(Photo: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports)

The Pacers' Struggle: Players Discuss the Struggle

jon snow

What is going on? It’s the only question in Pacerland that matters anymore. This team was the envy of the league just 10 weeks ago. They were a group of easy-to-root-for young professionals who put defense first, individuals second, and used togetherness and grit to dominate the league.

Now? They’re …

I don’t know what the hell to call this team.

It’s as if you put a zombie version of prime Ray Lewis in at middle linebacker and asked him to lead a defense. Sure, he would still look like Ray Lewis, but all the passion would be extinguished from his eyes and rather than being one of the most precise, violent, and enthusiastic to ever do his job he would just shamble around bumping into people, showing no signs of the seemingly prescient understanding of the game he once had.

It’s been like this for a while, but the four-game losing streak and now this stretch of — whatever it is — in the last four games has led to the players finally foregoing platitudes and bullshit to admit there is a huge problem cloud hovering over the court every time they play.

After a brutal loss to the Bulls last night, Roy Hibbert told Steve Aschburner of NBA.com that, at this point, playing like this, “where we got to last year isn’t guaranteed.” He means getting back to the Eastern Conference Finals for a showdown with the Heat, an outcome that seemed certain just a few weeks ago.

David West was blunt in talking to Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star, saying “We look like shit.”

He added this.

“We look terrible tonight as a group. Guys individually, just look so bad. We’re naturally a loose group, so it’s a little tough to deal with because we don’t put any pressure on ourselves. We’re just not performing. We’re not playing well. We’re not shooting the ball well. We’re not sharing it and when we’re not sharing it, we become stagnant,” West said.

“Chicago’s not a good offensive team and they made a little run in the third quarter just killed us. And here we are with another loss,” he continued. “Thank God we got off to such a great start because we’d be like the fifth seed in the East or something like that.”

There was more from the team’s patriarch.

“They’re good defensive teams, but we’re just playing a bad, bad brand of basketball and it’s not very fun to be a part of when we’re losing,” West said. “When you go back and watch the games, it just doesn’t look good. We understand that shot making is going to come and go, but I think it’s how we’re doing everything. And everybody’s got to sort of look at themselves and see what we can do because I think we’ve done enough talking.”

And more.

“Everybody can be better. I can be better. Try to do more. Just details,” West said. “We just – man, we just look like shit. The type of ball, like I said, if you go back and watch the games, it’s just not a good brand of basketball to watch. We’re not playing the game the right way and teams make us pay for it.”

Aschburner quoted Paul George basically agreeing with this sentiment.

“We’ve just been dead, it seems like, on the court lately,” Paul George said after the Pacers’ 89-77 loss to the Chicago Bulls Monday. “That’s not us. That’s not us. We used to be a team that played with a lot of energy and just had fun out there, and I think we kind of lost that along the way.”

He also included this from Hibbert in his piece.

“All the rah-rah [junk] we always talked about before, I wish we would do that,” Hibbert said. “I don’t know, we do it one in probably six games sometimes. It just seems like some days we’re not hitting shots. Some days we’re not sharing the ball. And it affects our defense when we can’t score. … Whatever we’re doing offensively just isn’t working on a consistent basis.”

And this.

“I mean, I think we’ve had a difficulty handling the success,” Hibbert said. “We’ve just got to learn — I’ve been taught, we’ve been saying this for a while — to be able to play for each other like we used to. And set people up for easy shots. Everything we take is, very tough contested shots.

Fortunately, according to Hibbert in the Aschburner piece, the problems are a strictly on-court problem. He says that the locker room is still all family.

“No, I mean, we’re great off the court. Family atmosphere,” Hibbert said. “On the court, it just seems like we’re just not clicking. And we should be clicking now toward the end of the season.”

The players first started talking like this last week.

As I mentioned then, this has to be a good thing. Other than a bit of stuff you might be able to read between the lines, the talk now is about collective failure, not finger pointing. They all now seem to realize the depth of the issues and understand that this isn’t some short slide that is going to fix itself.

They now know that, for this season not to end in complete disappointment, they will need to band together and figure out how to play basketball, together, as a team once again.

That sounds like cliché nonsense, I know, but we their comments show that the Pacers are now unified around at least one thing: knowing just how terrible they are playing.

And that’s a start.

UPDATE: A tweet from Scott Agness of Pacers.com has George Hill being the first person (Agness has heard) to admit the struggle goes back to before the All-Star break.

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