HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — This isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff from the Indiana Pacers.
They are using the tried-and-true method of “Nobody Believes In Us” to shine their own spotlight on themselves as they wrap up the franchise’s best regular season in years.
The Pacers have won six straight games, nine of their last 10 (against a very generous schedule) and have the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference standings on lockdown, and yet there is still hesitation from the basketball-loving public to buy into this team.
There would be no need for these commercials (like the one above) with Pacers’ boss Larry Bird asking for support if the home folks were convinced their blue-collar team was more than just another temporary feel good story (see also: the 76ers of Philadelphia). The trepidation belies the facts, though. The Pacers have given us every reason to believe they are indeed for real.
Look inside the 40 wins and start categorizing the wins in terms of quality and all of the prime suspects are there. The Thunder, Heat, Bulls, Lakers and reigning champion Mavericks have all been vanquished at least once. With no RPI to worry about in the NBA, we don’t normally concern ourselves with a weighted system of measuring wins and losses. But if that’s needed in the Pacers’ case, so be it.
The best part for us, though, is that the Pacers seem to have a firm grasp on the concept of earning their respect the hard way, the old-fashioned way … by making some serious noise in the playoffs.
Our main man Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star has more:
Ask who the hottest team in the league is and you’d probably guess one of the teams on that list. Despite owning the NBA’s fifth-best record (40-22), the Pacers are the team few people seem to talk about. National exposure has been minimal, with only one game televised by TNT, ABC or ESPN this season.
“We take it a little personal,” said forward Danny Granger, who leads the Pacers’ balanced scoring attack at 18.8 points a game. “But we’re a small market. A thing about being a small market is that you don’t get the national media coverage like some of the other teams.”
The only way for the Pacers to get the attention they believe they deserve?
“(Make) some noise in the playoffs,” Granger said.
That means advancing past the first round, then pushing Miami or Chicago, the likely second-round opponent, to at least six games, if not pulling off the upset.
“I think that they’ve got the necessary components,” Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins said before the Pacers beat his team Tuesday. “There are a lot of teams that are not going to want to play them in the playoffs. If they can stay (the third seed) and win that first round, they’re going to be a tough out.”
A tough out this year and a group with the opportunity to be a playoff factor in the Eastern Conference for the foreseeable future, if they continue on their current trajectory.
The job Bird, Pacers GM David Morway and their staff has done should not be overlooked. They are the ones that recognized coach Frank Vogel was the right fit for this team, elevating the former assistant coach. They’re the ones who wooed ex-Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw and convinced him to join Vogel’s staff rather than go elsewhere. And they’re the ones that put together this talented and deep roster, staying creative in how they pieced things together through the draft, free agency and timely trades over the past few seasons.
The roster is solid, two-deep at every position and even three-deep at a couple. Granger, David West, Darren Collison, George Hill, All-Star center Roy Hibbert and rising star Paul George lead an ensemble cast that doesn’t count a superstar among them but does boast an abundance of quality players.
With the memory of last season’s rugged first-round series against Chicago still fresh and the season-long reality that they can play with the best of the best, the Pacers have every right to feel confident going into this postseason. They have earned that much.
The respect and admiration of the public, well … they’ll have to make that playoff noise to get that!