Hope For The Future: Indiana Off the Pace(rs)
Welcome to our latest series, wherein we detail why each of the teams who managed to miss the playoffs can hope for better days in the near future. Well, probably, anyway.
It's been a long, rocky road for the Indiana Pacers ever since the infamous Palace Brawl in 2004. Not only is this team not as great on the court, they have not been successful at the gate, which could put them in grave danger of leaving Indianapolis. Is there any hope for the future of the Indiana Pacers?<
Assists: The Pacers showed flashes of brilliance late in the season, closing out the year winning 10 of their final 14 games. They got a strong showing from the oft-injured Troy Murphy, who averaged 14.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Roy Hibbert, who had struggled in his rookie year, had an improved year, playing in 81 games, and averaging 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He did show his scoring ability in the final game of the regular season with a 29 point, seven rebound effort against Washington. They were able to sweep their rival the Pistons for the first time since 2005, and they also swept the New Jersey Nets for the first time since 1990.
Turnovers: Injuries ravaged the Pacers all season; canter Jeff Foster went out early with an injury, and first round draft pick Tyler Hansbrough suffered a season-ending ear injury after 29 games. Star forward Danny Granger also was out for 20 games in mid-December, during which Larry Bird said he regressed. Mike Dunleavy returned from knee surgery but had the worst season of his career. Indiana's road record was one of the main culprits of their 32-50 season, as they had as many road losses as they did overall wins (9-32). This included an atrocious 1-15 record against the Western Conference (with only a 125-115 win at Houston on February 20). The big turnover is the relocation rumors, as there have been inquiries about the team.
Final Score: The Pacers will still be in rebuilding mode next season, and while they won't have as big of a star-studded class going into free agency this time, they will have the chance to obtain a big star as $43M come off the books after next season. They have established their core of young guys that they believe can take them to the promised land. Hibbert will have to improve to be a dominant center, Granger has to get back to All-Star form, Dunleavy needs more time to recover, and the unit just has to stay healthy. Bird has his work cut out for him, but Pacers have to stay the course as they try to win more and win their fans back.