Few in the executive offices around the NBA command more respect than Donnie Walsh. Likewise, few GMs from generation-next created more buzz than Kevin Pritchard, both when he got hired and unceremoniously dumped in Portland.
But trusting in the wisdom of the men making the deals isn’t the same thing as trusting one’s own eyes when assessing personnel moves. That’s why the Indiana Pacers’ latest maneuvers triggered so much head-scratching among the team’s fans and here at Sekou’s Hang Time hideout.
Darren Collison, a legitimate starting point guard but one who finished last season coming off the Pacers bench, is gone. So is wing defender Dahntay Jones, reserve scorer Leandro Barbosa and off-the-bench big Louis Amundson. They’ve been replaced by D.J. Augustin, Gerald Green, Ian Mahinmi and rookie center Miles Plumlee – well, replaced might not be the best word, so let’s say their roster spots have been taken by those newcomers.
Doesn’t seem like much, as judged here at HTH. Not even a push, never mind an upgrade to the Pacers’ roster. And that’s what Indiana was hoping for, wasn’t it, a surgical move or two to vault it into close-second status in the Eastern Conference this season behind the Miami Heat?
Beat-writer extraordinaire Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star tried to explain the moves to a fan base growing increasingly restless:
Fans don’t like what they’ve seen so far. Some already want Walsh to retire and Pritchard to go somewhere else.
Have the moves been flashy? Not even close.
Are the moves good enough to catch Miami in the Eastern Conference? Not as long as the Heat have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
But it’s all about progression for the Pacers.
They had no choice but to trade point guard Darren Collison…
Wells then explains that Collison, though he said he would be willing to continue as George Hill’s backup, really wasn’t happy in that role. Well, that shouldn’t have bothered the Pacers one bit – would they prefer a backup who doesn’t burn to start? Even then, Collison figured to have trade value in excess of Mahinmi – that deal withDallasseemed to gift the point guard and Jones to the Mavericks. Augustin doesn’t have nearly the juice, and can leave next summer as a free agent anyway.
Moving out some of the other players while trusting the latest mature version of Green, compared to all his previous incarnations, might not be the most sound decision either.
There’s a tendency to rely on Walsh and Pritchard, based on the basketball bank accounts both have amassed in their careers. But for a team that had the Heat down 2-1 in their best-of-seven East semifinals, for a club that was thinking about an Eric Gordon signing as this offseason’s signature move – as well as retaining center Roy Hibbert and point guard George Hill – the Pacers’ approach of one step forward, maybe two back, is hard to embrace.