I confess. When scheduling day arrived post-lockout palooza, I was scared. To say it was all the Pacers' fault was a perfectly reasonable assertion. Fifteen of the first 22 on the road? A team that had won a total of 24 games on the road the past two seasons? Figuratively speaking, an early road-heavy schedule for a previously road-incompetent team seemed to be an inevitable momentum-death knell for a fanbase finally finding reason to hope.
With only two games left before hitting the early-season, 15-game-road mark, the results have been impressive: Eight wins and five losses. Regardless of what happens in Minnesota (02/01), and Dallas (02/03), the results will stay impressive.
David West's leadership and developing scoring prowess were expected pre 2011-2012. George Hill's steady play off the bench on both sides of the ball was expected. Other reasonable expectations that have come to past: an improved Paul George, Roy Hibbert taking the next step, and a roster with some scoring balance. Bountiful wins on the road? Completely unexpected, but supremely satisfying. Knowing the Pacers have a chance to win anytime anywhere has completely revolutionized the Pacer-fan experience; transforming it from one littered with Blue-and-Gold dejection into one littered with Blue-and-Gold pride.
After the jump, a some random Pacer thoughts as the season hits the quarter mark. Feel free to add any of your own.
Superstar-less = Drama-less: So Roy Hibbert didn't sign an extension. Neither did George Hill. Bummer. The good news? Well, beyond the fact both players say they intend to eventually re-sign with the team, a couple of absent extensions that still left player-team relationships intact may be the drama high point in Indiana for the 2011-2012 season. Contrast that with Dwight Howard's situation in Orlando, Deron Williams in New Jersey, Kevin Love's contract drama in Minnesota, and you start to see the benefit of not having a high-maintenance personality on a basketball team. Refreshingly, Hibbert's and Hill's drama came and went. Tortuously, win or lose, Orlando and New Jersey will be answering will-he-stay-or-will-he-go questions for the duration of the season and into a good portion of the offseason. Minnesota will be doing the same for the next three years. Superstar drama never goes away. Superstars traditionally give a team the best chance to be championship eligible, I get that, but excuse me for thoroughly enjoying a low-maintenance roster manufacture a winning formula. Dare I say I even enjoy it more than the idea of having a superstar in Indy who may make the franchise a championship contender, but always leaves open the question of whether or not staying in Indy is a long-term option? You bet I do.
Come Offseason 2013, the Pacers Owe David West: He probably could have had more money. He surely could have had a longer contract, yet David West took a short-term deal with smaller cache to take a chance on a young team with winning potential. Indiana's off to its best start in nearly a decade, and, without question, David West can claim to be a major component in the winning overhaul. West took a risk on a previously down-and-out franchise, the Pacers would be wise to remember that when it comes time to re-sign him in 2013.
Is the National Media's Ignorance of Small-Market Pacers a Positive or Negative?: I recently wrote an article about the developing rivalry between the Bulls and Pacers. One thing I chose not to include in there was my assertion that TNT/ESPN are sure doing the NBA-watching public a disservice by not televising a Pacers'-Bulls' matchup. During last season's playoffs, both networks had a front-row seat to the supreme intensity accompanying each game between the two teams. Along with the competitive nature of the series, there was some additional marketing gold on the table such as a big-market showcase (Chicago), and the improving small-market David trying to slay Goliath (Indiana). Instead, the big networks chose big names over potentially big games. The question developing now is does it even matter? Are the Pacers better off flying under the big-network radar?