An Indiana Basketball Jones.
“Spike who?!” jokes Reggie Miller while breaking the Mecca heart of the legendary ‘He Got Game’ director and Madison Square Garden devoted attendee along with the core heart of the rest of New York City after scoring a point a second in the last 8 to clutch crucify the Knicks, not even a full playoff calendar year after scoring 25 in the final, Finals fourth quarter alone to make M.S.G. his home. Still the greatest villain of all time never quite reached the heroes home. After their back and forth legendary golden, 90’s era battles with the Knicks, the Indiana Pacers finally made it to the promised land in the first year of the new millennium as another clutch, three-point king led the way. With Larry Bird as head coach and Reggie Miller still shooting like it was his prime in his final swan song it looked like it was there time.
Still, two guys named Shaq and Kobe with the Zen master Phil Jackson began their first year of a trilogy dynasty by bringing the other Larry Legend back to Los Angeles for the world champion Lakers. A valiant villain, come hero Reggie walked off the court and into the Hall Of Fame, while Bird walked away from the bench and up into the head office. It’s clear with Miller time over, rebuilding was in the works from guys like Jermaine O’Neal to Jamal Tinsley. Over a bricks and mortar decade and change after their finals heartbreak however it’s a new day in Indianapolis with a starting five that’s so good they could (or should) all make the All-Star team. Isn’t that right Lance? Sure right now it’s LeBron’s league with his hot Miami Heat team shimmying and simmering towards a dynasty, but in a league where the former best West of the Lakers and Spurs are giving way to the beast of the East, there’s more than just Kevin Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder standing in the way of the Kings throne. It all starts with the 5.
1.00: George Hill
A native son of Indiana who best to lead this Indianapolis 5.00 then this Point Guard? The former member of Indy’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ of Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Jr., Josh McRoberts, Rodney Carney, Eric Gordon, and Courtney Lee is arguably having the best career of the pack save best, rising P.G. Conley. After impressing in the Las Vegas NBA Summer League by holding the garnishing of O.J. Mayo, George got a big-league education by becoming a rookie with the veteran San Antonio Spurs and actually being given the chance by Coach Pop to make some big games and big plays with the big, old boys, even though he was a wet, behind the ears kid in relation to the true Texas triangle of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginoboili. With big playoff experience and an extension on his three-point shot taught by Spurs defensive legend Bruce Bowen, Hill gives the Pacers more than just his name on paper that doesn’t shine as bright as some of his breakout superstar teammates. It’s more than the clutch shots and key plays that this kid brings to the table and it’s all about to be set in the engraving of a trophy.
2.00: Lance Stephenson
How is Lance Stephenson not an All-Star? He’s not the only one that’s mad this is crazy. Sure in such an elite unit like the Pacers starting five sometimes just how great a player actually is can be overlooked (see above), but come on this is the new digital age of the NBA where it doesn’t take a quick statistical, scroll down scouting report to step your knowledge game up. If you don’t know Stephenson, then you just don’t know Basketball.
This is more than just how Lance Armstrong’s dunks, this is how he makes former franchise leader (and All-Star please note) ride the pine. The cycles of this guys career has made Abraham Lincoln take note in the high-school’s of Brooklyn, before being emancipated in Cincinnati for quite the college career. Now the SLAM cover and feature star is more than the next, hip big thing. far from the ‘Punks’ section he used to grace he’s now on the pages of every pro’s playbook. He’s just that much of a problem. If this team wasn’t led by another somewhat underrated star then he would step it up even more to be this teams leader. in fact he still might do that…he did take Granger’s spot after all. Now it’s time to see why he should take his all-star one.
3.00: Paul George
Ladies and gentlemen I give you the next great superstar in the NBA. The guy with the regular Joe first and last (first) name is anything but gracing magazine covers and the court with a Tracy McGrady sort of look and presence, but about to swing even bigger like T-mac trying out his Jordan baseball skills. Watch out LeBron, there’s more than fans in Cleveland throwing rocks at your billboard and throne. You said you know there’s someone gunning for your spot and “he plays in Oklahoma”, well there’s one that balls in Indiana too. Balling so hard, Jay-Z’s Brooklyn Nets would love to find him. Or any team for that matter.
