Indiana Pacers: TJ Warren and an eerie resemblance to a parallel past

Indiana Pacers, TJ Warren (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)
Indiana Pacers, TJ Warren (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images) /

Death, taxes, and calendar-length injuries surrounding the Indiana Pacers…

Almost like an annual tradition, the Pacers are once again infested by the timeless injury bug. While nagging ailments to the team’s key players have been far from surprising given their track records, one particular absence stands out among the rest—TJ Warren.

My colleague, Zach Pearson, puts it more bluntly: who even is TJ Warren?

Having been sidelined with a foot injury since late December in 2020, the idea was that Indiana could regain the forward’s services to begin the current campaign. All hopes of him returning at that juncture, however, were crushed right before the season started, with Warren still yet to log a single minute for the Blue and Gold this season.

Treading on this season-ending injuries lane, however, will certainly give Pacers fans some PTSD. In the spirit of appropriate fear, it’s tough (and painful) alluding to the ghosts of the past for the franchise, but it is simply fitting given Warren’s continued absence and the uncertainty that comes with it.

TJ Warren’s continued absence for the Indiana Pacers rings a scary tune for the franchise and the fans alike

The Indiana Pacers probably lead the league in franchise-altering injuries. No one among the fanbase has forgotten the uneventful end to local hero Danny Granger, the star who pieced the franchise together from the Jermaine O’Neal era to the Paul George one.

Beyond the circumstances, however, the TJ Warren situation draws some parallels to Granger’s.

  1. Both are small forwards.
  2. Both are right-handed.
  3. Both are primary scorers who suffered season-ending injuries.
  4. Both have nearly identical Player Efficiency Ratings for their careers (Granger at 16.9 and Warren at 16.7).
  5. Both injuries were calendar-length.
  6. Both injuries eventually made or will make the Pacers move on for better or for worse (worse for Granger, whose trade destroyed Indiana’s chemistry and title hopes in 2014, better for Warren, whose injury heavily factored into the Pacers’ decision to zap their Mid-Five, yes I call the Brogdon-LeVert-Warren-Sabonis-Turner core the Mid-Five).
  7. Both played for the Phoenix Suns (just kidding! Only the spirit of Danny Granger played for the Suns).

Kidding aside, fear in sports, at least for the rational fan, is merit-based. And spawning a mirror to see some resemblance, even if scary, should be a guidepost of some sort.

No, I do not advocate for TJ Warren to simply float away from relevance like Granger painfully did with the franchise preaching impatience, but this should be a caution for the franchise and the fans to be deliberately vulnerable, and allow Warren to re-acclimate himself and struggle at times ahead of his return (?).

If Warren somehow reels in an eye-popping deal despite his situation, then that is the sign for the Pacers to look elsewhere. But with few teams having sizeable cap space anyway, it could be beneficial for Indiana to lock him up in a short-term, prove-it deal. Warren is simply committed to the city.

Ultimately, despite the parallels to a painful past, there should be a big chance that TJ Warren’s story in Indiana flips toward a more successful next chapter. Not only is he younger, but the franchise should already know better by now what to do with this familiar tune.

However, please bear in mind that there’s no shame in admitting a more realistic timeline. Weeks, not months is simply a local fake news banner in Indiana right now.

dark. Next. Does Jalen Smith have a future with the Pacers?