Do you remember the Pacers of old? The team that stole your heart. The team that made you burst with happiness after a win. The players that made you jump up every time they shot a three pointer. The team that made your chest hurt every time they lost.
The Pacers arguably lost the heart of Indiana a few years after their trip to the NBA Championship series. Many of the players who won the respect of Indiana moved to different teams or retired. Mark Jackson and Jalen Rose moved to different teams, Reggie Miller and Rick Smits both retired within a few years of reaching the Championship series. New players such as Artest, O'Neal and Tinsley took over the starting line-up and the consistently winning Pacer franchise started to struggle.
The infamous brawl in the 2004-2005 was the final straw, the Pacers lost the heart of the city and their image turned from the good old boys to the thugs. Artest got in trouble multiple times, Tinsely was arrested in numerous bars, the Pacers went through a couple of coaches and Donny Walsh went to New York. Now Larry Bird is running the team and as my co-writer always says, is looking for himself every year in the draft. The Pacers have been stuck in the middle of the road, with a mediocre record, and mediocre draft picks. The Pacers year after year try to draw in fans with new marketing schemes...with the most recent one being "The Pacer Promise."
Now at the start of the season I was a skeptic of this so called promise. I have been hearing that it is the Pacer's year to shine since the team has stopped shinning. I have not agreed with a lot of Bird's picks...although I did defend his Tyler Hansbourgh pick...and I have felt that we have built ourselves around a group that didn't have motivation to win. The team of the past few years have had an emphasis on making themselves look good so they could be signed to a large contract by another team. With all of that said, after Monday nights win over the Nuggets I have found a new light shining on the Pacers and Bird may be slowly saving the Pacers, no destroying them.
Let me explain what I mean by Bird might be slowly saving the Pacers. The Marketing scheme by the Pacers is what really threw me off to Bird's plan. When Larry Bird took over he had a group of selfish basketball players. Now Bird has spent about five years getting rid of selfish players, drafting young, hard working talent, and trading for Veterans that have short contracts so he can dump them for salary. There are only three players on the team that have been in the league for eight or more years and they include Foster, Dunleavy and Posey. All of these players are hard working players who have proved themselves over the years. The rest of the team is young and poised to get better.
Larry Bird has recruited a group of players that are not stars, but they play hard and are now playing as a team. The one constant over the past few seasons is the head coach, Jim O'Brien. He has been with all the rookies the Pacers have drafted over the past four or five years. This means Bird and the Pacers now have a young, hard working team that is built around O'Brien's philosophies. He also has veteran leaders and the Pacers continue to get better. Could it be that the Pacers Promise is true and the Indiana fan base is just still angry with a bad year or two of poor players and bad attitudes. I believe so and I hope that Indiana can get back behind the Pacers. Bird has been building a Franchise and the next few years will prove it.
The Pacers put a beating on the Nuggets 144 to 113 Tuesday night. Yes they had one quarter where they shot 20 for 21 and scored 52 points. I am realistic and realize that this will not happen every game or possibly ever again for a Pacers team. What I am trying to show is that the Pacers have talent and are starting to shine. Look for more big wins by the Pacers this year and possibly a playoff run. Indiana, it is time to start believing in the Pacers again...before we lose them.
The Marris Minute