With the Indiana Pacers ready to embark on what could be a great and promising season, I took some questions to the staff to see what their thoughts were on this coming season.
1. What are your expectations for the season?
Darren Miller, Staff Writer: The Pacers should finish the regular season no worse than top 4 in the East, as high as 2nd behind Miami. I think it’s realistic to expect the Pacers to make it to the Conference Finals this year.
Andy Miller, Staff Writer: I think 2012-2013 is very promising for the Pacers, but I think it’s important for Pacer fans to not get too excited. Most years, when a team is as young as this Indiana team, you’d expect a step forward after a successful season like last year. This is most years. This is still the Miami Heat’s conference. The Pacers have a chance to be the number 2 seed in the East. After a 3 seed last year, with their division rival losing their best player, anything less than a 2 seed would seem like a letdown. The East is a little bit deeper than last season, with the Nets and Knicks becoming legit contenders, but the Pacers improved as a team and should still rise above every team that doesn’t have LeBron James.
Stephen Ajamie, Editor: This is about a promising season that I’ve seen in a while for the Pacers. The expectations are high for fans and for the team. That division title is right within their reach if the starters continue their growth together, and if the bench can mold together to form a great second unit. The team prides itself on saying everyone is a starter, and that’s the type of effort it will take.
2. Which Indiana Pacer makes the biggest impact?
Darren: The play of Paul George will have the greatest impact on the team. If he is able to improve the way that he is expected to then the Pacers will have one of the most versatile perimeter players in the league. It will be hard for the team to improve upon their performance last year if their young prospects don’t develop. That being said, Lance Stephenson has the potential to make a big impact as well if he can harness his raw talent.
Andy: While I don’t think he’s the best player on the team, it’s hard to ignore the impact that David West makes on this team. His presence as a veteran in a locker room full of young guys has to be huge. He’s not the All-Star caliber power forward that he was in New Orleans, but he’s still a force on the offensive end. His skill set is timeless. Despite getting older and losing a bit of his explosiveness, he can still handle the rock very well for a bigger fella and has a very nice touch on hid midrange jumper. He may not overpower people and throw down a massive slam, but he’ll happily step into a pass and knock down 15 foot J’s like it’s his job. Because it is.
Stephen: I’m actually going to say Danny Granger for this one. With his lingering injury of his knee, things could get shaky if he goes down. But he might have to play with the pain and who knows how that could affect his game. There’s no doubt, he’s the best option to score, which could mean someone else makes an impact if they have to step up and score. But I look for Granger to bring his game up to the level it was at the end of last season.
3. What would be a disappointment for the Pacers?
Darren: If the Pacers do not have home court advantage going into the first round of the Playoffs then that would be a disappointing regular season. A first round loss would also be a huge disappointment as well.
Andy: I’m aware that the Pacers had an amazing season in 2012, and there is no sign that they can’t repeat. My biggest qualm with this team is the lack of consistent years at the top. Gone are the players that regularly competed with the Bulls for the Eastern conference superiority year in, and year out. This isn’t the Celtics, who regardless of how old or injured their stars are, seem to be a top 4 seed every season. I think the Pacers are good enough to be the second best team in the East, but anything less than a 4 seed is a disappointment.
Stephen: Getting to the playoffs seems like a no brainer for this team as long as guys are healthy. Now getting there and getting knocked out in the first round that would be a disappointment as the Pacers should put together a lengthy playoff run if things work out.
4. Can the Indiana Pacers give the Miami Heat a battle if they meet again in the playoffs?
Darren: The Pacers should be able to rival the Heat if Indiana can develop their young players and develop chemistry with the new players coming off of the bench. That will be necessary just to challenge Miami but it will be tough to actually beat them, especially taking into account the perimeter shooters they added. Roy Hibbert will have to dominate on the offensive end.
Andy: For the Pacers to handle the Heat in the post season a lot of things need to go right. Ideally, LeBron will have lost a foot or something. Maybe Dwyane Wade will develop asthma and lost his ability to play basketball. I don’t know. All I’m saying is that the Pacers, and any other team not employing Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant, cannot compete with the Miami Heat. I would have liked to answer this question with a simple NO, but Stephen wouldn’t have liked that. Thanks for making think long and hard about how bleak the outlook on this season really is, Ajamie.
Stephen: I bring up Miami because that’s probably who the East is going through this season. In the regular season, I think Miami will finish first and probably quite easily. But come playoff time, Lebron and Wade are going to turn it on. Last season, the Pacer starters out scored the Heat starters, so it’s on the bench players to do something if the Pacers want to knock out the Heat. I know the Pacers can play with the Heat, it’s just a matter of going out and doing it.
5. How will the Pacers respond to high expectations?
Darren: This will be an interesting season for the Pacers because of how well they played last season. There will be no sneaking up on teams this time around. Opposing teams will prepare for what the Pacers bring and most of the responsibility falls on the Pacers coaching staff in order to create game plans and chemistry to combat that. Vogel has shown from day one that he has what it takes to get this team ready for all challenges and I don’t expect that to change now that the team has found success.
Andy: I think this team will respond very well to high expectations. It’s been a long time since the city of Indianapolis has been excited for the NBA season. This team, made up primarily of young guys, should feed on that energy. Banker’s Life should be electric night in, and night out, this year, and the players will notice. Unlike previous years, it won’t feel like a Bulls, Lakers, or Heat game when they’re in town. I think the players are excited to see how good they can be, and they really feel like they’re playing for the people, which should only improve the gameplay.
Stephen: I think it helps to have David West around. He was a real leader last season. I would think that all the starters are going to voice their opinions to the team, and show their leadership. This team will have high expectations for themselves, and I think they will carry it fine. I think they feel a little slighted from last season, and that could play into their hands if they harness that energy the right way.