A Favorable Schedule
Okay, so "favorable" is a bit misleading when you factor in a daunting January, where the Pacers play 10 of 16 on the road, but February and March look positively breezy. During those two months, the Pacers play 25 games, 15 of which will be at home, and only six of which will be against Western-Conference foes. If the Pacers are going to play themselves into a back-end playoff spot, it might be the stretch that gets them there. From there, the schedule sets up nicely for Jim O'Brien Month (a.k.a. the Month of Meaningless Wins). In April, the Pacers are scheduled to play exactly one game against teams currently with a winning record. Folks, they're gonna make the playoffs. Book it.
Trade Deadline: February 19, 2015
On the surface, there doesn't appear to be much trade value on the roster; just a smattering of expiring contracts, a couple of reclamation projects, and an aging vet. But that doesn't appear to be thwarting Larry Bird & Co. as they look to improve the roster for a playoff run that may or may not occur, (no matter what some "book it" idiot says). Which leads me to believe that if any deal is consummated, it's likely going to be more of the Gerald Henderson variety, then, say, Dennis Schroeder, or other fill-in-the-blank youngster. If that indeed is how it plays out, I'd venture to say most Pacer fans would rather the deadline pass in donut-Roy silence.
March 15, 2015
This is all blogger speculation on my part, but mid-March has to be the time, right? Buoyed by their big, trade-deadline move and a softened schedule, it'll be prime-time for whispers in Pacerland:
Pacer Fan #1: "Pssssst ... hey, guess what I heard?"
Pacer Fan #2: "What?"
Pacer Fan #1: "I heard he's been running, jumping, and dunking for weeks now."
Pacer Fan #2: "Yeah? I'll do you one better. I heard he flushed a 360-windmill, then went 'Moda Center' in practice and nearly put a 50-spot on his teammates."
Pacer Fan #1: "No way."
Pacer Fan #2: "Way. He's so coming back for the playoffs, and we're so winning a championship..."
Inevitably, NBA sages, Marc Stein and Adrian Wojnarowski, would soon follow with a customary #stojbomb: "A source of a source of a rumbling just informed me that possibly within a week or a year, PG-13 will make his return to the court."
Maybe we'll even be lucky enough to get an exclusive take from LBJ-paparazzi superstar, Brian Windhorst: "LeBron gives NBA his blessing for PG-13's on-court return by playoffs ... as long as they don't have to face each other. Now leave me alone. I've only got 300 days left to finish LeBron's 31st birthday dedication!"
For fans, it's not about "will he or won't he?" regarding a Paul George return, it's about should he or shouldn't he? Most, I presume, fall under the shouldn't category, but, alas, we're only lowly pawns in the decision-making game. George has already stated his desire to play if given the okay from the Pacers' medical staff, and all we can do at that point is watch with bated breath, and beg the Basketball Gods that he doesn't crumple on his first shot attempt or chase-down block. Re-injury paranoia aside, there's no denying that if George does return before season's end, the intrigue level will climb exponentially.
Happy New Year, Cornrowers!