Indiana Pacers: The Rebirth of a Franchise and a New Mentality
This win was much more than that.
Winning this series officially brings the Pacers back into the elite group of NBA teams. The win makes a statement not only to the league, but to the fans that they are finally back.
Gone are the days of Reggie Miller and Co. paving the way in the Eastern Conference. However, this new team has rebuilt after so many seasons of mediocrity and controversy. Now, they are heading to their first Conference finals series since 2004.
The "Malice at the Palace" was the beginning of the decline of this franchise. For the next few seasons, the team was in disarray. Issues on the court were problem enough, but serious problems off of the court that included multiple shooting-related incidents and players constantly coming in and out created a real disconnect from the community.
The Pacers began turning things around slowly, working on forming a team around Danny Granger, but the team wasn't able to take the next step.
Then Frank Vogel came in.
Vogel was named the interim head coach during the 2010-11 season, and the team was able to make the playoffs under Vogel for the first time since 2006.
The very next season, the Pacers finished with a 42-24 record and made it to the Conference semifinals before falling to the Heat. The addition of David West provided some real leadership to the team.
This season, everything has changed.
The Pacers finished the regular season with a 49-32 record while finishing first in their division for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
No longer is there a team of players the community dislikes. The current roster consists of a rising superstar in Paul George, a hometown hero in George Hill, a talented big man in Roy Hibbert and an established veteran leader in West.
Even though the Pacers still had one of the lowest average attendances in the league, according to ESPN.com, the community is finally starting to fill in the stands. The team is no longer mediocre, but they are now one series away from the NBA Finals.
How fitting it is that the Pacers head to the Conference finals after beating Reggie's old rivals in the Knicks. With Spike Lee in attendance, they were able to stop Carmelo Anthony and head to the next round.
Regardless of how the season ends for the Pacers, the fact that they have now made it this far shows that this team has finally rebuilt. The community is now fully behind the team, and it seems that the state of Indiana is once again fully focused on basketball at all levels.
The fans ended Game 6 with a "Beat the Heat" chant, and it certainly seems like this team has a shot of doing it.
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