And That's It

Seasons end, and for all but one playoff team each year, they end with a loss. Tonight, it was the Pacers’ turn.

While there were many things the Pacers could have done better, and many opportunities they missed, the basic reality is that the Heat were just better. Specifically, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were just better. For Miami to win this series, those two players had to deliver nothing short of greatness.

And deliver it they did.

The bastards.

I was in the Pacer locker room after the game. It was a subdued, quiet place. George Hill sat leaning back in his chair looking at the ceiling. Paul George was hunched over, chin in hand, engaged in his normal postgame ritual of reading the stat sheet. Danny Granger sat patiently, but quietly answering questions for a procession of reporters – each waiting on queue to ask him the same thing in a slightly different way.

Then there was David West.

West was scheduled to be the Pacer player coming to the table in the interview room, so he wasn’t – strictly speaking – available for questions in the locker room. As people moved around him, West was million miles away. Or, more accurately, he was a few hundred feet away and in a different time. In his thousand yard stare, you could almost see the flicker as he replayed the game in his mind. Each missed shot. Each turnover. Every Dwyane Wade bucket – each one more ridiculous than the last.

Later, he would talk about the game in hushed, thoughtful tones. He would talk about the future, and this as a good learning experience for the younger guys, and the fact that the Pacers need to  dedicate themselves to getting past this point next season. He would sum it up by saying, “It just wasn’t our time,” but not without betraying his underlying belief that it could have, perhaps even should have been.

But, sitting in the locker room, he was just a man trying to get a hold of his pain and disappointment. In that way, and in that moment, David West was exactly like many, many Pacer fans. He was like me.

For as much as tonight hurts, I can’t help but smile. It has been a very long time since the end of the Pacer season arrived with regret, instead of relief. It is a familiar pain…a welcome pain. It’s the kind of pain you can only feel when your team matters to you again.

I wandered around the locker room, picking up snippets of audio from different players, but nothing extensive. I had plenty of opportunities to ask questions, but none came to me. So, I drifted around, hoping for some divine inspiration, until I noticed that Pacer P.R. Director David Benner had briefly abandoned his guard post around West.

After glancing around, I slipped over to West’s locker, and told him I had no questions. I only wanted to thank him for how helpful he’d been to me as a writer during my first season with credentials, and how much I’d enjoyed watching him play.

How much I’d enjoyed watching them play.

The analysis of what happened, and where Indiana goes from here will come in due time with due diligence. It is not coming tonight.

Tonight, I only have the pain that feels like a long lost old friend. And while that makes me sad, it also makes me happy … if that makes any sense at all.

Topics: 2012 Playoffs, David West, Pacers Vs. Heat 2012 Playoffs

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  • Zach Winningham

    It marked perfect sense, great piece here. The last seven years have been the equivalent of a one-night stand. When it’s over, you’re relieved more than anything. This season was that girlfriend you really liked, then suddenly fell in love with, then it all ended. Hurts much more deeply. Great season. I almost forgot what it was like when the Pacers and race weekend were one and the same. Brought back Reggie memories. Also, thanks to all the writers here for putting up with us know-it-alls and bringing solid analysis and commentary this year.

  • NoLookPass

    They got way too much for us handle out of their superstars and we had no luck go our way to counteract them. Seemed like they got every 50-50 ball and call and had a seasons worth of and one circus shots falling. Wade shot 38-for-57 66.7% from the field and the Heat won by 67 points from when we had a 11 point lead with 2:12 left in the 2nd quarter of game 4 on.

    You just need superstars to win in this league and honestly more than one so you can have one out there for all 48 of the game. You need that one guy who can get the ball and make something positive happen on his own when nothing else is going right.

    The Heat had the best player on the floor even when we have our starters in so the moment we go to the bench it becomes even more of an issue. When you have an elite player out there they make the players around them even better than they are as shown by LeBron James being the best assist man in the series by a mile on top of the points and rebounds.

    Other than the dream of a true superstar that has the ability to carry the team, which we likely aren’t going to get unless we draft one. We need a pass first starting PG who can create better shots for guys, a spot up 3 point shooter off the bench and a legit back up center in the worst way.

