All Indiana Pacers fans remember the days of Reggie Miller when a playoff appearance at the end of each season became an annual affair, and when Jermaine Oâ€™Neal had cornrows, played like a top ten player in the league, and also owned a Las Vegas-style dance club Seven in Broad Ripple Indianapolis.
Those were the days when the infamous Malice at the Palace was a key event to the naked eye when the Indiana Pacers were brought up. The thought of â€œthuggishâ€ bad-boy players such as Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jamaal Tinsley was the picture some people had.
I have one response to this: Who cares! I sure donâ€™t. The Pacers were winning and it was fun to watch them play. I remember going to Conseco Fieldhouse when the place was electric, but in recent years you could probably hear more fans screaming at a freaking Indiana Fever game. The last time the Pacers went to the playoffs was in 2006 and even though they lost in the first round, the team was still relevant.
Then all of the sudden, the Pacers got rid of Rick Carlisle after a bad season and hired Jim Oâ€™Brien and everything seemed to start tumbling down.
The Pacers started losing.
Reggie was already retired. Jermaine left and he even took club “Seven” with him. Before you knew it, Indiana was known as a professional football state that also had a professional basketball team.
I had honestly never been a true fan of Oâ€™Brien. His teams always seemed to pour in the right amount of points but the wins just were not coming. I remember at one point when Travis Diener was considered a key player for them. I was a fan of the Pacers, but would recently not give them the amount of time that I did before.
Then, the 2010-2011 season came around and the Pacers decided to pick Lance Stephenson in the second round which, with me being a Cincinnati Bearcat fan, sparked my interest. I began to pay closer attention to the Pacers and enjoyed what the team looked like coming into the year, even more so after Oâ€™Brien was finally given the boot.
This team started 17-27 in what looked to be another disappointing season, and then Jim Oâ€™Brien was fired.Â The man who stepped in for Oâ€™Brien and still currently has the interim tag in front of his name is Frank Vogel who puts off a somewhat Brad Stevenâ€™s vibe. He seems so calm on the sidelines and has a sense of confidence that is brought out by his team. Vogel finished the season 20-18 earning them an eight-seed in the playoffs.
The Pacers now have a true point guard in Darren Collison, who proved last year in a New Orleans Hornets jersey, that he could lead a team and be successful. There is a strong developing big-man in Roy Hibbert at the center position and a leader in Danny Granger who, with his smooth stroke never looks too anxious on the court.
Add in a Danny Granger clone that has been beginning to prove him defensively and offensively in Paul George and another young big who is absolutely psycho in Tyler Hansbrough and the Pacers have a legitimate starting five (Vogel has upped Hansbroughâ€™s minutes instead of Josh McRoberts: Good move!). The bench is also deep with both veterans and players who are hungry to win.
The Pacers finally made it back to the playoffs this year which has oddly made my ears not hear the hours and hours of Indianapolis Colts talk that usually cloud Indy sports talk at this time. Instead, the talk is of the Pacers and how they are back. The reward for being back in the playoffs? A first-round matchup with the hottest teams in the league, the Chicago Bulls.
The Bulls are a team that has solid parts around them, an experienced and talented power forward in Carlos Boozer and a super hero. This super hero will probably league MVP this year and has been nothing but super for the Bulls in the series.
Ok, fine, I will stop saying super hero and refer to him by his name, Derrick Rose. This man has been unstoppable the first two games of the series, but on the flip side, the Pacers have outplayed the Bulls in both games.
Game one should have belonged to Indiana. They were up double-digits with little time left. Then in game two it seemed as though the Pacers were in control most of the time. Even after the injury to Darren Collison in the first half, the Pacers still looked like a legitimate contender to make this a series. In the end, the Pacers are still down 2-0 in the series but I definitely think that does not hold any justice.
The Pacers have played better than the Bulls and if it wasnâ€™t for the heroic play of Rose and two big time three-pointers by Kyle Korver, the Pacers could easily be up 2-0. Now itâ€™s time to head back to Indianapolis, return to Conseco Fieldhouse which could be dubbed â€œthe place that Vogel rebuiltâ€.
This Pacer team is young and I believe that all of them believe they can win the series. If the bigs down low can crash the boards harder and as a team they can combine to contain Rose, I see no reason why this team canâ€™t head back to the United Center with the series tied 2-2. I like their chances.
So even though Vogel has sadly decided not to use Lance Stephenson in the rotation for the playoffs, I will still look at the Pacers in a different light than before. I donâ€™t know if my forecast will be completely wrong and the Bulls will pull off the sweep, but either way I like the direction the Pacers are heading. And if they can somehow make a run and stir up some music in the playoffs then I will just go ahead and meet you at the newly formed Las Vegas style dance club in Broad Ripple, Club â€œVogelâ€. Drinks are on me.