Another lost season, another lost cause. After getting BLOWN OUT by the Miami Heat 117-92, a game in which they were down by as many as 40 points, the Indiana Pacers will be headed home in the Conference Finals again, and this is the third straight year that they were eliminated by the Heat. One thing I don't quite get, though, (besides the Pacers absolute lack of effort,) is the headline on espn.com. It reads: "For a third straight year, Miami ended Indiana's season. Friday's blowout also signaled an end to the rivalry."
What?!?! The Indiana Pacers are NOT just going to fade away and wither. Maybe they would if they had an average team President. But they don't have an average President, they have Larry Legend, the greatest Small Forward of All-Time, and also one of the greatest basketball minds of All-Time. He's the one that drafted Paul George and Lance Stephenson. He's the one that signed David West. He is the person that keeps this team relevant.
Without him, even in today's weak Eastern Conference, the Pacers would likely be lottery-bound. But The Legend has an interesting predicament here. There's no way the Pacers are beating the Heat with their current core unless they improve their offensive game, and they also MUST improve their bench which is deprived of everything but frustration. Does he keep Lance Stephenson, the annoying hothead, who sometimes can't control himself?
If I were Larry Bird, I would think long and hard about whether or not to keep Stephenson. He's a good player and has potential, as witnessed by his incredulously frustrating inconsistency and occasional dominance, but is he worth $8-12 million dollars a year? That would definitely hinder what they can do to their bench.
Also, right before the start of the playoffs, a story broke that Stephenson and 6th Man Evan Turner, (who is supposedly the "insurance" in case they can't re-sign Stephenson, even though Turner was benched in the Conference Finals,) got into a practice-floor fistfight. As in, a brawl. This sounds dangerously like the former Ron Artest, and as the Pacers have learned from past experiences, that kind of guy on a playoff-team never works out. Especially when he's the star.
There is also the matter of Roy Hibbert. He had an outstanding first half of the season, being one of the best Center's in the league, but then, in the second half of the season and the playoffs, Hibbert was frustratingly ineffective. He did have a few monster games (Game 2 against the Wizards and Game 1 against the Heat,) but besides that, he played like a bench-warmer, and had 5 games in which he was scoreless, which SHOULD NOT happen to an All-Star who makes $15 million dollars a year. The Legend is going to have to decide whether to keep Hibbert or look to trade him.
Then, there are two more things.
One, George Hill. He is actually a pretty effective 6th Man, at SHOOTING GUARD. Unfortunately, the Pacers have Hill in the starting lineup and at POINT GUARD, a position he cannot play efficiently, since he is not a great ball-handler. What Indiana really needs is a true Point Guard, but they may not have the cap-space to sign one in free agency, and don't have many assets with which to acquire one in a trade.
The other thing is, of course, the infamously, mediocrely deflated bench. Basically, what Indiana needs to do is completely rebuild the bench, from the ground up. A full rebuild is needed when it comes to the bench.