Here’s an example. Today, somebody called in claiming to be a “local writer.” I’m sure he’s a local writer for Indianapolis in much the same way I’m a local writer for Lafayette. Anyway, he mumbled his way through his assertion that the Pacers haven’t done anything to improve themselves to beat the Heat. Grady apparently couldn’t understand if he said could or could not (or maybe just couldn’t believe this “local writer” was quite this dumb) and simply asked if he watched this team and if he knew what the Pacers had done. To the caller’s credit, he did know who the Pacers had added, but didn’t have any other evidence for why the Pacers still don’t measure up to Miami.
This is not the first time we’ve heard this sort of argument, like how the Pacers will never win until they find a point guard, even though apparently our point guard was good enough to draw the attention of the national team. And, you know, totally ignores how the Pacers starting lineup outscored the Heat starters by about a million in that series. Or how the Heat won that first game thanks to an inexplicable defensive breakdown at the rim with two seconds to go in overtime. I would like to think that, given any NBA team, you win that game nine times out of ten, especially with one as defensive minded as the Pacers. Yeah, game seven was not particularly close, but don’t forget just how hard fought this series was. This team didn’t really have to do much improving to get over that particular hump.
And, you know, nobody even threw out the Pacers biggest addition. Assuming he’s healthy, adding Danny Granger to this team sure seems like it would have been more than enough to close what little gap remained between these two teams. The biggest gap in this past series was a totally incompetent bench, especially when it came to scoring. Yeah, Tyler Hansbrough provided a nice burst of energy off the bench, but he was hopeless defending in the post. Will Chris Copeland be any better defending the post? Not at all, but I know he will provide a much better scoring punch. Especially paired with a Lance Stephenson who is quickly learning how to be a legitimate NBA player. I don’t know too much about CJ Watson, but I’m pretty sure he’s an upgrade over DJ Augustin. Solomon Hill, besides making this team an even bigger nightmare for announcers, seems like he will be a very good fit for this team. And, well, this is the year where we find out if Miles Plumlee can play at this level. Larry Bird thinks he can, and, well, as I and many others have said over the years, Larry Bird knows a lot more about basketball than me. And, you know, he’s been overwhelmingly right over the last several years.
Speaking of Larry Bird, I have a theory about why he’s back in the fold. I don’t have any special knowledge here, so this is my “crazy caller speculation,” I suppose. If Granger is healthy, he will take the starting spot away from Stephenson. There’s no question about that. The one thing we don’t really know is if Lance can accept going back to the bench after the big taste of starting he had this year. It’s true he’s a talented player and a great piece for the future, but he’s nowhere near consistent enough to start yet. Still, he has a history with his ego. We also know he has all the respect in the world for Larry Bird. It seems at least plausible, if not downright logical, that Larry Legend was brought back to soothe Lance over this demotion of sorts. Now, clearly, it’s not really a demotion. He was the placeholder while the Pacer’s leading scorer and all around top player over the past several seasons was out. But he could take it as a slap in the face. He wouldn’t be the first player to take it that way.
It would seem pretty smart to me to bring back, in an official role, the guy who drafted Lance and somebody who Lance trusts and understands has given him a few chances that not everybody would have. I’m sure he can feel more secure about his future with this team and that his time will come when that guy is the one pulling the strings. Plus, you know, for the team as a whole, I think everybody feels good with Larry Bird back at the helm of building this team. You have to admit, it might have been a little slower than many would have liked, but he did a pretty darned good job.