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Step Your Game Up: Ike Diogu

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[With expectations lower than the White River this August, the Pacers simply need to play well in order to surpass the pundits prognostications. But just playing well probably won't be enough to make the Eastern Conference playoffs. What the Pacers need is for each player to raise their game enough so that the combined effect will help the team exceed expecations to the point of an exciting, entertaining, dare I say, FUN season. We do remember how to have fun don't we? With this in mind, I'm looking at that little extra a player can add to move the Pacers in the right direction this year.]

Ike Diogu is often held up as the ray of hope that the value of the trade with Golden State will shift in the Pacers' favor over time. Let's face it, Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Al Harrington, and Stephen Jackson are all well known commodoties, each flawed enough that both teams jumped at the chance to move them. Josh Powell and Ike Diogu were the players involved whose potential was still untapped. With a change of scenery and an opportunity to play, Powell and Diogu could pay big dividends years down the road. Well, Powell has moved on to the L.A. Clippers since he was stuck behind too much talent in Golden State. But, Diogu was given enough opportunity in the final months of last season to show flashes of what he can and cannot do.

What can we count on from Ike?
When Ike plays, Ike scores. I don't want to say the guy is a black hole, but someone better be wide open before Ike begins going through his low post repertoire. Sniffing out points also keeps Ike hungry on the offensive glass. He has long arms and plenty of moves around the bucket. As long as he stays within himself and not try to do too much, too fast, he can make huge offensive contributions off the bench.

What can Ike improve to really help out?
Ike needs to offer some help on the defensive end. As an undersized power forward, without the benefit of the veteran whistle, Ike can pick up fouls in bunches. During the final six weeks of last season, foul trouble often limited his mintutes as he worked his way into the playing rotation. Dick Harter's defensive system should immediately make him better. The only problem is, I can think of four or five other Pacers who I hope will benefit from Harter's system. What if they're all playing at once, the system can't be that great can it? Well, I'm not here to predict the future, just give a plausible reason for Ike to improve his play and raise his contribution to the team next year. So, I'll stick with Harter's team defensive scheme helping Ike avoid constant foul trouble.

How can Ike really make a big impact?
Ike won't do anything to single-handedly alter the Pacers' fortunes, but he can do plenty by taking his production level up a couple of notches. The key is finding minutes in the rotation. Last year with the Pacers, Ike played at least 20 minutes in nine games. For those nine games, he averaged 14.3 points and 8.1 rebounds. If he could push those numbers (20 min, 14.3 pts, 8.1 rebs) out over 75 to 80 games, Ike would be pulling his weight and then some. Hey, let's hit the dial and tweak them up a bit to 16 pts, 9 rebs a game. Now we're talking sixth man of the year material and a key cog in and exciting and fun Pacer season.

Come on, Ike! Step your game up!!!