Preseason Pride and Fall
Man, how quickly the glory days have left the Pacers behind. Gone are the prospects of 55+ win seasons, one seeds, and chants of "Beat the Heat!" In their place reside a cruel curiosity to know what could've been with Paul George on the court, and maddening debates about whether or not the preseason play matters. On the "could've been" front, George Hill is only making things worse; his newfound confidence and assertiveness causing Pacer fans everywhere to do a double-take.
Luckily for the Blue-and-Gold faithful, the old George Hill isn't coming back. Or so he says as reported by Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports:
When Hill, who's beginning his fourth season with the franchise, was asked about his previous role, he provided the line of the night in the locker room postgame.
"I sold that real estate," he said, drawing laughter from reporters. "It was a bad view, it didn't make a lot of money so I kind of lost on it so I sold it."
While the spiteful side of me wants to say, "One year too late, GH, thanks for nothing!" The optimistic side is intrigued. Mix in a rejuvenated GH with a healthy PG-13, a decent draft pick, assets via a D-West trade, an improved bench, Roy Hibbert in a contract year, and growth by the few youngsters on the team, and you start to wonder if these guys can make a spirited comeback in 2015-2016. If that doesn't work out? I guess there's always the new TV deal AKA blank check to fall back on.
Let's take a stroll down short-term memory lane, shall we? The year is 2009 and it's the latter part of June. With yet another late-lottery pick at their disposal, the Pacers pass on "not one, not two..." but three point guards of the future in order to draft NCAA darling, Tyler Hansbrough. Boos reigned. Drinks splattered. Heads shook. And with every bulldoze into the lane, every mysterious inner-ear infection, every self-inflicted offensive rebound, Pacer fans continued to simmer. Those of us who watched Psycho-T probably thought it inconceivable that he'd ever progress beyond that of a duck-and-chuck player. Well, we were wrong. So very wrong. Five years in and he's finally adding a new wrinkle to his game (via Eric Koreen with the National Post):
...with an eye toward the changing nature of the game. Hansbrough is the last player you would expect to work on a three-pointer, as his game is based on energy, and resides in the paint. He is known for his innate ability to agitate, not his smooth stroke.
However, each year there are more three-pointers attempted in the league than the last. So, Hansbrough worked with Mike Hollis, a shooting coach in North Carolina.
"Looking around the league, teams are getting more and more value out of the three-point shot, especially from the [power forward]," Hansbrough said. "If I want to add value to this team, a corner three would be something that I can develop and improve and help my team when I'm out on the court."
Smart move by the Brough if you ask me; a move that may not only benefit his current team, but also extend his NBA career. After watching him blindly tumble into the lane all those years, who would've thought he possessed the foresight to pull off something like this? The best part is he's not yet finished. Rumor has it next up on Hansbrough's development agenda: how to execute a bounce pass, with a tentative unveiling scheduled for some time in 2018.
Wizards Speak Part Two
Last week we covered the amusing Media Day interaction between John Wall and Dion Waiters. This week, we heard from Wizards' newbie, Paul Pierce, who explained to David Aldridge why he chose to sign with Washington:
This team does have some potential, now that I think about it. They probably should have beat Indiana. Everybody thought they should have beat Indiana. I was like, they have one of the best backcourts in basketball. They're lacking experience, a guy in the locker room and on the court that can help end games. I was like, I probably can fit in.
Riiiight, just like the Nets should've beaten the Heat in the playoffs last year after blanking'em in the regular season, or just like the Big Three Celtics should've swept the Baby Hawks in 2008, and won multiple championships.
Sarcasm aside, there's really nothing wrong with what Pierce said. He's right in some respects. After barely surviving the Hawks, spectators everywhere believed the Pacers were prime for an upset in the Leastern Conference Semis. But that's exactly the point: know-nothing spectators (like me) overreact to games and series all the time. Players don't. At least they're not supposed to. It's just not compatible with their ultra-competitor DNA, which is why I was surprised to learn Pierce bought in so easily to the Pacers-are-done narrative.
My know-nothing spectator take of the day? Vegas hasn't set the odds quite yet, but so far the Wizards are my early favorite to supplant the Pacers as way-too-confident team of the year.
*Cue megaphone voice*: Mr. Vogel ... put the Rocky tapes down! I repeat, put the Rocky tapes down!
Something tells me motivational savant, Frank Vogel, has been DVR-ing a lot of playoff baseball lately. Not so he can watch the unhittable become hittable (Kershaw), or the unpitchable become pitchable (Trout), or the omnipresent ... well, stay omnipresent (Cardinals). Nope, I bet he's had his eye squarely on a small-market team in Kansas City that's not only making its first postseason appearance in nearly 30 years, but is advancing in dramatic fashion.
Beyond the playoff drought and market-size similarities, the Royals offer Frank plenty of underdog ammunition: 1) they rely on a grizzled vet to set the tone (James Shields meets David West), 2) stingy pitching and defense (Roy Hibbert, anyone?), and 3) they lack a bona-fide star on the team (the epitome of your 2014-2015 Indiana Pacers). They've even got blue and gold in their color scheme and attendance issues to boot!
Who cares about all that "different sport, boring sport" mumbo jumbo? The Royals are inspirational gold, and Frank knows it. And when it inevitably leaks that the Pacers watched this winning shot by Eric Hosmer before embarking on a 10-game-winning streak, I demand a very public shoutout. Maybe even something longstanding like this.
Miscellaneous Tweets & Threads
Timberwolves' fan who's clearly never listened to Slick Leonard on the call before:
Man whenever the color guy talks there's a nice "politely listen while elderly relative says something that doesn't make much sense" delay.
Timberwolves' fan who must have Purduean roots:
Single-Handedly Bringing Jet Chang to Minnesota Since 2012!
Keen Magic fan:
Vucevic posting up Luis Scola is basically free points
Disconcerted Magic fan:
Gordon with three fouls in five minutes, reaching Pat Garrity levels of efficiency
ESPN on the beat:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Ran into Cavs as they were going sightseeing in Rio. Kyrie Irving is in a walking boot on his right foot.,</p>— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) <a href="https://twitter.com/WindhorstESPN/status/519893424275595264">October 8, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Noted, Brian, but I've gotta ask: Isn't you "running into" the Cavs while sightseeing kind of like me "running into" my wife while she's giving birth?
Until next week.