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Pacers Show Signs Of Hope Heading Into Offseason

Last year when the season ended, it was hard to grab onto anything that was positive. The Pacers lost their final four games. The play of newcomers, Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy and Ike Diogu had yet to excite anyone. Plus, it appeared that Rick Carlisle was done as coach, so the whole direction of the team was in flux. Jermaine O'Neal was looking at rehabbing his knee. Meanwhile, Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird seemed intent on tweaking the team to improve on what was there, instead of starting over.

As the 2007-08 season ended last night, the Pacers sit about where they were at this time last year, but there are far more positive signs. For one, the team finished the season playing hard and playing together, winning 11 of their last 16 games. Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy emerged late in the season as reliable scorers who no longer shrunk from the biggest moments in games.

The team revealed plenty of character by never giving up on the season or any game they were in. Jim O'Brien has the team playing at a pace that puts up plenty of shots and points. Along with the pace, the toughness the team showed fighting for 48 minutes of every game is a compliment to O'B's influence on the team. Now, it they can find some players to defend.

The future direction seems to be taking shape, also. Herb Simon has thrown himself into helping solve the Pacers' business and image problems. He's leaning on Jim Morris to help guide those decisions. Meanwhile, Larry Bird can focus on the basketball issues and I find it encouraging that he plans to change up the roster and is willing to let the team slip back in order to really rebuild for a solid future.

The whole organization has a lot of work to do and this offseason is the most critical for the franchise since the Simons initially save the team and became owners. At least from the outset, there appears to be a plan to guide the direction the team is headed. Now it's time to work the plan.