The Honeymoon's Just About Over

Last year the Pacers’ success was a culmination of a number of unselfish and committed players put together by a patient front office and coached by a young, hardworking coach. It was the end of a drought. After a few years of irrelevance, the Pacers were winning basketball games. The team clicked quickly and may have even overachieved ultimately.

Funny thing about success, though, is that once you get it you’re going to start expecting it. I hate to be the negative person in any situation, and I really hate to be the Debbie Downer that starts her engines before everyone else. But I’m going to go ahead and forecast the mentality of radio hosts, newspaper columnists, many fans, and maybe even ESPN-affiliated, Pacer-based blogs come next season. That mentality is: After a team has a year like last season, they are supposed to get better, not worse.

I am not predicting that the Pacers will be worse next season, but obviously, that’s up to the players. Indiana has been blessed with a number of high-character players with small egos who are hard to criticize harshly. That’s the way it should be. But if you want to give a fickle-fan some ammunition to talk down about an athlete there is one sure-fire way: give that athlete a big, fat contract.

Roy Hibbert signed a four-year, max contract worth nearly $60 million. To be clear, I support the move by the Pacers, but it will still be up to Roy to live up to that number.

More surprisingly, George Hill received a five-year, $40 million contract. Hill was certainly solid in his year in Indiana, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say he was $4o million solid. He will have to prove to be an impact point guard over the next couple seasons. Not only that, but he will have to prove to be better than Darren Collison, who was traded away this summer. There are many different opinions on this, but factoring in both last season and the playoffs for both players, I actually would rate Collison’s performance better than Hill’s. Collison is expected to be the starting point guard for the Dallas Mavericks next season for the price of $2.3 million.

My math skills barely qualify me to tell you that the Pacer’s just locked in $100 million to two players. Whether you agree or disagree with the signings, they did (likely) prevent the Pacers from signing any marquee (or just-below-marquee) free agents.

Chris Kaman and O.J. Mayo were both free agents that many people hoped might land with the Pacers. Both seemed relatively realistic options. But the money simply wasn’t there. The Dallas Mavericks snatched up both players. They cleared the cap space to sign them by electing not to re-sign Ian Mahinmi. Not only did they not re-sign him, but they flipped him for Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones. The men on both sides of these negotiations are smarter than I am, but from my perspective the Mavericks seemingly hustled the Pacers.

If the Mavericks end up getting a lot out of Mayo, Kaman, Collison and Jones then the Pacers’ front office better hope Indiana is putting up some Ws or there will be a lot of finger pointing.

So while Hibbert is trying to prove he is worth $60 million, his backup, Mahinmi, will be trying to prove he is worth $16 million. And what may end up being Hibbert’s backup’s backup, Miles Plumlee, will be trying to prove that he was worth the 26th pick in the draft.

And perhaps the best player on the team, Danny Granger. will have to continue to prove that he is a leader. Is that really a fair criticism? Probably not, but it is the burden of a talented player. Dirk Nowitzki had to deal with it for years. Lebron James got it much worse. Carmelo Anthony is hearing it now. And all those players perform at a considerably higher level than Granger. Not to mention he is in the midst of his own $60 million contract.

And then there’s Paul George. Last year it was all about potential. The word that will make a fan giddy about a player. But the problem is that potential has to turn into results quickly. We sports fans are not a patient bunch. If Paul George is going to become an elite shooting guard, he will start having to do what elite shooting guards do pretty soon: play at an elite level.

I really am not trying to criticize a bunch of players that I actually like, respect and, for the most part, believe in. I am simply trying to point out that the cards will be dealt differently this year. Pacers’ management has made moves that will put a lot of players in a position where they have to perform or they will be judged quite harshly. We haven’t even mentioned the signings of Gerald Green and D.J. Augustin. The pressure will be on both of them to prove that they, respectively, belong in this league and run a second-string offense at least as well as Darren Collison.

The honeymoon’s over.

With success comes expectations. And next season, the the mentality from many Pacers supporters will begin to shift away from last year’s “Do your best and make us proud” and more towards “Do the best or get out of town.”

