That was the last time fans were excited about an Indiana Pacers squad.
Since then, we have had to deal with trying to rebuild on the fly. Trying to rebuild with youth. Trying to rebuild with small ball.
Finally, after many painful seasons where the Indiana Pacers hovered around 35 wins, the Indiana Pacers have clinched a playoff spot.
Unlike last year when the Indiana Pacers sneaked into the eigth seed in the Eastern Conference with a 37-45 record, Pacers fans have every reason to be optimistic heading into the postseason. Larry Bird and Frank Vogel have completely changed the roster and culture of the Indiana Pacers.
In one season, Larry Bird has turned Mike Dunleavy Jr., Josh McRoberts, T.J. Ford, Solomon Jones, James Posey and Brandon Rush into George Hill, Leandro Barbosa, David West, Lou Amundson, Jeff Pendergraph and Kyrylo Fesenko. All that was given up to acquire the new players? A second-round pick for Barbosa, Brandon Rush for Lou Amundson and a first-round pick, second-nd round pick and a European who was never going to come over for George Hill.
In one season, fans have gone from questioning whether Larry Bird should continue to be the President of Basketball Operations for the Indiana Pacers to thinking Larry Bird should be Executive of the Year for the NBA. Quite the one season turn around.
As much credit as Larry Bird deserves, Frank Vogel has done an incredible job coaching this young team. In 2010-2011 under Jim O’Brien and then interim coach Frank Vogel, the Indiana Pacers had 13 different starting lineups. A constant complaint among many was the starting lineup never being set from game to game. Under Frank Vogel this year? Three different starting lineups.
Not only has Vogel stuck with a solid starting lineup for the entire year, he has also made sure guys know what role they have . Tyler Hansbrough and George Hill are set to come in around the five-minute mark of the first quarter every game. Last year? Tyler Hansbrough could play well one game, then not play again for 10 more games. By midseason each year since Jim O’Brien became coach, the players were beaten down. By January, any optimism in the building was completely gone. It almost became hard to watch the Indiana Pacers.
Now though, with Frank Vogel at the helm and with a young roster full of LIKABLE players, the Indiana Pacers are finally a fun team to watch again. Last season, there were multiple players on the roster I didn’t care for. Dunleavy, Ford, Posey and Rush. Fast forward one season, and there is not one player on the roster that I do not enjoy watching. Honestly, how many fans around the league can say that about their roster?
No matter what happens in the playoffs, this has been a turn-around season for the Indiana Pacers. A reason to celebrate. Is this team a championship contender? We will find out, but this is the first season of a process. A process that will be fun to watch for the fans that have stuck around through thick and thin since November 19, 2004 and then the day Reggie Miller retired.
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