The Pacers were beating the Hornets, 79-59 early in the third quarter of the opening game of the season in Charlotte.
Remember how fun that was? First game on the road? Pounding a team comparable playoff expectations?
It got better.
Rookie Chris Duarte then hit a three-ball, his fourth of the game in which he would eventually splash six total threes and finish with 27 points in his Pacers debut. This rook, alongside Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner and Domas Sabonis? The perfect addition with Justin Holiday filling in nicely while we waited for TJ Warren to return.
The Pacers were up 23. Making a statement. Oh, yeah!
Little did any of us know, this would be the highlight of the season. Yep, the 2021-22 Pacers peaked with 9:49 remaining in the third quarter of the first game.
After a 1-6 start to the season, things would fluctuate between goofy and absurd for the rest of the season. The Pacers had 28 different players play at least one minute this season.
Oshae Brissett was a player oft overlooked for minutes over the first six weeks of the season, but thanks to the vile combination of injuries and trades, Oshae would ultimately lead the team in games played with 67. Among the players still on the roster at the end of the season, Goga Bitadze was second in games played at 50, even though it seemed like Goga was rarely available. Rookie Duane Washington Jr., a two-way player until the last week of the season finished third on that list with 48 games.
This is how a team wins just 25 games, posting the worst record since winning 22 games in the 1984-85 season, to sit in the fifth spot for the NBA draft lottery. This is also how a team rebuilds in the modern NBA.
Rebuild is a tough word to absorb and one few around the FIeldhouse ever want to utter, although Rick Carlisle did recently in a moment of clarity. Will one top five pick flip this thing around? That’s a big ask. Following the 22-win season in ‘85, the Pacers won 26 games. As painful as that sounds after plodding through this past season, the Pacers were able to rebuild through that mid-80’s rut without returning until this season.
So, now what?
The Pacers wait to see if they will have an extra first round pick if the Cavaliers can beat the Hawks on Friday night. Then there are other roster adjustments. Malcolm Brogdon is signed and happy to stick around, but the fit seems clunky after watching Tyrese Haliburton play with and without Brogdon, not to mention considering a healthy Duarte (remember him, the guy who looked incredible to start the season before injuries and clogged rotations altered his role) in the mix. Brogdon may be more valuable to the Pacers by fetching picks or players that fit the rebuild timeline better.
That’s one question in need of an answer. There are plenty more. Please share your open offseason questions in the comments.
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