Timing is everything.
The Pacers were on the bad side of timing even when things were going well in recent years. While they were competing for Eastern Conference championships a couple of years ago, they were doing so against a LeBron James-in-his-prime on a strong Heat team while relying on a two critical players (Paul George and Lance Stephenson) nowhere near their prime and still developing in their early 20's.
Consider that Steph Curry (age 27) and Klay Thompson (age 25) had their struggles on the big stage in the playoff spotlight this season. The time simply wasn't right for the Pacers in the 2013 and 2014 playoffs.
The time may have been right this season sans Stephenson but then the Pacers went through it sans Paul George, as well and in the regular season sans enough starts from George Hill and David West (not to mention Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles) to keep the team out of the playoffs.
Now the Pacers appear to be losing their veteran presence (West and Stuckey) when they would be valuable at playoff time to support the young talent on the team. If not forcing a rebuild, losing the vets forces a serious remodel.
But the Pacers will have to do the remodel on a budget with Roy Hibbert returning. The prodigal center spent the offseason outside the 317 and his local footprint is otherwise no longer visible, missing the annual softball charity event with Robert Mathis along with not re-upping Area 55 in the club level at the Fieldhouse.
Still, Hibbert officially returned to the Pacers on Monday by opting in for the final year of his contract. The Pacers won't slay the fatted calf to celebrate Big Roy's return, though. Instead they will go to work figuring out what to do with him.
Working with Hibbert's agent David Falk to find a trade option is the primary task. Unfortunately, Hibber's past season damaged his value and the Pacers doubled-down on bringing down his value when Larry Bird essentially begged Hibbert to opt out of his contract after the season. Unless Falk has a bag full of favors to cash in with another team exec, option one is but a pipe dream.
That leaves, Hibbert remaining on the roster to make the best of the situation in a contract year. If David West and Rodney Stuckey returned, the roster continuity would actually have made a solid situation. But with the return of both vets in serious doubt, the Pacers will be playing for the future more than the present.
Of course, Frank Vogel will never say that, and with Hibbert and his heir apparent Myles Turner, the Pacers can still play big when matchups don't set up well to play small. But all of that requires Hibbert himself to play big and be a pro. NBA careers can ebb and flow for certain players. In a contract year, there always seems to be a favorable flow.
But even when you consider a favorable finish for Hibbert's time in Indiana, the Pacers still have plenty of work to do this offseason.