Tags: Raised Fan Expectations

  • Jack

    hmm. that’s a tough one. on the one hand i agree that some teams which have a bunch of potential end up failing to live up to that potential (i.e. perhaps the knicks last season). on the other hand, if the team fails to live up to its potential, maybe it wasn’t as good of a team in the first place as people thought (again, perhaps the knicks). I’m hoping that in the case of our pacers, we truly have a good, solid team. and i think that with a good, solid team, it’s hard not to live up to potential or close to potential. we’ll see.

    i am anticipating the pacers entering next season way under the radar; that is, under the radar they deserve based on last season and based on the fact that we have the same 1st unit in place (and possibly a better 2nd unit). i’m predicting that nba “analysts” will assume the nets and other teams will take our place as 2nd/3rd best in the east. and i’m pretty damn sure they’ll be wrong about that

  • gregor t.

    Yep! The heads want to love the Nets this year. Outside of Deron, do they have a player that could start for the Pacers? Are they not the same team as last year, with Joe Johnson taking more shots?

  • gregor t.

    Paul George has 2 years of playoff experience guarding D.Rose and D.Wade. Anyone think he would be worried bout checking Joe Johnson? Or Jason Terry? Or whoever the Knicks bring in? I got PG as an All-NBA Defender this year. He reminds me of Scottie Pippen with a 3pt shot!

  • little B

    To the guys bashing the article: go find another article to post on, bet you don’t have anything good to say there either.

    Last year I realized Hill’s importance to the team when he went down with injury before All-Star break. The Pacer’s struggled to finish out the first half of the season strong when he was out and Hill was coming off the bench then. Then later in the season I was all for Hill being the starter when Collison went down and the team didn’t miss a beat. The team didn’t struggle like they did when Hill was out. The schedule may have been easier but he proved he was the better player for this team. Come playoffs though I think the tempo just picked up a little bit and Hill just didn’t have enough time with the rest of the starters to step it up to that next notch. When I think back to last season I can’t count on one hand how many big plays I remember Hill making to win or finish out ball games. Collison on the other hand I can’t count on one hand how many times he failed to produce or setup a play at the end of regulation. Several times he made it to where a shot didn’t even get off. I liked Collison, but once I saw Hill come in and do his thing, he is just able to take this team to a complete different level and I think Vogel made the right move here. The only thought/question I have now though is that the relaxtion for Hill not having to compete for the starting job this season and knowing he is the starting will it make him worse or better or even matter? He still has alot to prove so I think he will continue to better his game.

    @sad, sad, sad
    I think you forget Portland offered Hibbert a max offer first day of FA. Pacers were pretty much hand cuffed from there on, but I do think Mark Cuban got the better end of everything the Pacers did. Pacers second string looks pretty good. It’s more complete than what it was a year ago.

    @gregor T.
    I would take Kris Humphries if we couldn’t get West back. Humphries destroyed the Pacers last year every time. Johnson is just streaky and doesnt play good defense so he wouldnt work well with the Pacers. If he played defense better, with the scoring capability he has, he would be close to being worth his $90+mil contract. If Lopez was a little better than that team could be really good.

    My predictions:

    1. MVP next year for Pacers will probably be David West (sparing injury). Some people already mentioned it, but you could tell he had more abiltiy in his knee later in the season and he just dominated that last month and a half of the season. I just think he ran out of gas in the playoffs due to the pacers starters not being use to playing 40 minutes.

    2. Pacers win Central Division. Bulls will be exploited this season for their lack of depth and with Rose being injured again. Coach T is pretty damn good, but the bulls were the team that overachieved last year. Played 1/3 of the year without Rose and still had the 1 seed, but then got embarrassed in the postseason. They have a good starting 5 but the rookie Teauge running the show for a while is going to hinder that team at first.

    3. Paul George becomes more aggressive on offense and gets in the 15ppg. Last year you could see him defer shots to Danny quite a bit still. PG’s breakout year is coming and its going to get nasty. He took some drives to the rim against Miami in the postseason that were strong. Even got close-lined by Chamlers on one(that didn’t get a flagarant foul). I see that happening more in 2012-2013.

