The “Legend” Lost as Indiana Struggles to Keep Pace
Once upon a time, professional basketball in the “Hoosier” state flourished, and it seemed to be headed back to prominence. In fact, it was not that long ago, and as recent as the year 2014, when the Indiana Pacers were not only among the leagues elite, but a step away from competing for a title. Those days seem like such a long time ago, as many of those pieces have since moved on, and the aura that once surrounded them has now dimmed to something akin to a flickering spark, if that.
What happened though? It’s not really safe to say that one thing exclusively is to blame, however you can point to a series of events that have had a lasting effect on this franchise.
Lance Stephenson is among the first names to come to mind. He left the Pacers following their 2014 playoff run, and hasn’t been the same player since. He spent his first four seasons with Indiana, and the past 3 since between 5 different teams, the Charlotte Hornets, LA Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Roy Hibbert is another name that resonates when thinking about how the Pacers have fallen off a cliff. That is probably a good way to describe his current situation as well. After playing with the Pacers the first seven seasons of his career, he spent last with the Los Angeles Lakers, and the beginning of this one with the Charlotte Hornets, before being traded prior to last weeks deadline to the Denver Nuggets. The last really influential member of that core, George Hill, also resides in another city at this point. Although his situation isn’t nearly as gloomy, as the former, he too was apart of what was once thought to be the next great Eastern Conference team.
Along with the personnel itself, the actual transactions the team has made seems a bit puzzling. Aside from the acquisition of their current NBADL affiliate in 2015, most of their other “big” transactions have been flops. This would definitely include the fact that they signed head coach Frank Vogel to a hefty extension, and then released him the following year, and to a lesser degree, the “Ty Lawson” experiment. Save for the fact that, all the while, they never quite found that “wing” player they were looking for to fill in the void left by Lance Stephenson. When thinking about their transactions, you have to also consider their draft history, and although prior to the sinking of the ship, you have to lead off with the fact that they traded Kawhii Leonard for George Hill. This should have been foreshadowing, but aside from the trade that landed them Glenn Robinson III and the drafting of Myles Turner, they really don’t have much to show for all the talent they have lost over the last few years.
Though the most of their issues stem from their past, there are some things that have occurred recently that may not be the direct cause of their downfall, but certainly contribute to the scenario. Although Myles Turner and Glenn Robinson III are fine young players, to some it would seem as though Turner has regressed and Robinson III hasn’t really shown the progression some thought he would. Couple that with the fact they have still failed to fill the void in another play making wing to pair with Paul George, and it lends itself to a toxic situation. Although they added hometown hero Jeff Teague in the off-season, they were said to be major buyers at the most recent trade deadline, only to come up flat. This seems about as flat as their chances of keeping Paul George around beyond his current deal if you prescribe to sports news and rumors, as he was almost beating at Larry “Legends” door for help of some sort.
That is about the state of the Pacers over the last few seasons, and things don’t seem to be getting any better. They lack the essential fire power, experience, and personnel around their core of Teague and George to even think about getting it done in the Eastern Conference. Not to mention they are in a log jam in the conference, with 2 and 11 only being separated by 12 games, not a lot of games at all if thinking about it. Lets face it, the “Pacers” probably just won’t be able to keep…. pace. See what I did there? Let’s just hope the “Legend” can re-write the script, keeping the movie PG-13, or one with Paul George in the picture, because if not, Pacer basketball could be in for a long drought.