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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Pacers a work in progress

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You knew it would not be easy and certainly would contain periods of inconsistency and frustration.

But to their credit, it has not been due to any lack of effort on the court.

Yes, they have played not so well at times and they also have shown flashes of what the future could actually be.

Say hello to your 2009-2010 Indiana Pacers folks, as they have begun what hopefully will be the successful journey that returns them to the playoffs and in the process, establishing themselves as a contender, instead of the pretender they have been the last few seasons. Quite a bit to expect you say? Not really.

This team lost 12 games by just three points or less last year and were blown out only a handful of times, so with any good fortune (notice I didn’t say luck) they would have captured a playoff berth last season. Sure, they did not, but at times this club went toe to toe with the best in the NBA and defeated Boston, Los Angeles, and Cleveland. Clearly, there were times when they had their groove on and looked really great doing it.

Alas, there were also times when the Blue and Gold resembled something far from a playoff contender against the (shall we say) “lesser teams” in the NBA. That was indeed a cause for great concern amongst the administrative ranks of the franchise.

They immediately stumbled out of the blocks this season, dropping their first three and had many saying the worst was yet to come. But they pulled up their bootstraps and proceeded to win their next five games, including a spirited performance against the Boston Celtics and all of a sudden we are discussing a five game winning streak for the Indiana Pacers in November.

But as we go to print, I had the dubious pleasure of watching them self-destruct at home against the hapless New York Knicks, while letting a 19 point lead slip away in the process.

Will the real Pacers please stand up?

Sure, it is early and Coach Jim O’Brien has the monumental task of continuing the development of his young team as well as meshing in a half dozen new players into his up tempo system.

But the time for excuses has expired and these Pacers need to understand that missed opportunities in November and December will haunt you when making your run down the stretch to secure a playoff berth in March.

The schedule makers have been kind to Indiana serving up some 17 games in the first two months of the season with teams that joined them on the dreaded “failed to make playoffs this year” list.

This certainly is indeed the time to make some hay and as a result, Indiana cannot allow any letdowns to occur during this critical stretch. (You know, like losing to the Knicks at home.)

As always, injuries play a part in the NBA and the Pacers have already been impacted with Jeff Foster and Troy Murphy both out with back problems. The loss of Murphy is a critical one as his ability to rebound and spread the floor offensively is a luxury for the coaching staff. Both players remain on a day-to-day schedule in terms of their eventual return.

There is a greater degree of uncertainty surrounding the return of Mike Dunleavy, who continues to rehabilitate a surgically repaired knee that caused him to miss the majority of last season. His ability to score is something this team needs as a complement to Danny Granger.

New additions Dahntay Jones and Earl Watson have played well, with Jones providing more offense than expected.

Second year center Roy Hibbert is now starting, and has demonstrated improvement in terms of keeping out of foul trouble, which in turn has produced solid scoring and rebounding numbers. Brandon Rush, after finishing strong in the final 20 games last season, has struggled with his outside shot and seems to be more comfortable with his role.

This Pacer team will no doubt be fun to watch and is deserving of our support. Check them out soon for yourself and give me your own opinion. Personally, I think they are playoff bound.

Notes: The Pacers will entertain the Dallas Mavericks the night after Thanksgiving at Conseco Fieldhouse. Tip off is at 8 p.m, and tickets are still available at the Fieldhouse box office or at Ticketmaster.com.

The Pacers held their annual “Come To Our House Dinner” at Conseco Fieldhouse on Nov. 19. Over 600 people from local shelters and missions received a traditional Thanksgiving meal served by the players and coaching staff, as well as a tote bag filled with personal items including two tickets to the Nov. 25 game against Eric Gordon and the L.A. Clippers.

In my opinion, the team could win the NBA title and it would still pale in comparison to what they did in terms of providing Thanksgiving cheer to these good people. Nice job guys.

Danny Bridges, who would like to wish a great Thanksgiving to all the folks at the Indianapolis Recorder who put up with him, as well as all of you good people who read the paper, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or Bridgeshd@aol.com.

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