%. But even then, I’d be worried about a 7 game series against the other top 4 teams in the east. At some point, a good coach with better players is going to figure us out.
Now, let’s talk real talk moving forward.
I never hated Rush as much as some, but he was clearly an afterthought on this squad and highly expendable. And yet, Amundson has been so horrible so far, that even with Tyler’s struggles and our kiddie pool shallow front court beyond West & Hibbert, I’d rather have B.Rush than Amundson.
I will only say this once in this post and not bloviate on the point. We should’ve offered Dalembert a four year $24mil. contract. It would’ve been well worth it even if it meant Foster signed his little league min. deal somewhere else (hate to say that b/c I LOVE JEFF). But, that’s what we need. Even though we could use a West/Hibbert combo type player like Kaman…I’d rather have an athletic (athletic for a 30 year old affordable, proven, reliable vet) change of pace like Sammy to pair with them. OK. Done with that. It’s too late. Just so mad that I was so right…and yet, never can get proven wrong b/c it didn’t happen.
Back on track. This team lacks that one player to bring it all together. Hibbert should be that player and he’s doing everything he can. It’s so frustrating to see him in solid position but a smidge out of his comfort zone looking for a reset. He’s sitting there with the ball. He’s not quite in a spot where he’s comfortable attacking the rim or shooting his 6 foot hook from that angle so he’s looking for a strong cut to drop the ball off for someone else to get an easy look…and people are just freaking standing around watching him or jogging off his edges. I HATE THAT!!!! Hibbert will get more $$$ than he should b/c of two things. 1. He is freaking tall and has stayed healthy and played through injuries. 2. His hook shot is nearly unstoppable and his passing out of the low post is better than he’s able to exhibit (or Xhibbert as I like to call it) because we don’t have the cutters to take advantage of it. If those elements change we can look forward to paying Hibbert $13+mil. per season and being happy with it b/c our other players made it worth his while. Otherwise, teams are going to start bringing help over earlier and he’s going to drop below .50% shooting and remain below 2apg and crest above 3 TOpg. That’s not good. It’s not far off from what Roy is doing now, but I fear that his dissolving stats will reflect our inability to improve as a team more than proving he’s not worth a HUGE salary raise.
Unless our team significantly improves their consistency moving the ball and moving without the ball, from the top to the bottom of our rotation, I see this season faltering more than blossoming. If we can maintain our current play, 2012 should still be much better than 2011. But come late April/early May it may not be as much of an improvement over last post-season than we thought it might be earlier in the week.
The most realistic hopes we have at this point to maintain/improve our position in the big scheme of the NBA are as follows:
1. Whatever that doctor was talking about yesterday in Boston happens and Jeff (Foster, not Pendergraph) can play some big minutes in big regular season games and we can still get wins resting him in games against softer opponents. But come playoffs, he’s there for 18-20 minutes of "I’m meaner than you and could give a sh!+ about fouls" type of effort.
2. Tyler Hansbrough can find that 20 foot jumper and stop trying to play with his back to the basket. Teams have discovered that he really doesn’t entirely know what he is doing a lot of the time. I’ve given up on him being a willing/able passer, but facing up, if he can knock down open jumpers from the 18-20 foot elbow, he can make defenders play him close and then put the ball on the floor for one dribble, attack and get to the line. As it stands now, defenders are letting him feel them with his back to the basket, then they are backing off for a half step and forcing him to turn into their soft defense and take his horrible on the floor shot in close over their NBA length outstretched arms…not good. Hansbrough = soft touch????...NO!!! But if he can become effective again offensively, it will win us a couple close games and allow Foster to get healthy all regular-season and give us something nice in the 2nd unit to fall back on come playoff time.
3. We will trade something minimal for a solid post player. Kaman is the clear target now, but their asking price is absurdly ridiculous. Short of him, Jordan Hill? Jason Thompson? Those guys could help and might be available for Tyler and/or a 2nd round pick or a heavily protected 2012 1st rounder. If not, if Foster can’t play significant minutes soon and for the rest of the season, we are going to have to lean on Hibbert and West more than they are capable of shouldering and they will be worn out come the playoffs.
4. We will add one of the Chinese players for a reasonable price. Even if it is K-mart (the original) it might be helpful. If Pendergraph isn’t capable of coming in and playing much better than Lou Amundson our lack of front court depth will kill us as the season wears on. If we can get JR Smith or Wilson Chandler in the fold for a reasonable contract, that could be huge. They won’t help much banging in the paint (Wil-Chand might), but they could instantly be one of our top 3 or 4 scorers and we can stomach Lou doing what we brought him in for=deflecting passes, collecting fouls, and pulling in rebounds and freaking immediately passing those rebounds to someone who can do something with the ball in their hands besides turn it over or shoot a brick.
5. We trade for one of the many solid 2nd /3rd tier wing scorers that will be tough for their current teams to resign come summer. Well, I don’t want to list them, b/c they aren’t great options and their current teams may want to keep them…but just some…N.Batum, L.Fields, L.Barbosa, C.Lee, Mayo, Foye, as mentioned above JR Smith, and there are some others.
The 3rd seed is the key this year. If we just continue playing our current game I think we’ll be "OK". But, honestly, I don’t think we’ll get a top 3 seed. If we can’t secure a top 3 seed then we WILL be facing CHI, MIA, PHI, ORL, or ATL (with a healthy Horford) in the first round. In a 7 game series this current Pacers team is likely to lose to any of those teams if all players are healthy…and we are as likely to have an injury in April/May as they are.
As silly as all this speculation has been…it’s leading to a mid-season rosterbation that I hope a Sunday afternoon win over the Magic will negate the need for….but what I really wanted to say…if we don’t get that top 3 seed….I actually hope we get the 8th seed. 4th-8th seed is all the same to me as far as winning in the post season. We’ll be playing a more talented team that will be able to figure us out in a seven game series anywhere beyond the 3rd seed. This is a really good draft coming up, but it starts to fade in the early 20s. There’s some teams I’d rather face in the 1st round than others. But, of the top 4 in the East right now…I don’t really care who we face if it means a slightly higher pick in this draft. For a guy whose always hoped for better draft position than playoff position since 2004, hoping for the 3rd seed over anything below it??? That’s a big step. Good job Pacers. I still have hope for that 3rd seed. Go get it.
I love these Pacers. But, we have to keep building. Bird’s 3 year plan is BS if we don't make it out of the first round. Either way, we have some future building left to do. We might be able to do some of it in season. For once in a few years, I actually think this team can do more to improve by tightening up their play than by losing enough games to get a higher pick.
Please, take advantage of my very conditional love fellas.