    The bench guys we use all want to be in the paint but Lou’s lack of offense down low and teams knowing that they don’t have to worry about getting burnt from downtown allows them smother our guys in the paint killing our flow. The bench while flawed at center still seemed to be way better when D Jones was getting steady PT and hitting his corner 3 pointers rather than with Barbosa holding the ball and the taking a wild long shot or a while drive to the rim.

    I feel DC, Barbosa, Tyler and D Jones all could start for us with Roy and the other 3 guys left over and we would still be a top half of the bracket starting 5 but the second you take away the center and 3 other talented players and put them together they don’t bring much to the table, and especially when going up against superstars. Our roster just needs to be more versatility.

    The person with the biggest summer is Frank IMO. His game plans and X’s and O’s left a lot to be desired at times. He needs to grow and expand his game as much as our players need to and it will be interesting to see how he does without Shaw around who seemingly will land a HC job somewhere. I think Shaw got Frank to do some things different this year and I’m not 100% sure they had positive effects so they next year will be a fun process to watch unfold.

    It was a good run but it could and should been better, we got a taste of a war on the primetime stage and a few more national TV games next year should help us out even more along with a normal camp and not as crazy of a schedule. Hopefully this was the next step in a evolution and not a peak and we don’t take a step back like Memphis did.

    .

  • Tom

    Agreed it makes perfect sense. Entering the season, if you’d told any of us that we’d have a legit chance to defeat the Miami Heat and advance to the ECFs, and we were the 3 seed, we’d have taken it. But now that it’s been taken from us, it’s strangely deflating. Yet, it’s also something to be proud of.
    I think Vogel and Bird have built a great team which has a serious future in this league in the coming years. More importantly I think they learned an invaluable lesson this year of what it takes to win in the playoffs, which can only hold them in good stead for next year.
    Hibbert, George, Hill and Hansbrough all grew as players this year. West and Granger led by example. And the ‘team basketball’ style of play is something that can only breed success. With 1 or 2 FA acquisitions and incremental improvement, this team can contend next year in the East, and maybe overall.
    Thanks for the great coverage this year, and let’s enjoy this year for the success that it was.

  • NoLookPass

    Leandro Barbosa showed everyone that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Just because a player does something good on one team doesn’t mean he will with another. Its all about usage, system and supporting cast.

    Barbosa comes here and shoots 39.9% which was well off his career average and shot FT at a all time low and then see both drop even lower come the playoffs. I wish we stayed with what we had and used the pick in a move this summer but I didn’t like the addition when it happened either since we didn’t have enough shots to go around before adding a volume shooter.

    Brandon Rush benefited from getting out of town for sure shooting 50.1% from the field after years of 42.1 and 42.3 twice with the Pacers and finished 6th in the league in 3%. Dunleavy had his second best season of his career after leaving and McRoberts probably still wishes he was in Indy after seeing his career tank with the Lakers and his PT vanish with Jordan Hill on the scene.

    Its always buyer beware when making a summer wishlist because you really never know how its going to work especially when looking for reserves.

  • Keepupwitdapace

    Well it was a nice season for us as you can see now we need a super star its time to trade danny granger or signed a sharpshooter as for our 6th man that can create his own shot

  • little B

    Good article Tim. It was definatley one of those fall in love stories that you know your heart is going to get broken but you go for it anyways. But not dissappointed at all in this season. It was a lockout shortened season and I believe this team made the best of it. Alot of things to learn from this season, but even more to take away from it. Hopefully this was enough to get Pacers Nation back in full, tired of seeing the attendance in the bottom barrel of the league. Great team to come watch and support. Thanks Pacers.
    Alot of things could shake up the Pacers this offseason still: Bird retiring, Shaw getting a head coaching job somewhere, FA’s: Hibbert, Hill, Barbosa, Amundson, Price, Fesenko. Hibbert is the most crucial offseason piece to deal with, I think he sets the tone for years to come based on his contract and what it allows the Pacers to do. Next would be whatever the GM decides to do with the money left and how they try to structure the team. Could be an interesting off season.
    Pacers didn’t win it all, but they are headed in the right direction. The team that wins the finals usually has something that is completely ustoppable. Last year it was Dirk, this year I think it is going to be Wade/James or Westbrook/Durant. From what happened last night I would go with Wade/James, but you never know when someone could go down with an injury or if a Wade’s knee could flare up again.
    Pacers need the piece to make them on the Miami level. Does it have to be a superstar, I don’t think so. I think the piece is just experience. Put another year under this squads belt and some more development with Paul George, Roy Hibbert, George Hill, Darren Collison and this team is on the level of the Miami Heat. Veteran teams win the finals, this team still had some nubes on it.