Remember when Kevin Garnett was in his Minnesota Timberwolves prime? Well you might want to clone George too as he could play all five positions too. He’s more than the massive dunks and highlight reel point outbursts. Just check the rebound, block, steals and assists categories to go along with those perfect percentiles. Last years ‘Most Improved Player’ and All-Star recently said he wants to be an MVP, Scoring Champ, Gold medalist and of course NBA champion. Right now we can certainly see one of those things happen if not more. What was it again ‘Bron, “not one, not two…”
4.00: David West
It all started with West for this Eastern Conference powerhouse. The former New Orleans Hornet may currently be stung by star exposure being shone on his teammates but isn’t that such the look for this whole team? besides West has always been the quite, game talking team player, which makes him the perfect inception for this superb squad that is all about W and not I. The former professor star of Xavier has quietly been the best Power Forward in the league for longer than you think (think Elton Brand) and now he is the 33 year old veteran still not past his best years and therefore exactly what Indiana need to keep up pace.
An experienced “true” leader who not only knows this game, but the league too. He’s illustrated this sport by being part of the ‘Basketball Book’ (see S.I.). With an Xavier X tattoed on his arm with ‘My Life, My Way’ inked either side you would think this guy was all out for himself, but you know with this guys reputation it’s all about team. This is why the double, double machine can pass out his first triple-double by actually showing like Shaquille O’Neal that big mean can pass. Now it won’t only be the ex-player pundits that recognize this guy but the people witnessing him on the next downtown parade that takes its talents away from South Beach.
5.00: Roy Hibbert
We are living in a digital day and age where fundamentals are often forgotten and defensive players fade away as much as big men on the block. Still in a time where Dwight Howard has a new home each season and former ‘other’ great centre Andrew Bynum gest thrown off teams for not caring about the game (coincidentally ‘Drew is now a Pacer which could make him (if he plays like he should) the best back-up giving the Pacers the best front-court rotation in the L) there is still on centre who is getting everybody’s attention from All-Star to defensive player MVP’s. Roy Hibbert may just be the best big-man in the league right now.
More fundamentally strong then Howard’s swats to the stands (Roy can do better to keep the ball in perfect play) and the man to lead and bring Bynum back to the block. It’s Roy’s post now and Hibbert is the big Georgetown Hoya to make the legendary alumni of Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mouring and Dikembe Mutombo proud. Best believe that this tough New Yorker is the next great in this legendary line of paint scrimmage. Again like West or George (of the Hill variety) Hibbert won’t be the top jersey seller amongst his wing wonders, still in the paint this guy seals the deal for this team. Without him this doesn’t all dry, with him you may as-well get the banner ready. His tough front-court fellow warrior West may have ‘X’ on his arm but the fact is, Roy Hibbert is THE X-factor.
In this Indy 5.00 race to the postseason it doesn’t end there. Like we said the promise of Bynum joins an elite and again somewhat underrated bench for this teams dangerous and dominating, definitive dynamic. You’ve got the toughness of Luis Scola to go with the skilled experience of well-traveled vet Rasual Butler. Still young veterans these guys join the recognizable names and games and likes of C.J. Watson and more all lead by your new Head Coach of the year Frank Vogel. Then of course at number 6.00 is your new ‘Sixth Man Of The Year’ Danny Granger.
Coming back from his critical injury, Granger is still a superstar, team-captain and presence of this team and not a Pau Gasol like trade-bait. Sure he gives the Pacers more wing options but he gives the team exactly that MORE wing options. In a unit where all bases are covered what’s wrong with that? Especially as its still up for grabs whether he or Lance in the long run will start or finish games. It makes for healthy competition and another pure point power when other guys need that kind of form. It all makes for the perfect team looking out for each other instead of themselves.
A true All-Star unit. They said that Ben and Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton Detroit Pistons unit that shocked the Shaq, Kobe, Payton, Malone Lakers had no All-Stars but they where wrong and they’d be wrong if they don’t think this unit that are capable of doing the same to the James, Wade, Bosh, Allen, Oden, Battier et al does either. Even Reggie can see Paul George and the Pacers legacy are taking on and over his legend as Larry Bird watches from upstairs proudly. He knows what it’s taken and what it takes. Weclome to your new NBA Champion, the 2013/2014 Indiana Pacers.