I’ve been in Ireland for the past week hanging out with Nelson, so I haven’t really watched any sports in a bit. I still haven’t looked at a March Madness bracket, and I probably won’t this year. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that Purdue was awful this year. It sure didn’t help pique my interest in college basketball this year.* The Blackhawks look to be cruising into the playoffs. I don’t know if they look like the world-beaters they were last year, but they certainly could win the Cup again. Which leaves us with the Pacers. And, well, I’m concerned.
*On a somewhat related note, apparently Ronnie Johnson is transferring out. Which, frankly, good riddance. I was never a huge fan of his game, as much as I tried to talk myself into being a fan. The same is generally true for his brother as well. I’ll be looking forward to a Johnson-free season of Boiler basketball. I’ll be interested to see if AJ Hammons comes back. I don’t think he’s really NBA ready yet, but Meyers Leonard finds minutes on a good team, and Hammons is much better at basketball than Leonard. And, well, I’m not convinced that Purdue has shown Hammons much reason he should stay. Sad, but true. Coach Painter has to be feeling the pressure at this point, too. The murmuring has definitely started. The volume will only increase with another disappointing year.
Obviously I didn’t see any of the games last week. But I know there is no reason for the Pacers to ever lose to the Knicks this year, and I’m told the Pacers “laid an egg” against Memphis. This has been a bit of a trend with the Pacers since just before the All Star Break. This team just plainly does not look like the same team it seemed like at the end of last year and to start this season. Paul George does not look at all like the same player he did to start the year. I have vocally not been a big fan of the moves made around the deadline this year. Not that Danny Granger would necessarily be a savior, his stats this season are clearly well below his career average. There are more than a few experts who have declared him done, and they could well be right. But, by God, why the hell would you mess with the chemistry this team had? It’s not like Evan Turner has really given you anything Danny wasn’t. And Andrew Bynum? That’s gone about as well as expected.
At the beginning of the year, I fervently believed the Pacers would win the Eastern Conference and very possibly the whole damn thing. Now? I’m not so sure. The only thing that keeps me optimistic is that the Eastern Conference really is just putrid, and Miami has not been tearing the league up, either. Their slump means the Pacers have held on to the top spot that they have so publicly coveted. A three game lead as of today, which is nice. The only other little hope spot I have is that the team knows the playoffs are in sight and are just doing enough to hold serve until the “real season” starts. The game against Miami on Wednesday will likely tell us a lot about where this team is mentally. None of this, though, leaves me confident that the Pacers can hold off a determined team from the Western Conference. This team desperately needs to regain that fire, that desire they had to start the year when they ripped off one of the best starts ever in the NBA.
But, hey, if the Pacers beat the Bulls tonight, they clinch the Central Division for (surprisingly) only the sixth time. Of course, a lot of that is because of the ABA years and how most of the Pacers best years in the NBA happened to overlap with the Michael Jordan era. Still, doesn’t it seem like the Pacers have been too consistently good since the early ‘90’s to have only won their division six times?
At least the Pacers are avoiding all the off-court drama that derailed the last championship caliber teams . . . right? I know, I know. I'm complaining a lot for a team that doesn't even have twenty losses with just a few games left to go in the season. I'm just worried, that's all.