Growing up a season ticket holder to the Indiana Pacers has caused me to be connected to this team on a deep, emotional level. The way this team pulls my heart-strings is probably unhealthy, yet I love this organization. I love this organization and I want the rest of the world to know why. Indiana is young, athletic, and comprised of some genuinely good guys. Because of a slight mishap in Detroit, and a couple of teensy shooting incidents, NBA fans everywhere began to view the Pacers as a bunch of thugs. Guys like Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, and Jamaal Tinsley did their damnedest to tarnish the team’s good name, but the current squad is doing a fine job at turning that all around. Roy Hibbert, Paul George, and George Hill have all embraced the fans and have their own cheering sections at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse.
That’s why I’m so irked by the fact that this team gets almost no national exposure. This is a talented team that’s only getting better, yet they are only slated to be on national television 5 times this season. After only 1 appearance on national television during the 2011-12 season, despite having the fifth best record in the NBA, this is a travesty. I’m well aware that national exposure is reserved for big market teams and really awful teams that play interesting basketball, but the Pacers have finally earned the right to be exposed to the world for what they really are- a team that’s ready to compete with anyone and plays attractive basketball while doing so.
Regardless of which direction Coach Frank Vogel wants to take this team, they are going to play an appealing style of basketball. The Pacers’ biggest strength will be their depth. Vogel could choose to feature a 10 man rotation, without a significant drop off in production. A team this deep can play good basketball, and play it consistently. This team is built to sustain an above average level of success for the long haul. We’re talking a competitive performance night in, and night out, people. No Pacer squad has entered a season with these expectations since the late, great Reginald Wayne Miller left for the TV booth.
A 10 man rotation allows the Pacers the opportunity to become a run and gun team that scores 105+ points a game, which is something that common fans want to see. Sophisticated, basketball purists may not see this as the best way to play basketball. I can picture a crotchety old man sitting in a dimly lit bar screaming, “Dammit George! A layup is worth the same as a 360, between the legs, tomahawk dunk!” (Paul George actually did this in China over the summer, look it up, pretty sweet.) But screw old people. TNT has always pushed teams like the Warriors and Hawks on us because they scored in bunches, but never really had the talent to be great teams. This Pacer team can score and be kind of great. That should garner some national looks, if you ask me.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, a 10 man rotation has the depth to give 100% on defense for 48 minutes. It’s not as sexy as the run and gun teams, but basketball fans everywhere love seeing a physical basketball game. Look at the Pacers/Heat series in the second round of the playoffs last year. All SportsCenter could do was analyze flagrant foul after flagrant foul. I’m not condoning stupid fouls that are detrimental to the outcome of a game, but I do condone stealing TV exposure from Jeremy Lin. Physical basketball comes from the players having a collective mindset to give it their all on the defensive end of the court, which can be quite exhausting. Knowing that they won’t be hurting the team by running themselves ragged, players can really it take it to the opposition on a nightly basis, giving this team a confidence that I think will show up through a television broadcast. Being able to rely on their replacements will help this team jell and will only make this team better.
Some people may be in favor of laying low all season. If the talking heads around the country aren’t talking about the Pacers, some people might view that as beneficial. Occasionally an underdog mentality can fuel a team to play better, with a chip on their shoulder. A common thought is that “sneaking up” on the rest of the league can benefit the Pacers at playoff time. BALDERDASH! Those people are wrong. In this writer’s humble opinion, our guys will be more motivated by seeing fans in Pacers jerseys on the road, and having fans in cities across this great land, and Canada. The only way that can happen is if the major networks see what they’re missing and put this product, the Pacers, on more than once every couple of months.