I find no shame in hyperbole, but I think it is a completely reasonable position to state that the Pacers home opener against the Philadelphia 76ers shapes up as one of the all-time worst season opening matchups in NBA history.
Please, feel free to wade through the history books and provide better examples, but I'm just not interested in putting on my hip waders to do so. No, I'm comfortable saying a Pacers team with two and a half guards (depending on how much Rodney Stuckey can play) available to fill 96 minutes of playing time, incuding one actual point guard in Donald Sloan, who is third on the depth chart at his position, may have issues on opening night.
Talk of Solomon Hill, a college power forward adjusting to playing on the wing in the NBA, pitching in to play reserve point guard minutes, doesn't ease the concerns. If Solo does indeed play some point forward, I can only hope he pays homage to Anthony Mason and carves some creative messages in his hair.
All of this and the Pacers still appear to be in better shape than the Sixers. While Indiana is battling through their injury issues, Philly is embracing their depleted roster in a blatant attempt to be bad that the NBA should be ashamed of on opening night. According to HoopsHype, the Sixers begin the season with a team salary around $33 million, which is well over $20 million below the league's salary floor. Philly doesn't care and neither does the league since the only penalty is that the Sixers have to pay up to the roughly $56 million floor and distribute it among the roster. Plus, the two highest paid players, Jason Richardson and Joel Embid (combined $10 mil) are both injured and out indefinitely.
Yep, the tank is in as Philly plays for next June's draft and the league continues to allow a team to take two years off. Don't get me wrong, the system is in place for this to happen and in two or three years the fruits of this rotten plan should deliver nicely for Philadelphia.
But for the world's best basketball league on opening night? This is a joke.
OK, rant over.
While previewing the Pacers before the rash of injuries hit at the end of preseason play, I looked ahead with as much optimism as I could muster and saw 38 wins for the Pacers. I factored in some missed games by key players, but considering the Pacers have four of their more winnable games (Philly, Milwaukee, Boston, Utah) in the first couple of weeks when they will be short-handed, that win total needs a revision. Plus, more change appears on the horizon at some point this season, so I'm dropping that total to 32 games.
So how many games do you think the Pacers will win? I'm willing to accept your most outlandish best-case scenarios to support your win totals. Please share.