Come Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time in Atlanta, some of the current guys on the Indiana Pacers roster may be playing their last game when they don the blue and gold in game 6 versus the Hawks.
Atlanta leads the best-of-seven series in the quarterfinal round of the Eastern Conference playoffs against Indiana with three wins compared to the Pacers’ two.
A loss Thursday against the Hawks would eliminate Indiana from playoff contention, marking just the sixth time an 8-seed has knocked off a No. 1 seed in the NBA playoffs. It would also define one of the greatest team collapses in the history of professional sports.
Not everyone is counting the Indiana Pacers out just yet, however. Two straight wins against Atlanta and the Pacers would move on to face Washington in the East semifinals.
In the case that Indiana is eliminated, be it game 6 in Atlanta or game 7 back in Indianapolis, a number of players — and even coaches — could be on their way out the door. Could be. Just think about it.
Roy Hibbert, as poorly as he’s played in the last, oh, three months, might be on the trade market. Not that many teams would want him and his lofty $15 million-a-year contract that comes with a heavy dose of sorrowful emotions. I see no reason why Pacers president Larry Bird wouldn’t at least make some calls and see what he could get in return.
Lance Stephenson is an unrestricted free agent after this season. He’ll undoubtedly be searching to cash in on his NBA-high five triple-doubles and ability to create offense by himself and for his teammates. Whether Indiana can or will keep him remains an huge question mark.
George Hill is, of course, the hometown hero. Like Hibbert, his lack of production of late may also be something to consider. Is Bird willing to dangle him on the trade market? What could come in return? Multiple rumors have swirled over the past couple seasons about potential trades involving Hill. This summer could tell his future.
Evan Turner is set to become a restricted free agent. That means any team can offer him a contract and the Pacers would have a given amount of time to match, if they choose to retain him. I assume it’ll be either Stephenson or Turner that departs via free agency, and not throwing out the possibility that both are gone.
Stephenson currently makes just over $1 million, a small number for his efforts. Turner makes over $6 million.
Rasual Butler is only signed for the remainder of this season as well. The veteran could return for Indiana at a small cost if the Pacers wish to keep him. The veteran is a positive figure in the locker room and has contributed nicely on the court.
Last but not least, Frank Vogel and Co. may see the exit signs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. I view this scenario as very, very highly unlikely, considering the job Vogel has done since taking over in 2011. Rumors have swirled, but with this tweet, I see Vogel’s job being safe.
Larry Bird just told me his sources say Frank Vogel's job is safe. @Pacers
— Kevin Pritchard (@PacersKev) April 24, 2014
It all begins with game 6 Thursday.