Not that it’s a rule or anything, but typically you won’t see much NBA coverage around these parts.
Yours truly should probably be the focus of some pre-pubescent sports/sociology experiment, but somewhere between late summer nights cursing Karl Malone and
highlowlights of Ricky Davis purposefully missing a bunny to ensure a triple-double, interest was lost.
A former Indiana Pacers fan, I’ve felt abandoned by the pro game for years. I don’t give two shits if Joakim Noah fits in well in Chicago. Shaq traded to the Suns? Wake me when the playoffs start (and the Suns are ousted in round 2nd).
One recurring NBA issue has captured my attention of late though – the ire that Isaiah Thomas has drawn.
It’s not that I disagree with the criticism Thomas receives, he seems most certainly to be a sub-par coach and an even worse head of basketball operations. It’s just that I’ve come accustomed to such travesty over the past 5 years – but in my own backyard.
Here in the heartland, we have Indiana’s own Larry Bird to do a much more spectacular job of running the hometown franchise into the ground.
In the honeymoon period, when all Hoosiers were googley-eyed just to see Larry Legend back in the public eye, he had a pretty successful run as head coach of the team. Bird was even named Clipboard Holder of the Year at the end of the 1998 season.
But the buttery kernels soon popped. When he was named GM in 2003, Larry took over a team that was in its prime. Fresh off an NBA Finals appearance in 2000 and a couple of Eastern Conference runner-ups, the team took a nosedive. And despite all the struggles, throughout it all, one turtle-necked man keeps lurking in the empty seats of Conseco Fieldhouse.
A recap of the last half-decade of disaster:
2003: After signing Jermaine O’Neal to an NBA-maximum contract (great idea, in retrospect), the Pacers trade All-Star center Brad Miller to Sacramento for Scot Pollard – who hides any ability under a ridiculously flamboyant exterior and a name spelled with just one “t”.
2004-05: Small forward Al Harrington, tired of observing scenery in central Indiana, demands to start or be traded. Bird makes the wise (and community-oriented) decision to trade Harrington to Golden State for upstanding citizen Stephen Jackson. Note: This season also contained somewhat of a skirmish this season in Detroit. Perhaps Larry knew what a great right hook Jackson had. Also of note, after the brawl, the team plummeted out of contention.
2005-06: Indiana makes a huge splash in the international Maccabi Tel-Aviv fanbase when the Pacers sign away the Euroleague champion’s star point guard, Sarunas Jasikevicius. Ron Artest demands to be traded. Value had somewhat “diminished” since previous season, despite the forward proving his flexibility by bounding over rows of Palace of Auburn Hills seats. Pacers lose to Nets in the first round of the playoffs.
2006-07: Draft brings the promise of new things, and Shawne Williams and James White, apparently. Williams and White are backed with below mediocre talent, the team decides Peja should be sign-and-traded away and the front office once again dips into the Tel-Aviv talent pool for Maceo Baston (might have his CD?).
Toward the end of the season, Bird must start to sense his team’s chemistry isn’t quite in harmony when Jackson, Jamaal Tinsley and other players are involved in a strip club incident (in Indianapolis). Team pulls off what could be the worst trade in the last 10 years, dealing the re-signed Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Jasikevicius and Josh Powell for Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Ike Diogu and Keith McLeod.
It physically hurts to type that. All the players leaving Indiana would subsequently provide some of the most thrilling playoff drama in recent history, becoming the first No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1 (the Dallas Mavericks) in a 7-game series.
Also, Rick Carlisle was fired. The perennially unsuccessful Jim O’Brien deemed the obvious key to restructuring.
2007-08: Pacers wading in obscurity, President and CEO Donnie Walsh opts to leave the team. Rumor is he’s heading to the Knicks.
Next time you read that Post story ripping Isaiah, try and sympathize with Pacer fans (or ex-fans, for that matter). They’re in the same situation, with possibly a more drastic downfall, and apparently, no one to take it out on.