The Jonathan Bender Era is finally over. I know he wasn't on the roster, but his $7.8 million salary was on the Pacers' salary cap this year. He's off the cap now so his impact on the Pacers is officially complete. Mark Montieth caught up with JB literally trying to move on after enduring nothing but frustration over the past several years as injuries left him as the poster boy for unfulfilled promises.
The NBA career arc of Bender has to be considered when questions are asked about how the Pacers are where they are today. Bender was drafted with the fifth overall pick that was acquired for Antonio Davis. The following year A.D. would've been nice to have in the NBA Finals to add some depth to throw at Shaq and the Lakers. The Pacers were lauded though for planning for the future while maintaining excellence on the court. Unfortunately, the future never materialized. Now we find out, JB's knees were never questioned in the rushed deal. But, really, would anyone have thought to ask the proper questions? Like, for example, did you spend any time in your youth jumping off house roofs? In retrospect, JB doesn't think that childhood game was good for his knees in the long run.
Like jumping off of houses.
"All that crazy ripping and running, that's probably a whole 'nother couple of seasons (lost) right there," he said.
"We didn't have anything to do, so everything we made up was kind of crazy. What kind of pleasure do you get going up on a roof and just jumping off? I don't understand it."
The Pacers didn't have the opportunity to check out Bender's knees before the draft because they made a deal with Toronto the night before to obtain his rights. But he had showed no hints of problems when he scored 31 points in the McDonald's All-American Game, breaking Michael Jordan's 19-year-old record. Chicago had checked him out thoroughly, and found no issues that he was ever made aware of.
Haste makes waste. Man, that's tough to take. The question remains: Why the four year extension? There had to be some signs that the knee may be a chronic problem. There are many issues and people that have contributed to the Pacers' current state of affairs. Jonathan Bender certainly played a part, but the good news is that his knees and salary are no longer holding the Pacers back.