The rolling Indiana Pacers are now picking up bandwagon followers, including including the perennially-pessimistic Indy Star columnist Bob Kravitz (though he does take the time to pepper in a few Colts references). With last week’s lone loss coming under an abbreviated squad against the number one team in the NBA, the Pacers appear to be more of a playoff contender than a beneficiary of a cake-walk early schedule (sixth easiest through 12 games).
The next two weeks will be very revealing as to the team’s potential. The season’s only western road trip features some winnable games before the final stop in Los Angeles than a homecoming to face the surprisingly strong Orlando Magic, a team enjoying the calm before the ensuing trade deadline storm. Six of the next seven are on the road, however, where the Pacers have been a model of inconsistency.
Roy Hibbert’s Contract Year
The big man is earning himself a lot of money. With his rookie contract expiring at the end of this season, Hibbert could garner a lot of interest from around the league. It seems likely that he would want to extend his stay in Indiana, and Larry Bird will probably be willing to do what it takes for that to happen.
Hibbert is now a double-double machine and defensive menace anchoring the league’s fourth-best defense. Though his scoring hasn’t been phenomenal, his shooting percentage and points per game have improved from last season. In a match-up against a team without an effective post-defense, Hibbert could be a first or second-round nightmare in the playoffs.
Area 55 could look a lot bigger next year.
Hicks vs. Geriatrics
In my last column, I discussed the growing (and mainly fabricated on my part) beef between the Boston Celtics and Pacers after Ray Allen said that West’s “ego kicked in” and he “wanted the dollars” when deciding to sign with Indiana. That was followed up by somewhat insulting piece lauding the Boston tradition and lambasting a man that didn’t want to be a part of it.
In other news, the Pacers have man-handled the Celtics twice in eight days. With that, I would like to end each column by tracking each team through the season. You know, just to help my ego kick in. What else is there to do in these cornfields?
As of January 16:
Pacers 9-3 (4th in East)
Boston 4-8 (9th in East)
If the 2012 playoffs* started today, the first round match-up would be …
#4 Pacers vs. #5 Hawks
*Boston not present