Close Article Return to stream X
NBA

Larry Bird Must Bury Past Issues for Indiana Pacers to Progress

+Read full article
Larry Bird

Steve Mitchell USA Today Sports

The Indiana Pacers’ season ended against the Miami Heat in disappointing fashion. President of basketball operations Larry Bird visibly showed his disgust as many fans and analysts were left wondering who was to blame. Fingers can be pointed in many directions: off-court distractions, poor offensive executions, lack of leadership and focus, negative attitudes, etc. For the final three months of the NBA season, the Pacers just withered into obscurity and public humiliation.

So what is the real reason? Who is really to blame? Why did it happen?

The finger pointing should go to ghost of brawl at The Palace of Auburn Hills that still haunts the team and the state.

Indiana is a state rich with legendary basketball roots. The 1954 Milan High School state championship basketball team was documented in one of sports’ most iconic movies “The Hoosiers.” Former Indiana University head coach Bobby Knight dominated college basketball with his tough and respected style. Former Pacers guard Reggie Miller stood up to the bigger markets with confidence and clutch moments. All of these iconic moments and many more document the historical tradition that is Indiana basketball.

However, the one stain on Indiana’s protected and well-respected tradition is the brawl between the Pacers and Detroit Pistons in Detroit, Mi. on Nov. 19, 2004. Indiana is always one of the first red states in presidential elections for a reason. Extremely conservative and filled with the blue-collar attitude of the Midwest; Indiana expects hard work and toughness. Along with those expectations, citizens and representatives of the state must uphold its crispy clean and well-protected reputation. That’s just the Indiana way.

As the Pacers fought the fans during the brawl, the reputation of the state continuously took public relations hits. The actions of the few sullied the reputation of the whole. The Pacers’ roster was 90 percent African-American, so the court of public opinion feasted on racial stereotypes. This brawl was a disaster for the organization.

As a result, the top priority for the Pacers was to rebuild their reputation. Wins and losses were no longer a priority. Team profits became obsolete. Acquiring star players was an afterthought. Toughness and hard work took a back seat. Everyone and everything attached to the players had to be attribute to advancing the Pacers’ image.

That ghost of a burden has clouded the team ever since.

The Pacers’ problems didn’t come from lack of talent, skill or experience. Their issue was their lack of blue-collar toughness and hard work. During the year of the brawl, the Pacers were a legit championship contender just like this year. The similarities of the teams are kind of scary. Yet, Larry Bird and the rest of upper management placed a glass ceiling on this year’s team and ruined their chances at a championship. The Pacers were constructed like the teams of old, yet their actions were coddled with chains and handcuffs.

It’s time for the Pacers to evolve with a hard-working frontline like Dale Davis and Antonio Davis, an entertaining superstar on the wing like Reggie Miller, a confident guard with New York swagger like Mark Jackson, a slow-footed, yet skilled low-post big men like Rik Smits and a bench that just comes in and competes.

But most importantly, it’s time for the Pacers to put the ghost of the brawl to rest.

Jason Skelton is a contributor for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @JasonLSkelton, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

Your Favorites
 
 
Close Article Return to stream X
NBA Videos

Paul George Miraculously Sinks Off-Balance, Fall Away Trey On ATL

Paul George is the type of player we have come to expect incredible plays from, but what he did against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night was truly remarkable. In the first quarter with the shot clock running out, George tossed up an off-balance, fall away shot from downtown that miraculously hit nothing but net.

Comment 0 Comments
 
 
Close Article Return to stream X
NBA Videos

Al Horford Emphatically Posterizes Pacers' Solomon Hill

Al Horford clearly isn't letting all the trade rumors he's been involved of late get in the way of business out on the hardwood. On Friday night against the Indiana Pacers, Horford emphatically posterized Solomon Hill with a massive dunk, and NBA aficionados nationwide lost their collective mind on the Internet.

Comment 0 Comments
 
 
Close Article Return to stream X
NBA Videos

Myles Turner Rejects LeBron James With Authority

Myles Turner has taken the NBA by storm over the last few weeks, and it appears like a star has possibly been born in Indiana. On Monday night, Turner made national highlight reels on multiple occasions, but most notably for this epic rejection of the king, LeBron James.

Comment 0 Comments
 
 
Close Article Return to stream X
NBA Videos

Watch Pacers' Turner Bring The House Down

The Indiana Pacers seemed to be mired in mediocrity this season, but they have at least found themselves a future star in Myles Turner. On Monday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers got an early look at the big man as he drove down the lane for this mesmerizing dunk.

Comment 0 Comments
 
 
Close Article Return to stream X
NBA Videos

Curry Shows Off With Half-Court Shot

It seems like Golden State Warriors PG Stephen Curry does something otherworldly on a daily basis nowadays. Last night against the Indiana Pacers, Curry casually threw up a half-court shot as time expired in the first-half, and it went in because of course it did.

Comment 0 Comments