    GO PACERS!!!

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  • dwain

    i think the 76ers just got way better…..

  • stray dawg

    Bynum playing for Doug Collins could be a HUGE nitemare for both. Sixer’s made big changes this year. That does not always work. Especially with Bynum coming back to his old stomping grounds. He hasn’t exactly been coachable. And the Sixer’s did lose some good players to get him. I think it’s a wash. Bynum could make the 76′ers better this year, but I wouldn’t bet on it. He will be playing for his next contract, not for his team.

  • Realist

    Bynum will get injured, but I don’t blame Philly for taking the chance.

  • Padrig

    Darren Collison seems like a great person and teammate. Statistics seem to inflate his worth. Many of the ESPN pundits compared him with Augustine and favored Collison. This is wrong.

    He has poor point guard skills. His real value comes with the ability to have the ball in his hands for most of the possession and run a pick-and-roll heavy offense. On a good team, Darren Collison does not have the ball in his hands for most of the possession. Maybe for a bad Hornets team, but not a playoff team.

    In terms of statistics, he is a very good 3 point shooter. Except he made less than 1 three a game. Irrelevant.

    Anybody with two eyeballs watching the Pacers play under Collison witnessed his worthless dribbling and inability to create a good flow on offense. He can be a spark defensively. That’s about it.

    Basketball games are won at the rim. I’d much rather pay for a backup 7 footer who is a great teammate than a back up point guard who is a great teammate.

    Mahinimi > Collison all day every day.

  • Jack

    76ers got worse. Good for the Pacers.

    And Padrig,
    Collison could be a spark offensively, too. That’s flat out without question. But Augustine might be better for us as far as distributing the ball and helping the flow of the offense. I hope it turns out that way, and I think it probably will.

  • stray dawg

    Collison is gone. It’s time to get over that. George Hill and DJ Augustin give the Pacers one of the best PG combos in the league. Seriously, what two PG’s are better?

  • dwain

    @jack not sure i see how they got worse, having one of the best big men in the game down low will make their outside shooters better, and their driving guards more effective. Iggy was a lot to lose i agree but i bet their new team give the Pacers fits. if Bynum goes down then i can see it, but last year he didn’t miss much at all…and knowing that he is carrying the team may just make him step up and be that star.

  • Jack

    Bynum sucks

  • bully

    Dwight Howard is coming off Back surgery and makes 18+mil per year. Andrew Bynum just said he is going in for his 2nd knee surgery, and he is making 16+mil per year. Pacers got Roy Hibbert, with no history of injury, and wants to play in INDY, for 13+mil per year. I’ll take Big Roy over those two milquetoast chumps every day of the week.

  • Lake Trout

    C. Sake. Sorry to tell you – Craig Smith signed with a team in Isreal. Pacers loss, i think. We coulda used the Rhino. Dang!

  • Tony Davis

    I would love to see Tyler Hansbrough learn two things:

    A. Pass
    B. Be able to catch a bounce pass in the post and go to the rim without traveling

    He has an above average mid range jumper, if he were more of a passing threat and didn’t travel every time he went up to finish, he’d be much more effective for the team. Just drop step and go up, or kick it out to Gerald.

  • stray dawg

    Good call, Tony. THans can hit his FTs when he gets fouled inside. That’s a good thing. He struggles to finish on the inside pass or off. rebound near the rim. That’s not good. He’s got to overcome the tunnel vision. Less Fullback. More Linebacker!

  • stray dawg

    Eyes Up, to the Rim. Or, Eyes Out, to the Shooters! Fundamental!

  • Jack

    he’s still the most entertaining player to watch in basketball, though. gotta give that to him

  • stray dawg

    They dont call him PsychoT for nothing. WEIGHT ROOM!

  • Filazafer

    Cheer up. The Pacers have no hope of winning the championship, just like 30 other teams. The fans are smart enough to know that and they won’t be asking the team to leave town. It will be a fun year.