The Indiana Pacers‘ fall from grace has been tough to watch. It’s hard to imagine the team that raced out to the best start in franchise history with surefire MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidates could fall so flat on their face. Sunday afternoon’s debacle against the Atlanta Hawks may have been rock bottom. It was an anemic offensive performance that saw the Pacers’ starting five get benched halfway through the first quarter and a 23-point first half. So, the real question is: Who is to blame for the fall of the Indiana Pacers?
The easy answer would be to place the blame on the players, and that would be a good place to start. There are noticeable trust issues with the Pacers when it comes to the offensive side of the ball. The Pacers, like most teams, are best when the ball is moving. Unfortunately for Indiana, the ball movement just isn’t there and they happen to turn the ball over at high rate, which is a recipe for disaster (not to mention an abysmal assist-to-turnover ratio). The Pacers were once a team where everyone knew and embraced their roles. That no longer appears to be the case. Paul George is, selfishly, relying more and more on isolations, the ever-tentative George Hill is even more tentative and Roy Hibbert has been a no-show since the All-Star Break. Indiana has a great defense which can bail them out if one player hits a long-term slump, but not if everyone hits their low-point at the same time.
Frank Vogel is not above scrutiny either. During his coaching tenure, Vogel has played the hand he was dealt when it comes to his team’s offensive incompetence quite well, but he may not have any more tricks up his sleeve. Vogel is known for embracing the defensive style of basketball and his offensive sets have always been somewhat underrated, but he may be in danger of losing the locker room.
Team chemistry is something that is very hard quantify, but it is important nonetheless. Larry Bird has failed this team in this aspect. Bird made a critical trade before the deadline, trading respected veteran leader Danny Granger to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen. Turner has failed to fit in with the second unit, and Allen has barely played. He also picked up the oft-injured and known locker room cancer Andrew Bynum, who has played in three games and currently rides the bench with knee swelling. Bird deserves a large amount of credit for the Pacers’ comeback, but these trades have backfired on the franchise.
The Pacers still have some time to get their act together, but time is most certainly running out. It will take a collective effort from the players, coaches and front office to make it happen, but Indiana will have every opportunity to work out their issues before the postseason begins.