Jerry Schultheiss-US PRESSWIRE
Can the Pacers' early-season struggles be soothed by the demise of division rivals?
It's been a rough first week and a half of the season for the Blue and Gold as injuries and sloppy play have overshadowed what's supposed to be a season of Reggie Miller era nostalgia. How are the rest of Indy's division rivals faring? Let's take a look:
Chicago Bulls (4-2) - A familiar foe reigns supreme atop the division and a collective vomit-in-the-mouth reflex ails Pacer fans everywhere. Sigh... even without the services of one-time MVP Derrick Rose, even with Luol Deng's flimsy thumb, and even with having to rely upon the ever-so unreliable Carlos Boozer night in night out, the Bulls continue to win. Sure, they've played five out of six at home and only two games against teams with a winning record, but they're winning with stellar contributions from antiquity such as Rip Hamilton and from the unkempt talents of Nate Robinson. All hail Tom Thibodeau.
Milwaukee Bucks (3-2, 0.5 GB) - Wisconsin. Home to a recent vice-presidential candidate loser and to the league's most nonsensical diminutive backcourt experiment. Much like their roster construction, the Bucks seasonal performance thus far seems devoid of any common sense: 2-0 on the road, 1-2 at home; leading scorers shoot a combined 38% from the field; leading rebounder and shot blocker plays 27 MPG; oh, and the Bucks prized offseason re-signing (Ersan Ilyasova) is averaging a full 5 PPG and 3 RPG less than last season. Yet, they have a winning record... and to make matters worse for the Blue and Gold, a once-upon-a-time Pacers' tragedy is blistering in Milwaukee (Mike Dunleavy).
Indiana Pacers (3-4, 1.5 GB) - What can a Pacers' fan say? Five players averaging 2+ turnovers a game; one regular rotation member even sniffing 50% from the field (Lance Stephenson, 49%); the team's max player is playing like a max bust (Roy Hibbert, 8.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG; 38% FG; 45% FT ). Come to think of it, the mere fact the Pacers are even sniffing a .500 record almost feels like some kind of supernatural halo effect is at work in Cornrow nation.
Cleveland Cavaliers (2-4, 2 GB) - They sport one the of the league's most fantastical up-and-coming talents in Kyrie Irving, and Dion Waiters is so far outperforming many stinging summer league and preseason critiques. The rest of the roster/performance? Blah. The good news in Cleveland: Kyrie Irving = poor man's Derrick Rose, where almost every successful Cavs' possession hinges upon his creative abilities. The bad news: too bad Cleveland's supporting cast is more Charlotte Bobcat than Black and Red.
Detroit Pistons (0-7, 4.5 GB) - They've played one home game and it just so happened to be James Harden's Rocket debut where the Palace was privy to a revenge-seeking, max-dollar earning 37 pts, 12 assist assault. It's going to be a long season in Motown. And it has less to do with road-game to home-game ratio and more to do with a Brandon Knight-Tayshaun Prince-Rodney Stuckey-Jason Maxiell-Jonas Jerebko-Will Bynum-Kyle Singler to Greg Monroe talent ratio.