A couple of weeks ago, the NBA awarded the Pacers own Danny Granger with the Most Improved Player Award. He narrowly edged out Devin Harris, who had a breakout season after being handed the keys to the Nets offense.
Obviously this is old news, but with the madness of the Pacer-less playoffs and my general laziness, I have not felt too inspired to write about something that I have known all season to be true (that Danny Granger is deserving of whatever accolades the NBA sees fit to give him).
Upon receipt of the award, Granger quickly pointed out his own shortcomings, namely his lapse in defensive intensity after being asked to bear the load for the Pacers’ offense.
"I don't want to just be a better (defender) but definitely an elite one," said Granger. "I really had modeled my defensive game a lot after Ron Artest when he was here. He was a phenomenal defensive player. I kind of got away from it the last two years.”
Thankfully defense is the only thing that Granger is modeling after Ron-Ron.
So now, two weeks after the Pacers received their ninth major NBA Individual award, I couldn’t help but notice that there are many other things awards-worthy for the 2008-2009 Pacers team. Without any further adieu, here are the other Pacers deserving of awards, in no particular order.
TROY MURPHY: THE STATISTICAL ANOMALY AWARD
He was in the top 3 in 3pt% (No. 3) and rebounds (No. 2), and he was fourth for most double-doubles in the season with 49. This combination of skills does not happen. Especially not by someone who looks like Ross Gellar.
MIKE DUNLEAVY JR.: MOST INJURED PLAYER
He played 18 games this season. He had season-ending, career-threatening surgery to remove a bone spur from his right patellar tendon, and he admits that his knee injury has been a problem for about 10 years.
O’Brien doesn’t think he’ll be back until after the All-Star Break. This would have troubled me more if the Pacers didn’t have the recipient of the next award, and if Dunleavy wasn’t a Star Trek/BSG Hater. You are no longer my friend, Mike Dunleavy Jr.
BRANDON RUSH: BEST SECOND HALF
For Brandon, this season was all about confidence. As a rookie, he started off shaky and his minutes shrank, but once he landed the starting 2 spot after injuries to both Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Marquis Daniels, his production took off.
On one weekend, he had back-to-back 29 point games, and it seriously felt like he couldn’t miss.
He is the most athletic Pacer, and he is being groomed to be Granger’s running mate on both ends of the court. If he reaches his potential I have no doubt that he will turn into something special.
BIGGEST ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM/BEST STARBURY IMPRESSION
Yup. He’s still here. He’s owed $14.7 million over the next two years, but Larry Bird is adamant that he will not play a single minute for the Pacers. They hope to trade him over the summer, but it could get ugly.
If he can learn to stay on the floor for more than 15 minutes, and if he had some defensive help at the 4 then the Pacers front court might actually become legitimate.
BIGGEST/BEST MISTAKE EVER: PACERS MOUSTACHE COMPETITION
Despite turning the every white Pacers player into some variation of pornstar or cowboy, the moustache competition was a nice sign that there was some sense of locker room camaraderie that didn’t have anything to do with strip clubs, guns, or drugs.
Too bad it turned out to be a half-hearted commitment. Imagine if ALL the Pacers had kept their moustaches for more than a couple of weeks. THE ENTIRE LEAGUE WOULD’VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT THEM.
They would’ve gotten into the Sportscenter Top 10 plays on a nightly basis due to the power of their moustaches alone. Unfortunately the Pacers came to their senses and shaved their moustaches before it became too big of a deal.
Hence, I was only able to find three pictures of the offending facial hair. Wiggy's picture was already modified when I found it, although I admit his likeness to Daniel Plainview is pretty spot on.
According to Troy Murphy, they also called Jeff's moustache "The Predator" because you wouldn't want to leave your kids around a guy with facial hair like his. That's pretty spot-on, too.