There seems to be renewed optimism regarding the recent agreement fostered between the NBA owners and the players. Sure this season will be a watered down product at best as the first 15 games will basically be a training camp for most teams.
In the next few weeks, just about every team will conduct the business of signing and releasing players at a torrid pace. While there will be some address changes when the smoke clears and play opens on Christmas Day, if you listen to the Pacers brass they will tell you that being under the salary cap by a substantial margin will help them as they attempt to sign free agents.
However, in reality, there aren’t any players available this season that a team can build around. Sure you can find some nice complimentary players such as David West and Paul Millsap, but it will be next year when the likes of Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Kevin Love, and Eric Gordon will be available, albeit in restricted fashion for some of them.
That aside, the real question is how do the Pacers attract any player who is truly a rainmaker? Simply put, they cannot. While Indianapolis offers a great quality of life, it pales in comparison to major metropolitan markets where high profile players can earn far more money in endorsements. All of the aforementioned will also look to sign with a team who is a championship contender and that too puts Indiana at a distinct disadvantage.While much has been made of the improvement of this team last season, it still looks to be a middle of the pack type club, at best, with 44 or so wins being a probability.
However, if this group of underachievers tune Frank Vogel out as they did Jim O’Brien, and they may, it will be a struggle to return to the playoffs.
That is not a situation a superstar cares to hitch his wagon to, and as a result, the only time we will see one of the big names is when they visit Conseco Fieldhouse with their new team. While much as been said about the ability of smaller market teams to compete financially under the terms of the new agreement, the usual suspects in Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas, Boston and New York will continue to control the relocation process of the premier players.
While I respect the fact that the Pacers say they are willing – time will tell – to spend the money to put more talent on the roster, I still ask why anyone truly thinks a blue chip player could ever land in Indianapolis? Gone are the days in which a player could be influenced by something other than winning a title and making astronomical amounts of money through a maximum dollar guaranteed contract. I seriously doubt if Dwight Howard can be wooed with waving the green flag at the Indy 500 or Kevin Love can be had for a state fair tenderloin. These guys want glitz, as the money will be wherever they choose to go, and make no mistake, they will indeed get all they want of both.
So buckle up Pacers fans and get ready for a team that hopefully will play hard and unselfishly. Throw in no major injuries and they just might sneak in to the playoffs again. One thing is for certain, they will have to do it without a big time player, one that can create his own shot, impact the outcome every night, and one that sells tickets accordingly.
Good luck to Larry Bird and David Morway as they try to find a diamond in the rough in what some feel is their last season. They will certainly need it. Bottom line is they do not have Jamaal Tinsley and T.J. Ford to blame it on anymore and the expectations are higher for this season after a return to the playoffs.
Bird knows he can’t land a big fish, so he instead is banking on the maturation process of a young core group and virtually no bench to get them over the hump instead of a big name free agent. That approach will keep them well below the cap but at the same time probably buried at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Sad but true.
Danny Bridges, who is willing to throw in his 1991 Nissan and his two 27-inch analog televisions to lure Dwight Howard to Indianapolis, can be reached at: (317) 578-1780 or at Bridgeshd@aol.com.