May 30, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) and center Roy Hibbert (55) react during the second half in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers Don't Tank

Now that Paul George has been lost for the upcoming season, many think the Indiana Pacers should tank. Why not lose as many games as possible and get a good draft pick so that George will have another young bonafide to play alongside when he returns?

Because the Pacers don’t tank. They always try to make the playoffs.

That’s their take, anyway, as Larry Bird said in a recent press conference, per Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star.

“Have our expectations lowered any [with George being hurt]?” Bird said. “I don’t think so. I think we’ll compete hard and do our best to make the playoffs; that’s always one of our goals.”

Frank Vogel was also cheerful regarding the wide array of options — even if they aren’t great options — that he will have to work with this season.

“I’ve got a lot of good options,” he said. “We brought in Stuckey and C.J. [Miles]. We’re all really high on what Solomon Hill can do for us next year. Copeland and Rudez are options. So I’m excited to see how it plays out.”

It’s hard to dispute that this is a core tenet of the franchise.

In the past 25 years, the team has only finished below .400 once. And the Pacers have finished below .500 just seven times, with five of those seasons coming consecutively (from 2006-07 to 2010-11) as the team turned mediocrity into a science. A boring, boring science.

If you look at every other franchise, outside of San Antonio, you will see a few seasons in which the team barely won a quarter of its games. Not the Pacers, which have been guaranteed to take at least two out of every five contests, not matter how ugly the games become or how uninspiring the roster gets.

Indiana Pacers

Given that this message is coming from Larry Legend, it is easy to get the impression that this is some noble stance from a franchise too proud to do anything less than try to win every game. There may be some of that involved.

But some of these results, as with the Spurs, simply come down to Indiana being very good for a very, very long time. Why would you ever tank if you are fielding a contender, something the Pacers did for about a decade straight before having a few down years and then coming back in the Paul George era.

Some of the We Don’t Tank philosophy is also due to a belief that the team lives in a small-market world. There is a fear that any multi-season stretch of true futility will leave them with low ticket and merchandise revenue and make it hard to stay afloat.

It’s one thing to have two bad years then get lucky in the draft and turn it around. It’s another to bottom out and then blow a draft pick or two and keep bottoming out for a decade — a saga familiar to many of the league’s least-hopeful franchises.

The Pacers know that they can’t risk having that happen to them. So they will stay the course and carry on as if Paul George was healthy.

Can the Pacers get to the 2015 playoffs with their current roster? Can they even get to .500?

I don’t know, but they will try.

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Tags: Larry Bird

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