In the true spirit of Season Preview Season, the TrueHoop Network has come together like Voltron. With Henry Abbott and Kevin Arnovitz at the helm, all of the TrueHoop Network bloggers have joined forces for a 150ish-page NBA season preview book that will be available in full very soon. I’ll update this post and include the link to the piece in its entirely as soon as it becomes available, but in the meantime, be sure to peruse the other blogs in the network for other team outlooks. And stay tuned to TrueHoop for more updates from Henry and Kevin.
I haven’t read the preview in its entirety yet, but in addition to breakdowns of all 30 teams, I’m really looking forward to seeing Kevin’s chat with Blake Griffin, The Painted Area’s forward-looking “10 NBA Questions for the 2010s” and the thrilling conclusion of Henry’s ongoing series on Wayne Winston, the Indiana University professor who has has been the Dallas Mavericks’ stat guru for the past nine year and authored the book “Mathletics.”
As for me, I naturally did the Pacers preview. (In related news, I did a different, yet similarly toned Pacers preview for Heels on Hardwood.) And aside from informing you that this post consists of nine separate sections, each of which is explained under the heading, there’s not a lot else that needs saying.
So here it is: Your TrueHoop Network 2009-10 Pacers Season Preview. Enjoy.
Crowd Says / Blogger Says
The consensus win total prediction of the TrueHoop Network bloggers …
and the best hopes of the blogger who covers the team.
Yes We Can!
The sun is out. The seas have parted. The basketball gods are shining upon us.
The Pacers franchise is in tumult. So much has changed since Ron Artest charged into the stands. The roster has been torn down. The playoffs have become merely a fond memory. The stands have emptied. The owners have hemorrhaged millions.
To stem the tide, the Pacers need a jolt of positivity. And on-court success is likely the only thing that will reinvigorate the fan base and re-brand the Pacers as something other than a punch line. This upcoming season may not exactly be playoffs or bust, but it’s hard to believe that anything short of the postseason will remove the dark cloud over Conseco.
Given all this, it would be great to pretend that there is a nuanced range of factors that will determine how successful the 2009-10 season will be. But that’s just not the case. Ultimately, it will come down to one thing: Dunleavy’s knee.
Currently, we know very little about how healthy Junior is. Although the self-assessments on Mike’s aptly titled blog “You, Me and My Knee” have been optimistic, guys like Gilbert Arenas have previously predicted ahead-of-schedule returns only to suffer setbacks. And Pacers fans know all too well how Jermaine O’Neal’s continual confidence worked out.
But we shouldn’t presume the worst. The original prognosis was for a Christmas return, so anything that accelerates Mike’s comeback is positive news. Until Dunleavy returns to the court, however, the Pacers roster will likely look as rudderless as it has since the last time he was healthy.
Danny Granger’s emergence as one of the most promising, fundamentally sound players in the league buoyed the franchise last season. By early December, Granger displayed a dynamic, multi-faceted game that few of even his largest supporters knew existed. Troy Murphy’s newfound proficiency was even less expected, and I’m not sure even his relatives foresaw gaudy stats like 14.3 ppg and 11.8 rpg on 45 percent shooting from 3-point range.
If Dunleavy can round out that trio, the Pacers should end their three-year playoff drought next April. Many will scoff at a surrounding cast of TJ Ford, Brandon Rush, Jeff Foster, Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough, Dahntay Jones and Earl Watson. Don’t listen to those skeptics. Larry Bird may not have discovered an array of future All-Stars, but he has assembled a cast of capable role players.
The development and integration of these secondary players will make for an interesting story this year regardless of anything else. With everything that has happened since the Malice in the Palace, however, interesting stories no longer resonate in Indianapolis. This team needs a playoff appearance. Realities on and off the court demand organizational progress.
Will it happen? If Mike Dunleavy plays 70 games, it should. And if he doesn’t? Well, at least the Pacers will have one more lottery pick to build around.
No You Don’t
A rousing dissent from a rival blogger.
“Listen, Mr. Legend. Larry Bird is not walking through that door – no matter how many times you try to find the next Larry Bird.”
– Ryan Schwan of Hornets247
140-characters of insight into the soul of the team.
On the Record
Single best quote concerning the team during the last 12 months.
“The last three or four years have been disasters, and generally speaking, you can almost pinpoint it from the [brawl] game in Detroit. Not only has our fan base deteriorated but our financial condition has, too.”
– Pacers Co-Owner Herb Simon (Indianapolis Star, 2/4/2009)
The 2008-09 Almanac
Some key stats from last season.
If Jim O’Brien is coaching a team, there will be threes — and with good reason. Since O’Brien took over, the Pacers have shot 37.8% and 37.4% from behind the arc the past two seasons, good for eighth-best in the league both years. While those numbers are decent, what is more impressive is how his spread offensive system has been able to improve his key players’ long-range accuracy. Here are some numbers showing how four Pacer players have benefited from “The O’Brien Bump” after they started playing for the coach with the Paulie Walnuts hair.
With the Pacers down one and 9.2 seconds to play…
Troy Murphy inbounds to Mike Dunleavy, who jab-steps, pump-fakes and then leans right before ripping the ball across his body to dribble left along the perimeter. Danny Granger moves towards Mike, takes a dribble hand-off and drives hard towards the top of the key. The defenders switch and the guy guarding Mike jumps in front of Granger. Danny catches him off-balance, crosses the ball back over to his left and steps back. He pulls up, elevates and releases the ball at the top of his jump shot. All net.
(Although if there’s only 0.9 seconds left, I suggest they just go with this play again.)
The People’s Choice
The fan favorite the crowd will be chanting for to see some action.
Tyler Hansbrough will be a rotation fixture, but fans will always want to see more of his relentless hustle and frenetic tenacity. And why not? Floor burns, black eyes and tip-ins will always trump blown rotations, missed assignments and sloppy close-outs in the popular vote.
If You’re Watching the Bottom Line, You’re Watching This
The single biggest financial issue hanging over the team.
Between the onerous contracts the front office acquired to unload Stephen Jackson (a burden otherwise known as the “Murphleavy Compromise”) and the go-away money spent to make Jamaal Tinsley disappear, the Pacers salary situation has become an organizational millstone. But there is now a light at the end of the tunnel. The Tinsley buyout and the deals of Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy and TJ Ford all come off the cap in the summer of 2011, at which point Indy’s management can once again start making personnel decisions based on talent rather than affordability.
Tags: Brandon Rush Dahntay Jones Danny Granger Earl Watson Herb Simon Jamaal Tinsley Jeff Foster Jermaine O'Neal Jim O'Brien Larry Bird Malice In The Palace Mike Dunleavy Jr Ron Artest Roy Hibbert Stephen Jackson The O'Brien Bump TJ Ford Troy Murphy TrueHoop Network 2009-10 NBA Season Preview Tyler Hansbrough