The Pacers are — to put it mildly — slumping. When attempting to write a column about a team in a big slide, it can be difficult to pin down a talking point to center your argument around (other than “These Guys Suck So Hard Right Now“). You could go back and watch some tape of the team you are covering to highlight some strategic or execution errors, but why bother with actual relevant analysis? That junk doesn’t get clicks.
Luckily, there is a solution. According to the Guide to Quality Sports Opinion Column Writing (you can purchase a copy on Amazon here), simply make up a narrative! Maybe a player had a wacky off-court incident. Perhaps the general manager signed a zany player known to be a “locker room cancer”. It doesn’t matter if it has anything to do with actual basketball play at all. Who cares? As long as your readers get whipped into a froth about it, they will lap it up.
Boom, instant viral column.
That would be my suggestion when writing about these suddenly awful Pacers. There have been a plethora of very- to barely-relevant off-court events of note that could serve as a catch-all scapegoat for Indiana’s recent struggles.
But which one to choose?
As a service to the column writers in Indianapolis struggling for an angle (and for the drunken fans yearning for a manageable target for their obscenity-laced rants), I have gathered all of these talking points into one handy list. We know this current slide (something we at The Miller Time Podcast refer to as Operation Shit The Bed) started sometime around late January/early February, so I stuck with events in that date range. I even included some before/after stat breakdowns to save you from having to open up Google in another tab.
You are welcome.
January 15 – Sir Lance-A-Lot Is Born
Before - ORtg: 102.0 | DRtg: 92.6 | Net Rating: +9.4
After - ORtg: 100.3 | DRtg: 99.0 | Net Rating: +1.3
Change Since - ORtg: -1.7 | DRtg: +6.4 | Net Rating: -8.1
This YouTube sensation aimed at goading voters into selecting Lance Stephenson as an All-Star starter seems like harmless fun on the surface. How do we know that Roy Hibbert didn’t grow jealous of Lance’s comedic chops? Roy is supposed to be the Parks & Rec guy. Or maybe David West is a serious medieval history buff, and perceived this as a mockery of King Arthur’s court? No one likes a show off, and Lance might have shredded the fragile chemistry of the locker room with this “me-first” move.
February 1 – Pacers Sign Andrew Bynum
Before - ORtg: 102.6 | DRtg: 93.9 | Net Rating: +8.7
After - ORtg: 98.9, DRtg: 98.8 | Net Rating: +0.1
Change Since - ORtg: -3.7 | DRtg: +4.9 | Net Rating: -8.6
While Ian Mahinmi hadn’t exactly been in the running for Sixth Man of the Year, he has been a valuable defensive center. Larry Bird clearly didn’t think that was enough and went out to sign an NBA champion and former All-Star. Andrew Bynum has a reputation for launching some crazy shots in practice, as illustrated brilliantly by these amazing shot charts. Paul George might have taken umbrage; ill-advised shots are supposed to be his domain.
February 5 – George Reportedly Makes a Baby
Before - ORtg: 102.3 | DRtg: 93.9 | Net Rating: +8.5
After - ORtg: 99.0 | DRtg: 99.5 | Net Rating: -0.5
Change Since - ORtg: -3.3 | DRtg: +5.6 | Net Rating: -9.0
This is pretty self-explainatory. If you need further elaboration, please listen to a full breakdown by esteemed social commentator Faheem Rasheed Najm.
February 20: Pacers Trade Granger For Turner
Before - ORtg: 102.0 | DRtg: 93.9 | Net Rating: +8.1
After - ORtg: 98.8 | DRtg: 101.2 | Net Rating: -2.4
Change Since - ORtg: -3.2 | DRtg: +7.3 | Net Rating: -10.5
The Pacers traded a guy shooting 36% (Danny Granger) for a guy who is currently shooting 41% in a Pacers uniform (Evan Turner). While the individual production has increased, the impact of Granger’s absence has come off the court. Namely, his patented Veteran Voice™ in the locker room has been sorely missed. But what about when the Pacers struggled early last season when Granger was injured, then turned it around despite never getting Granger back? Shouldn’t the effect of Granger’s Veteran Voice™ have consistency? Simple: Granger lost his voice in the preseason last year, and didn’t get it back until Paul George scored 0 points against the Golden State Warriors. Mystery solved.
February 24: Pacers Do GQ Photo Shoot
Before - ORtg: 102.2 | DRtg: 94.1 | Net Rating: +8.2
After - ORtg: 98.0 | DRtg: 101.0 | Net Rating: -3.0
Change Since - ORtg: -3.9 | DRtg: +6.9 | Net Rating: -11.2
We have a winner. With the biggest swing in +/- rating, this is the off-court event that correlates with the most drastic difference in Pacers play. If you are itching to peg Indiana’s struggles on a loosely related off-court event, this is the one.
Or you could look at actual on-court factors. It is up to you.