For most of the past two decades, the Indiana Pacers have been one of the NBA’s most successful organizations, reaching six conference finals, and finishing just two wins shy of the ultimate prize in 2000. During that stretch, the Pacers fell to the best the league had to offer — the Finals-bound Knicks in 1994, Shaq’s Finals bound Magic in 1995, Michael Jordan’s sixth title-winner in 1998, and the first of the Shaq-Kobe winners in L.A.
As you read on, you may notice that this group is a bit 1990s-heavy (and at times not terribly attractive — sorry, but it's true!). Well that’s what happens when the overwhelming majority of a franchise’s success is concentrated into a decade and a half, most notably a six-year stretch. But despite their relatively short run near the top of the NBA, the Pacers came to establish themselves a something of a “large small market” team, surpassing all of the NBA’s so-called “small market” franchises (Utah’s an exception here) in terms of consistency, success, and relevance.
Despite a difficult past decade, one that that included the Palace Melee (and accompanying suspensions), some iffy character guys (Jamaal Tinsley, Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Shawne Williams) and a slide back to the Association’s lower half, the status isn't necessarily gone. With an awesome fan base, one of the league’s best buildings, some upcoming cap flexibility, and a pretty talented roster, the Pacers have reason for optimism going forward.
Here’s the blueprint.