  • StatMan31

    It was a great season. Most would say that the Pacers did much better than expected and fans should be happy with the results. True, but I have been a die hard fan since ’92 and every year, although I try to suppress it, I believe they are going to win it all. No matter what.

    This year was great for several reasons: they won the games they were supposed to, they won some games they weren’t, there were few injuries, and most importantly everyone got better–together. I hope they don’t disrupt the team too much. The chemistry was good and can only get better. There is no reason to rebuild or overly tweak a roster that produced the 5th best overall record and the 4th best road record. These guys did a great job!

    Funny that when the Pacers were up 2-1 I heard a lot of people saying they don’t have a superstar, but they play good team-basketball and that’s why they are winning. Now that they get beat by essentially two superstars I hear the chants of we need a superstar to get it done. I disagree. They need chemistry, which comes with time. This was just the first season of what I hope is a team that gets to stay together and become a super-team (that was cheesy).

  • Chris D.

    I agree with Tom. I also think it’s good to consider the immediate impressions of the series before they fade.

    This was an amazing step forward. All I ever wanted in the post-JOB era was to see what this team could really do before some contracts expired…and we did. 18 months ago we were floundering with no hope of seeing the teams potential, or maybe fearing that we had. Vogel gave us three years of development in a season and half. That’s why he should have been coach of the year.

    As Foghorn Leghorn once said, “Figures don’t lie.” We have two decent scorers (Danny and David), but only Danny squeaks into the top 20. We need a tandem that averages closer to 20 pts., shooting .450 or better as a duo. Every true contender has that tandem (see BOS, MIA, OKC, and–to a lesser extent–SAN). If we had a true floor general on the team (a la Mark Jackson), I think that would open up a new level of play for our top three (and, maybe, Paul as well). I didn’t see that floor leadership from any of our guards this season. Maybe DC could do it. At #29, he’s our only guard in the top 40 in assists.

    That’s what I’ll be mulling over the off-season.

  • km

    thank you for writing this:

    “For as much as tonight hurts, I can’t help but smile. It has been a very long time since the end of the Pacer season arrived with regret, instead of relief. It is a familiar pain…a welcome pain. It’s the kind of pain you can only feel when your team matters to you again.”

  • AkansasCityCheif

    On or way back to ECF, this series shound have been over. Game 2 was or fault but the lil papers didn’t stand a chance against us. But we outta here, on to Espn Boston. That’s 8 down and 8 to go HEATLES

  • Great year

    @little b
    @StatMan31
    I don’t want be a negative Nancy, but I don’t think one more year of experience will take the Pacers to Miami’s level. They didn’t have Bosh and beat us in 6… LeBron and Wade are at a level none of our players will ever see (everrrrr).
    You predicted Pacers in 6 without Bosh? How could an intelligent person predict that? If Bosh plays, this series maybe goes 5. LeBron is only 27, Bosh 27, Wade 30, they are still coming together.
    Past 12 NBA Champions best player: Dirk, Kobe, Kobe, Pierce, Parker, Wade, Duncan, Billups, Duncan, Shaq, Shaq, Shaq
    Pacers don’t have one player near the same level as these players. Our best two players are 29, 31. At some point you need to take the next step – I don’t see the next step for West, Granger.
    Chicago is a way better team than plus has a superstar.

    @AkansasCityCheif
    Good luck vs. Boston (assuming Rondo shows up). The Heat are beyond talented. I sat there and watched LeBron and was like:

    LeBron averages more points than any Pacer player (by 9 points)
    LeBron averages more assists than any Pacer player
    LeBron averages more steals than any Pacer player
    LeBron averages .9 less rebounds than Hibbert (7’2’’)
    LeBron plays perimeter defense better than anyone since Pippen.

    I’m convinced if you switched Granger and LeBron, the Pacers are a final team. Be grateful of him. Good luck!!

  • chris

    reggie flopper

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