The Indiana Pacers are the talk of the league right now and not in a good way. Back in the beginning of the year, we were talking about how the Pacers were finally good enough to dethrone the Miami Heat, and now we’re talking about how they’ve completely deflated and fallen flat on their faces with the playoffs just around the corner. You’d think that averaging only 77 points in the last six games (lost five of those games) would be from an injury or something, especially after the team was so dominant early on in the season. Well, no one knows the exact diagnosis of the Pacers’ problems, but after their most recent blowout loss to the San Antonio Spurs, I have a theory.
Before Indiana’s recent struggles, they had another small struggle right around the All-Star break. They were beating the bad teams but not really keeping up with the good teams. Those included a 108-98 win over the Atlanta Hawks and a 112-86 loss to the Houston Rockets. Even when they were struggling back then, they could put up more than 80 points a game. Now their defense may have been absent, but at least they looked like an actual NBA team when they needed to score. That was assumed to be a common struggle that every team gets. The Heat were in it and seem to have moved past it. The Pacers, however, have gotten worse.
For a team that was so used to dominating every team they played in every aspect of the game, that streak of bad defense leading to losses couldn’t have been good for the fairly young Indiana team. Losing can always cause problems, and winning can always fix problems. Well, the Pacers have been doing a lot more losing than winning lately, so you could assume the locker room has some tension.
The team is breaking down game by game, and that game against San Antonio on Monday night just seemed to completely demoralize them. They all have said they don’t recognize their former selves, their former team. What has really happened though? Why are they falling off the edge of the cliff at such a fast rate?
Immaturity, selfishness and ungratefulness are words that come to mind. Mark Boyle — the voice of the Pacers on local radio — said something on 1070 The Fan along the lines of some young players don’t understand the opportunity they have here. You may have an opportunity to win every year like anyone on Kobe Bryant or LeBron James‘ team, but that’s not the case here. Paul George is a budding superstar — or at least looked like one earlier on in the season — but this is their best shot to win. Who knows if Andrew Bynum and/or Lance Stephenson come back next year? When Bynum is healthy, he makes a huge impact on the game, and Stephenson, of course, does it all. When things come up like Stephenson and George Hill having to be separated in the huddle during a game, that’s worrisome.
Roy Hibbert, who’s been vocal to the media during his team’s struggle, told Scott Agness of Pacers.com: “Maybe we should all go to group therapy or something. Sit down with (team psychologist) Dr. Carr to air our grievances.” When I hear that, I’m hearing there are problems they need to sort out. If they let some problem(s) between the players potentially ruin what they’ve built, it would surely be a shame. When you think of who is the issue or who’s causing the problem, you can’t really blame any certain player. Everyone’s been struggling, even the always steady veteran David West. It’s hard to tell Stephenson is being bothered by something by looking at his stats, but he obviously has an issue if he needs to be separated from his own teammate.
Indiana has time to turn it around, however, so now is the time to see who can man up and realize the opportunity they have in front of them.