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Two ways to look at Pacer situationPosted Friday, April 18, 2008, at 6:03 PM
A friend of mine says that I am eternal optimist when it comes to my, yeah I said my, Indiana Pacers.
The optimist in me would say that the Pacers won one more game this year -- 36-46 compared to 35-47 -- despite being without starters Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley for a combined 83 games. Tinsley has missed 165 games in the past five seasons and O'Neal 122 in the past four.
If I was the half-empty glass kind of guy, I would say that the Pacers seem miles away from 15 playoff appearances during the 17-year career of Reggie Miller. In fact, they missed the playoffs for the second straight season, the first time that has happened since the 1988 and 1989 seasons.
The optimist would say that at least the Pacers have their own draft pick this season after having traded away their selection a year ago. They will pick no worse than 11th in the 2008 NBA Draft June 26. They will have about a three percent chance of obtaining one of the top three selections when order of the lottery is determined May 20.
Unless the Pacers strike gold in the lottery or the other teams go brain dead and forget that Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley have declared for the draft, the pessimist would say that the pick at No. 11 is just one piece of many that you need to rebuild this team. Most guys aren't ready for the physical nature of the pro game and don't contribute much in their first season, especially someone at 11.
The optimist would say the Pacers have a professional, no-nonsense coach in Jim O'Brien and finally have defined roles in the front office as Larry Bird remains as the team's president of basketball operations and that co-owner Herb Simon is now the chairman and CEO of Pacers Sports and Entertainment.
The pessimist would say Bird and Simon can't possibly do the job that Donnie Walsh did when he was CEO and president, leading the Pacers to 17 playoff appearances in his 22 seasons, including six trips to the Eastern Conference Finals and an appearance in the 2000 NBA Finals.
With Walsh now in charge of the New York Knicks, I can honestly say that I am concerned about them as an opponent in the coming years.
The optimist would say that, if healthy, the Pacers would have made the playoffs this year.
The pessimist would say Indiana is not a championship contender and never will be with this mix of players.
As an optimist, I would say that O'Neal appeared healthy in the final weeks of the season after missing 40 games because of knee problems. This is the first time in a long while that O'Neall, an 11-year veteran who will be 30 in October, played without knee problems, even if for a limited stretch.
O'Neal is past his prime, the pessimist would contend. It was in 2003-04 when O'Neal averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, the year the Pacers had a league-best 61-21 record and lost to eventual champion Detroit in the ECF. O'Neal is still owed $44. The negative one would assert that it would be best to try and trade Jermaine, even if you take on someone with expiring contracts and are just trying to clear salary cap space to allow for more flexibility in the future.
Don't trade Tinsley, the optimist would say. When healthy, he fits perfectly in O'Brien's system. He is the only true starting point guard this team has, even though Travis Diener proved to be a quality back-up.
The pessimist already has the troubled and injury-plagued Tinsley run out of town. Trade him, even if it is for a bag of magic beans and 2025 second-round draft pick.
They appear have some pieces to build around, the optimist would say, including Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy. They were the first Pacers teammates to score 1,500-plus points in the same season since Miller and Detlef Schremp did in 1992-93. Troy Murphy played very well after the All-Star break and showed he still has value in the front court.
Mr. Pessimist would say you probably can't get anyone who could help in a trade for Tinsley or O'Neal and that Murphy and Dunleavy make too much money and Granger will never be an All-Star. He would add the team can't go after free agents because the team is about $10 million over the salary cap.
The Pacers were seventh in the NBA in offense this year and did surprisingly well shooting 3-pointers, the optimist would say while the pessimist would state the Pacer defenders couldn't guard a fence post and were the worst in the league at defending the 3-point line.
The optimist would state he has seen darker days. The Pacers traded Alex English for a washed up George McGinnis. They once had to have a telethon to save the team. He would say the Pacers won 20, 26, 22 and 26 games between 1982-83 and 1985-86. At least we have a pro team in Indiana.
The pessimist would retort to the fact that the Pacers, once a fixture in the playoffs and a contender for a championship, are no more than an after thought in professional basketball
The Pacers have a decent nucleus of players, but are in dire need of help up front at and point guard. They need an identity, which they haven't had in years.
As Conrad Brunner said on pacers.com, "The cupboard isn't bare. It just needs the missing ingredients."
All I've got to say, please don't draft Eric Gordon.
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