Conrad Brunner has some great season preview stuff up on Pacers.com including video of several players contemplating the keys to the upcoming season (Think JOB has been emphasizing turnovers?). He also has a Q&A with Jim O'Brien, taking the coach's temperature on several issues facing the Pacers with the season set to begin.
I have to disagree with the coach on the importance of a good start to the season. JOB downplayed the urgency for the Pacers to get off to a good start, instead emphasizing that the team will continually improve throughout the year and be playing their best basketball down the stretch of the season. If healthy, they'll be able to make a run at the playoffs.
That all sounds good, but the early season schedule is favorable and this team needs to grow up in a hurry and take advantage. That may not be fair but the Pacers have buried themselves in losses by the new year in the past couple of seasons, making a stretch of good play at the end of the season meaningless.
Not only do all of the early losses make a late playoff run to big a challenge, but it also douses the fan base with apathy and when the casual fans tune out it takes a lot to get their attention again.
This season, the first ten games of the season set up as well as you can hope for the Pacers.
Opening the season at San Antonio stinks but then the Pacers play @Charlotte, Philadelphia, @Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Denver, Houston, @Cleveland, Atlanta and L.A. Clippers. Some tough games among the other nine but most of those are at home. Winning six or seven of those first ten is almost a must when you consider the next five games include Orlando, @Miami, Cleveland, Oklahoma City and @L.A. Lakers with the Lakers' game tipping off an always-tough west coast swing.
It doesn't take much imagination to see the season getting away early if the Pacers stumble out of the gate. Instead they need a strong start to keep their promise and ignite the passion in skeptical Pacers' fans who are ready and willing to get behind the team if they see something they like.