Pacers training camp: Be optimistic, but realistic

[From the FanPosts, mickydemling offers some words of caution for Pacers fans heading into the season. -TL]

Some say I am a pessimist. I say I am a realist.

I am not pessimistic about the Pacers this season. In fact, I think Pacer fans have a ton to look forward to. Seeing the growth last season, the battle-testedness that came from the playoff experience you get the sense that the pride of this team will force them to continue to climb. But not many people are pessimistic about their favorite team on October 1.

The realist in me tries to examine holes in my optimism. This is why people call me pessimistic, because when everyone sees the reasons to be excited, I try to find ways that it could go wrong. (It's a miserable way to live).

The next time I write, I will look at the many valid reasons Pacer fans have to be optimistic. But today, I will break down a few holes and reasons for concern for this 2012-13 season that can't get started soon enough.

Everything went right last year

Growth is the key word for the Pacers this season. When you bring back basically the exact team from the year before, and you didn't win the championship, the natural question is, “Why will the team be better?”

When I write about the team's I will point out several reasons I believe there will be internal growth individually and collectively from last year.

Having said that, the Pacers had a fortunate run last season. The main point being that they dealt with no significant injury in the season. Injuries are a pretty pointless subject to talk about because they can never be predicted. But it is worth mentioning that arguably the three most reliable players on the Pacers roster are a 32-year old power forward who recently had ACL surgery, a 7'2” center and a 29-year old who has had some knee issues.

The point is, injuries are a huge part of the NBA. Any successful run requires some luck. And the Pacers had plenty of luck last season. Just last season Derrick Rose went down and Dwight Howard had back surgery. Even the Heat nearly had their trip to the title wrecked by an injury to Chris Bosh. This team can grow, but it will require a repeat of the luck they had last year with the health of their roster.

Is the bench really better?

Pacer fans still have nightmares about playoff games where 10-point first quarter leads turn into 10-point second quarter deficits. The bench was bad. And the addition of Leandro Barbosa didn't help. One of the greatest reasons for optimism for the Pacers is the little secret of how elite the Pacers' starting 5 was once George Hill took over at point guard. So the front office made their explicit priority to bring back that starting 5 and then do whatever they could to improve the bench.

Out goes Darren Collison and in comes DJ Augustin. See you later Loouuu, and hello to Ian Mahinmi. Goodbye Dahntay Jones, welcome Gerald Green.

This is not how the moves went, but it works to help compare them side by side. The Pacers also chose not to bring back Barbosa and will likely give Lance Stephenson his minutes.

So the question Pacer fans is, “Are you more comfortable with a second unit of Augustin, Stephenson, Green, Hansbrough and Mahinmi than Collison, Barbosa, Jones, Hansbrough and Amundson?”

That will be a wait-and-see. Fans get excited about change and new faces, but the truth is none of the five players coming off the bench have proven much at the NBA level.

And the Pacers learned last season that bench production is nothing to take lightly.

Paul George

One last question to think about before you start making reservations for the NBA finals. Anytime you hear the Pacers talked about in the next few weeks leading up to the season, you will hear them mention something about Paul George reaching the next level.

George brings all the tools in the world to the table, and just makes you wonder what could happen. His growth is essential for the Pacers' growth because Hibbert, Granger, West and Hill are known entities – you know what you are going to get. With George will you get solid, active defense and rebounding and good spot-up shooting or will you get the emergence of an all-star? If it's the latter, watch out. But while he has given glimpses of that type of growth, they have only been glimpses, and it's hard to bank on a breakout performance from George.

The Pacers have their best team coming into training camp since 2005. They have a ton of reasons, but they just need to be kept in perspective.

Until tomorrow when I write the reasons to believe in the Pacers this year.

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