Washington Wizards @ Indiana Pacers
7:30 PM EST
Gilbert Arenas and his band of merry men come to Indiana on a night when the whole town will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the House that Reggie Built. (Tom Lewis wrote a great tribute on Cornrows.) For a franchise that once had to host a telethon just to raise enough money to keep the team in Indianapolis, the opening of Conseco was a historic moment. The Eastern Conference success foreshadowed by Chuck Person’s late 80s squad and later realized by the Reggie-led rosters of the 90s had turned the Pacers into a legitimate NBA team and transformed Market Square Arena into a raucous environment to watch a basketball game.
And the construction of Conseco was a culmination of that success. The team was in Indianapolis to stay and, not only that, it was now going to play some 50 games per year in a building that is still regarded by many NBA insiders as the best NBA facility in the association.
It’s a fitting occasion for a night when the Pacers are once again trying to establish themselves as an NBA team worthy of respect. The JailPacers Era put a black mark on the franchise that evolved from minor embarrassment to endemic problem as time went on, and once the losing began, the team turned from punchline to afterthought.
That’s where the Pacers are now. The worst should be in the rear-view mirror. I mean, it has to be, right? Now the winning must begin anew, if not simply to help repair the broken bonds with local fans and garner greater national interest for a once-proud franchise than to simply stem the financial hemorrhaging that has to be weighing on the mind of the team’s owner more and more with each passing day.
So let’s set aside real basketball analysis, forgo the player breakdowns and save the stat-talk for after the game is done. Tonight isn’t about any of that. Tonight is about seeing whether or not this roster can be inspired to properly represent the state stitched on their jerseys.
The Pacers need a win. And Conseco deserves a win — if not simply for providing the current players with a hallowed house to shoot hoops than as a hat tip to the past glories that occurred under its roof and transformed the uniforms that today’s players wear into more than just blue and gold mesh. Sure, the problems that got the team to this point aren’t on most of the guys who are now on the team. But it doesn’t matter. They are the only Pacers that matter right now and they are the only ones who can help ensure that the road ahead overshadows the recent past.
So, as silly as it sounds, the only thing Jim O’Brien should say tonight is: Win one for a building.