For the Indiana Pacers, the lockout couldn’t have come at a worse time. They finally seem to be heading in the right direction after years of struggles both on and off the court. The league is now in its first work stoppage since 1998, ending all momentum the franchise had gained since the playoffs.
Last year the Pacers gave the Chicago Bulls all they could handle in the first round. Four of the five games went down to the final minute, as the feisty Pacers looked to take out the No. 1 seed in the East and owners of the best regular-season record in the league.
The team had a great ending to their season and looked forward to what was supposed to be a busy offseason.
Since then, they have had some great roster moves. Although it isn’t official yet, Frank Vogel will be the official head coach of this team. He has brought long-time assistant coach Brian Shaw with him to the bench.
Perhaps the biggest move came on draft night, where Indiana landed George Hill. The deal with the Spurs has been the highlight of the offseason so far, as Hill comes home to Indiana to help this franchise get back to the top.
The next big step will be to use the $30 million they have coming off the books to land a nice free agent, most likely at the power forward position. The three likely guys they will target will be David West, Tyson Chandler and Nene. While any of these guys would be a great addition, they won’t be able to make any moves with the lockout now underway.
The only other team with as much cap space as Indiana is the New Jersey Nets. While West grew up in the Jersey area, he will likely want to play for a contender. Indiana is probably closer to fitting that bill than New Jersey. You could also speculate that Deron Williams and Brook Lopez could be leaving New Jersey after next year.
As far as Chandler goes, it is unlikely he would leave Dallas after they just won the championship. Mark Cuban will do everything in his power to keep him from leaving. He would be an excellent fit though, giving Indiana two seven-footers in their starting lineup.
While Nene played center for the Nuggets, he would most likely be a better power forward option in Indy. He would be the rebounder and shot-blocker on defense they so desperately need. Also, keep in mind he is only 28 years old and picked up the game of basketball later on in his life.
With the addition of Hill, the franchise could see their attendance jump from last season, when it was the worst in the league. Adding one of those key free agents would also go a long way in selling tickets. They have already seen an increase in full-season and partial package tickets from the end of last season. They also had a 35 percent increase in their TV ratings towards the end of the year.
The problem with the NBA lockout is that most of the teams are losing money because of ridiculous player salaries. The owners are the ones giving out this money, so it seems unusual for them to be complaining about all of the spending. While it looks like this will probably last into next year, it does give teams a chance to fix the financial problems they have been having.
The Pacers currently have a three-year, $34 million assistance package to offset Conseco Fieldhouse's operating costs. While the deal does keep the team in Indianapolis through 2013, there is no way to tell what will happen after that. A study done last year shows the city would actually lose money if the team left, which was one of the reasons the assistance package was approved.
It looks like fans are going to have to wait a long time before they can see Hill in a Pacers jersey. It will be a while before we can see the progression of Paul George, Roy Hibbert, Darren Collison and Lance Stephenson. It will also be a while before the team is able to land its highly sought-after free agent.
After some exciting noise generated by Larry Bird and these Pacers, it will now be quiet in Indiana for a long time.