The Indiana Pacers are done, and I don’t just mean done for next year due to the Paul George injury, I mean done for good. This team had a small window to get over the hump of the Miami Heat from a physical standpoint as well as a mental standpoint and last year they squandered that chance.
As it has been well-documented, the Pacers season was a complete disaster last year. Even though they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals,they stumbled into the playoffs and got it taken from them by Miami. Something happened to this team from the time they lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012-2013 up until now and it has been a steady decline ever since.
At the beginning of last season the Pacers played like the team to beat. In fact they steamrolled the league to the point where everyone was picking them as the clear cut favorites to win it all. Then something happened, they lost their hunger. For whatever reason, after the All-Star break, they forgot who they were and what had gotten them to where they were. Players began dogging it, fighting with one another in the locker room and at practice, and publicly chastising each other to the media.
At the end of last season, you could tell this was a team in search of an identity. They quickly shipped problem child Lance Stephenson off to the Charlotte Hornets and brought in a few veteran players such as C.J Miles and Rodney Stuckey. Although solid moves, these additions were not enough to get Indiana over the hump.
Then came the George injury. If there was ever a time the Indiana Pacers needed a little luck on their side, it was this year. With the loss of George for at least a year, they can all but forget contending in the Eastern Conference never mind the Central Division, which consists of the Lebron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and the Derrick Rose’s Chicago Bulls.
By the time George does get back to full strength it will be almost 2017. As we have seen with many of these injuries, just because a player is back on the court in a year, doesn’t mean they are back to normal (see Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose). Moreover, David West will be on the back nine of 35 years old and Roy Hibbert will probably still be the same player he is today, no worse, no better.
My point is this, if the Indiana Pacers were ever going to make a championship push and win a title, it was last year. With the Eastern Conference being at an all-time low and the Pacers having a stacked roster (on paper), the Pacers missed their chance to bring the hardware home. The Eastern Conference has only gotten better while the Pacers have gotten weaker, older and injury riddled. It is time for Larry Bird to start considering his options.