Sensing lack of depth in the Pacers front court, Larry Bird looked to bolster the front line by trading for Lou Amundson to the Warriors for oft disappointing wingman Brandon Rush. The Pacers, who had effectively been trying to move Rush since his rookie season, looked in good shape to maybe have the most energetic and hustle worthy front court in the league by pairing up Amundson with Jeff Foster and Tyler Hansbrough.
Amundson was thrown into the rotation early in the season when Foster's back issues began to crop up, eventually leading to Foster's retirement. To lose a veteran presence like Foster, not to mention one of the game's greatest offensive rebounders, was a blow the smaller Pacers lineup could ill afford. For all of the play Lou could bring the Pacers, he was still a 6'9" backup center on a team that had just one legitimate big man.
Lou had his fair share of struggles to start the season, among them hitting just 7 of his first 36 field goal attempts. It was a tough stretch for the 50% shooter, who brought hustle, but didn't have much to show for it in the way of actual production. When questions regarding his level of play started to get louder, Amundson posted an 8-8 shooting stretch over two nights against New Jersey and Orlando.
Just as things began to look their bleakest, Lousanity took its hold on Pacers fans. Those two games helped to get the ball rolling on Amundson's season, and instead of being a hustle guy with no real contributions, he began to look more like a Jeff Foster-light the team and fans had hoped he would be at the beginning of the season. Amundson's game provided a lot of positives for the blue and gold from that point, and when he made plays, the team more often than not came out on top.
The high water mark of Amundson's play took place in early March, when a double double against Charlotte was followed up by a ridiculous 21 point night on 10-11 shooting against the Blazers that made the "Louuuuuuuu" chant a game night commonplace. Indiana fans are naturally drawn to players who go 110% every play, making Amundson an obvious and instant fan favorite once his production came around.
The fan's love of Lou's game began to cloud a close to the season where Amundson simply didn't play that well. It seemed the nights where Amundson made the key plays became further and further apart, but it was hard to tell given the jovial reaction towards all of his positive efforts to go alongside the team's hot streak to close the regular season. Whatever the reason, Lou's play never really recovered to a Foster-esque level, coming to a full tilt in the Miami series where Amundson was one of the many problems for the Pacers in their three game losing streak to close the series.
Indiana's size was supposed to be their one noticeable advantage against the warm bodies and general lack of talent that made up Miami's front line, but when Roy Hibbert and David West couldn't get the ball, make plays, or had to sit out in foul trouble, the Heat didn't need to adjust when Amundson and Tyler Hansbrough entered the game. Amundson's lack of size proved to be a detrimental twist because not only were the Pacers giving up five inches at the center position when he entered, but he wasn't strong enough to move the Heat big men, playing a part in ending Amundson's season on a slight sour note.
Even though Lou Amundson didn't play to the level of Jeff Foster consistently enough to get the desired result out of him, the move to pick him up is one of the slicker moves Bird made in the offseason. With Foster's back in doubt, Bird picked up the best player he could to emulate Foster's style. Amundson did bring Foster's hustle, even showing up with some reminiscent rebounding efforts. For what the Pacers had to work with up front, Amundson did a good enough job.
Indiana would've been better had Amundson been the third string center, or emergency fill in for Foster in the nights he needed off, but in a seven game series, he can't be the backup center and he can't be your biggest guy on the court, especially when the starters are struggling to even get touches. He missed a ton of easy shots, hit a number of tough ones. He had a shot that was so wildly inconsistent it was nearly impossible to tell what you'd get from a night to night basis. In addition, in wanting Amundson to kind of be a new age Foster, well, he simply didn't show enough to prove he can be that type of replacement.
And the Future
At points this season, resigning Amundson seemed like a no-brainer, but given his lack in quality play to close the year, there should be nothing but doubts reagrding whether the Pacers can actually win big games with him playing the kind of role he played this year. Then again, keeping Amundson isn't so much the issue, but whether the Pacers will get some more size in the front court to put Lou back in the emergency short minute role he should've had this season. But with unpredictability towards health, even keeping Amundson in a third string role may not be the best option for the Pacers moving forward should he be forced into the minutes he was this season.