The worst thing the Indiana Pacers could have done was win Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. That win singlehandedly set forth a series of games that ultimately wasted my time and yours. Truth be told, the Pacers' days were numbered since the opening tip-off of their Game 1 match-up against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round.
After meeting the Miami Heat in the series many waited all year for, that number was finally up, bringing an end to an extended streak of dysfunction. From an entertainment standpoint, the Pacers were he most compelling team to watch in the playoffs, but even that novelty had grown pretty tiresome. Despite the impressive early-season start, when it was all said and done the Pacers were indeed pretenders. Of course, now is the time to figure out what that means moving forward.
Paul George: Superstar on the brink or occasional showstopper?
If there was one thing solidified from Indiana's playoff run, it's that Paul George is pretty good at this basketball thing. Even in the games that were lopsided at the expense of Indiana, George couldn't be faulted due to lack of performance. He's a great two-way player, but the question is how great is he? Could he potentially be an MVP candidate as he showed for the first 30 or so games this season, or is he simply that mid-card level star? You know, the kind of player who will have us overrating him on occasion but quickly dismissing once he returns to simply solid production numbers.
Consistency is as big of a trait as anything else that makes for a good basketball player, and as the leader of this team, the jury is still out on George in that regard. It's not like we haven't seen him come up big. Game 5 against Miami was more than enough to show us what he's capable of when the pressure is on. Catfish scandals and Miami stripper tales aside, George can flat out play when he's focused on the game.
Frank Vogel is indeed the man for the job
Now that it’s been reported that Frank Vogel will return for a fifth eason as the head coach of the Pacers, there are two things that should be noted.
All of the adjustments he was questioned for not making last year in the Eastern Conference Finals (i.e., sitting Roy Hibbert in crucial possessions in closing minutes), he made.
He still failed to make adjustments for those adjustments once they proved worthless this year.
Looking at the roster, the Pacers aren’t built to be flexible, but a lack of creativity definitely doesn’t help. There were times when I actually convinced myself that playing Lavoy Allen would have been beneficial at some points. I can’t even fathom how I could create such a thought, but clearly Vogel found use for him as collateral damage in their 117-92 blowout loss in Game 6.
There is still reason to believe Vogel can be a pretty good coach in this league, but his ability to manage a game (which ironically is essential to coaching) will ultimately be his downfall. The least he could do is pretend like he has a game-changing lineup at his disposal. The Pacers were dysfunctional for reasons even the coach couldn’t answer, but Larry Bird will surely try to focus on the positives. The core of the roster is set for the time being, so he and Vogel need to consult on how to effectively get the most out of what they have available — unless of course this is really as good as it gets with Vogel and this squad.
No team with Evan Turner shall flourish
I find it hilarious that there are people who truly believe that Evan Turner is better than what he is. 76ers fans rejoiced the moment the news broke that he had been traded. No idea what Indiana thought it was getting besides a poor perimeter defender that can’t shoot yet needs the ball in his hands, but the joke was clearly on the Pacers.
What happens to Lance?
OK, does it even need to be said that Lance Stephenson was the most entertaining thing about the ECF? The Pacers and Heat were already on bad terms, but Stephenson managed to take the rivalry to new heights while keeping us invested in his antics. From face taps to “defensive tactics,” he definitely gave us something else to focus on besides the actual game. For all of his ridiculousness, it has to be noted that he’s been the most consistent of the Pacers this entire season.
As a pending free agent, he’s most likely outplayed his contract that favors Indy re-signing him. Not to mention, it seems like Lance has worn out his welcome in the Pacers' locker room. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if a team overpaid for his services this offseason, because this is still the NBA. At least one absurd contract is rewarded every offseason, and Lance Stephenson is as good a candidate as any. Teams like Sacramento, Utah, Cleveland and Denver could all very well consider bringing the “Born Ready” circus to their respective arenas.
At least we'll always have this.
A Roy Hibbert sighting doesn't really mean much
I will say that seeing life in Roy Hibbert proved that his presence still matters, if only by a slim margin. In all honesty, he'll probably never be a legitimate threat offensively, but as a rim protector you can expect him to serve his role. Only that didn't quite work out well for the Pacers, and then there is the constant task of getting him in the game. All-Star player or not, there is a very real possibility that Hibbert just isn't that good.
For the early rounds, he was a shell of himself, and while he stepped up at times against Miami, that says more about the Heat's deficiencies than anything else. Miami doesn't have an answer for the Pacers big man, which is OK because the Heat didn't need it. Hibbert didn't kill the Heat in any way that they couldn't adapt to, and they pretty much let him psych himself out. With big money invested in Hibbert, a trade given his erratic production would be tough, so the Pacers are stuck with him for the time being. Maybe he'll get out of his own way, but all signs point to no. Then again, this team also thought Andrew Bynum would be of use, so Hibbert is still the de facto big man of this equation.
Indiana is a team that was built to beat the Heat. In reality, the Pacers were far from it and may have actually peaked as a group all things considered. Fortunately, that's not a concern anyone has to think about at the moment, unless your name is Larry Bird.
For now consider the Indiana Pacers among the deceased.