The Penalty Box: Pacers Are Now A Force In The East

May 22, 2024 at 8:00 a.m.


Two seasons ago, the Indiana Pacers won a total of 25 games.
Last year, the front office made a few roster adjustments and went with a much younger group of players and won 35 games.
Now that investment has paid off with 47 regular season wins in 2023-24 and a trip to the NBA’s final four.
To get to The Finals, they have to get by the Celtics, who have been the best team in the league all season and are the presumptive favorite to win the title.
While the Celtics seem to be on a path to this year’s championship, the Pacers are on a path to success, too.
A massive turnaround for a franchise that good players begged to get out of and no one of substance wanted much to do with.
The metamorphosis started with an in-season trade.
The Kings traded Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield to the Pacers for Sabonis, Justin Holiday, and Jeremy Lamb on February 8, 2022. NBA insiders criticized the swap, saying it was a neutral move for the Kings, and no one really cared what it meant for Indiana.
But little did anyone know that the trade would work out pretty well for both teams. Sabonis has teamed up well with De’Aaron Fox and Haliburton has become the foundation of the Pacers re-birth.
Haliburton has brought three things that Indiana desperately needed.
First, and most importantly, he’s a leader.
Haliburton is a guy who has instant credibility with his teammates, and his voice is respected. It should also be noted that several of his teammates have commented on the fact that he is the unquestioned leader of the locker room, and he doesn’t abuse that position.
Second, the leadership off the court translates into his leadership as a point guard on it. His form is not necessarily what you teach—he’s kind of tall and he stands too upright for my liking. But he rarely turns the ball over, and he always seems to find the open man—even the ones who aren’t in his field of view.
His long arms also make him a solid defender and allows him to guard someone other than a point guard if that is a better matchup.
And third, he’s a better shooter from range than he’d been given credit for in the past.
The next big moment in the season came pretty early.
It was assumed that big man Myles Turner would be traded before the season started, and even when that didn’t happen last summer, potential trade partners were lining up to talk to Pacers president Kevin Pritchard about what it would take to get Turner away from Indiana.
But the way the Pacers started made Pritchard think that keeping Turner might be worth it. They were winning and scoring a lot of points, and suddenly the Pacers went from “sellers” to “buyers”.
That change in outlook created a positive vibe around the team that was palpable, and when the new in-season tournament started, the Pacers embraced it as a chance to see just where they were as a team.
Well, ‘where they were’ was on a course to the final game of that tournament. They lost to the Lakers in the title game. And while most teams “poo poo’d” the concept after they’d been eliminated from it, the Pacers took it seriously while it was going on and their success in it clearly fostered their confidence and legitimized what the franchise and head coach Rick Carlisle were building in Indianapolis.
Then the defining move of the season happened, and it caught the entire NBA community by complete surprise…the Pacers got aggressive.
Pritchard went out and traded for forward Pascal Siakam.
Siakam was a veteran who had won a championship already, who would give them a consistent threat to score at a position on the floor that the Pacers needed to fill and would add veteran leadership and a professional approach that this young roster really needed.
And he has been everything they’d hoped he’d be.
Indiana finished sixth in the Eastern Conference and has beaten a banged-up Milwaukee Bucks squad and then went into Madison Square Garden and took down a Knicks team that also had been severely hampered by injuries in Game 7 Sunday.
But the Pacers don’t have to apologize for that. Their path was their path, and they have beaten the teams the bracket put in front of them.
Whether Indiana beats Boston or not doesn’t really matter. The truth is that the Pacers are good, and they will only get better. The experience they are getting right now is invaluable.
A beast has been awakened in the NBA, and it’s been unleashed here in a state that longs for a basketball team it can throw its passion and energy for basketball into with all of its collective heart.

Two seasons ago, the Indiana Pacers won a total of 25 games.
Last year, the front office made a few roster adjustments and went with a much younger group of players and won 35 games.
Now that investment has paid off with 47 regular season wins in 2023-24 and a trip to the NBA’s final four.
To get to The Finals, they have to get by the Celtics, who have been the best team in the league all season and are the presumptive favorite to win the title.
While the Celtics seem to be on a path to this year’s championship, the Pacers are on a path to success, too.
A massive turnaround for a franchise that good players begged to get out of and no one of substance wanted much to do with.
The metamorphosis started with an in-season trade.
The Kings traded Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield to the Pacers for Sabonis, Justin Holiday, and Jeremy Lamb on February 8, 2022. NBA insiders criticized the swap, saying it was a neutral move for the Kings, and no one really cared what it meant for Indiana.
But little did anyone know that the trade would work out pretty well for both teams. Sabonis has teamed up well with De’Aaron Fox and Haliburton has become the foundation of the Pacers re-birth.
Haliburton has brought three things that Indiana desperately needed.
First, and most importantly, he’s a leader.
Haliburton is a guy who has instant credibility with his teammates, and his voice is respected. It should also be noted that several of his teammates have commented on the fact that he is the unquestioned leader of the locker room, and he doesn’t abuse that position.
Second, the leadership off the court translates into his leadership as a point guard on it. His form is not necessarily what you teach—he’s kind of tall and he stands too upright for my liking. But he rarely turns the ball over, and he always seems to find the open man—even the ones who aren’t in his field of view.
His long arms also make him a solid defender and allows him to guard someone other than a point guard if that is a better matchup.
And third, he’s a better shooter from range than he’d been given credit for in the past.
The next big moment in the season came pretty early.
It was assumed that big man Myles Turner would be traded before the season started, and even when that didn’t happen last summer, potential trade partners were lining up to talk to Pacers president Kevin Pritchard about what it would take to get Turner away from Indiana.
But the way the Pacers started made Pritchard think that keeping Turner might be worth it. They were winning and scoring a lot of points, and suddenly the Pacers went from “sellers” to “buyers”.
That change in outlook created a positive vibe around the team that was palpable, and when the new in-season tournament started, the Pacers embraced it as a chance to see just where they were as a team.
Well, ‘where they were’ was on a course to the final game of that tournament. They lost to the Lakers in the title game. And while most teams “poo poo’d” the concept after they’d been eliminated from it, the Pacers took it seriously while it was going on and their success in it clearly fostered their confidence and legitimized what the franchise and head coach Rick Carlisle were building in Indianapolis.
Then the defining move of the season happened, and it caught the entire NBA community by complete surprise…the Pacers got aggressive.
Pritchard went out and traded for forward Pascal Siakam.
Siakam was a veteran who had won a championship already, who would give them a consistent threat to score at a position on the floor that the Pacers needed to fill and would add veteran leadership and a professional approach that this young roster really needed.
And he has been everything they’d hoped he’d be.
Indiana finished sixth in the Eastern Conference and has beaten a banged-up Milwaukee Bucks squad and then went into Madison Square Garden and took down a Knicks team that also had been severely hampered by injuries in Game 7 Sunday.
But the Pacers don’t have to apologize for that. Their path was their path, and they have beaten the teams the bracket put in front of them.
Whether Indiana beats Boston or not doesn’t really matter. The truth is that the Pacers are good, and they will only get better. The experience they are getting right now is invaluable.
A beast has been awakened in the NBA, and it’s been unleashed here in a state that longs for a basketball team it can throw its passion and energy for basketball into with all of its collective heart.

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