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Step Your Game Up: Travis Diener

[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 playoffs in the Eastern Conference. What the Pacers need is for each player to raise their game a little 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 may add to move the Pacers in the right direction this year.]

Travis Diener signing with the Pacers was one of a few splashless moves made in the offseason. But in case you haven't noticed, the Pacers aren't into hand-waving, look-at-me hype these days. They're taking what they have and plan to win back fans the old fashioned way...they'll earrrrn it (Google smith barney earn it, young people). So, while the presser announcing Travis Diener's signing didn't send folks flocking to the Fieldhouse box office, he could help reduce the visible green during games by lifting his game above the current role-player-off-the-bench expcetations. Let's face it, from a distance Diener's game strikes a remarkable resemblance to that of Saras Jasikevicius, minus the smoker's hack, of course (Runi's voice always sounded like he was uttering his first words of the day after smoking a pack of cigarettes the night before). So, don't worry if you are skeptical about what Diener might contribute this year. I've found it's a natural Hoosier trait to remain cynical until proven otherwise. Might as well give him a chance, though. As a highly lactose tolerant gym rat from Wisconsin, he's gonna give all he has and continue to work to improve.

What can we expect from TD?
We should expect Diener to provide 5 to 15 minutes of point guard relief and more importantly, knock down open 3-balls. The O'B system should give Diener a handful of clean looks per game. If he wants to remain in the rotation, he's gotta knock 'em down. Take care of the ball, knock down shots, get more minutes. TD won't be a defensive stopper but he should be able to fill the role required of him in Harter's team oriented defensive system.

What can TD do to exceed expectations?
We're not expecting much impact from a backup point guard, but for this exercise we're looking at how each player can raise their game above current expectations. With that in mind, Diener could transform the franchise by turning into the second coming of Mark Price. Think about it, the issues with Jamaal Tinsley would cease to exist if another high-quality, productive point guard could share the load with Tins.

I realize this is a bit much to ask in his first year with the Pacers, so why not start out as a Brent Price type player. "Mark's brother" had a nice run in his third year with the Washington Bullets. I'll never forget calling in a fantasy waiver move to add Brent Price during a 1996 matinée on MLK Day. In the days of USA Today stats, Mondays were a freebie, so Price's 30 point, 13 assist game with 6 3-balls was definitely LoNny worthy. So, yeah, if Diener can have a third year break out like Brent Price (quit laughing, I'm serious, look it up) it would be a huge bonus for the Pacers.

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