Unfortunately, the present situation in the NBA and the world, in general, is extremely bleak. The Indiana Pacers were just starting to see what their full team would look like when the NBA season was suspended indefinitely due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic putting fans and players in danger of falling ill.
Though suspending the season was undoubtedly the right decision, it still hurts.
NBA fans have already begun to wonder if the season might be canceled, which feels like it’s in the realm of possibility. For Pacers fans, not knowing what might happen if the team was able to enter the playoffs fully healthy leaves a lot of hunger.
It’s easy to kick around the negatives of being bummed that if the season ends, we’ll never know what could have been. One year removed from the Toronto Raptors winning a championship in part because of injuries to the Golden State Warriors, the idea of “anything can happen in the playoffs” is fresh on everyone’s minds.
What Pacers fans must remember, though, is that building a winning team is a marathon, not a sprint. Yes, the Raptors lucked out in a major way and won a title in their one year with Leonard, but achieving goals and having the pieces to put a winner together should not be ephemeral. In fact, the Raptors currently having the second-best record in the Eastern Conference proves just that.
Coming into the year it’s safe to say there were a lot of questions swarming the Pacers and what would come of this year. Player movement over the summer resulted in somewhat seismic changes in the playoff projections, with the Pacers planted somewhere in the middle of most projections.
The team was faced with two main challenges.
One — Victor Oladipo would be out with injury until at least January.
Two — Domantas Sabonis was growing so quickly that the team needed to move him into a starting role. Myles Turner could not be demoted. The directive was that the Pacers would form a frontcourt with the both of them to start games. Turbonis felt forced at first. It felt like a wonky fit that likely wouldn’t work. It’s been promising so far.
As the season stands, the Pacers sit at fifth in the conference with a 39-26 record. No, they weren’t in a position to secure home-court advantage, but they had every opportunity to surge at the end of the year as the pieces started to come together and Oladipo found his footing to move up the conference leaderboard.
The Turner and Sabonis frontcourt has not been a disaster, far from it. Turner has maintained his rim-protecting ability and Sabonis has grown into a truly remarkable offensive player. As a duo, they have a net rating of 2.1.
Sabonis is an All-Star. He got a massive extension before the season began, something that often removes the motivation for playing hard for a lot of players. Sabonis responded by playing harder, accepting his starting role and flourishing. He’s averaging a double-double and tacking on an impressive 5.0 assists per game which happens to be second-most on the team.
T.J. Warren has put the pieces together that he’s been working on throughout his career and the Pacers gave up simply cash to get him.
The NBA season getting canceled will be a major letdown if it does happen. But no matter what, this season has been a huge positive for the Pacers, and fans should remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Next year will be even better if all continues to go according to plan.