by Kent Sterling
Last night was not the way Pacers fans wanted the supposed dream season to end. Beating the Miami Heat to force a Game Seven in Bankers Life Fieldhouse would have made for a sweet finale to a series against a hated rival, but the Pacers never competed at a level that threatened the Heat.
So now we focus on what went wrong and how it can be fixed. With most of the contributors under contract for next year, the primary questions are – does Larry Bird bring back Lance Stephenson, will Frank Vogel continue to serve as head coach moving forward, and will their be a trade to fill the hole Stephenson leaves – if he signs elsewhere.
An esteemed panel of experts will weigh in on what the future might hold. Fans are split down the middle about whether a rebuild in necessary. Some want the team to come back intact, and others want Pacers president Larry Bird to blow up a significant portion of the team and start fresh.
Some want a traditional point guard to replace George Hill, and others believe Stephenson is a Ron Artest-esque cancer. Paul George is a budding superstar, but is he too nice. David West can scowl with the best, but did he play with the passion needed to win a championship.
When George was asked after the season ended last night whether he wanted Stephenson to return. He responded in full, “I mean, I don’t know. That’s for [Pacers president] Larry [Bird], [GM] Kevin [Pritchard], for them to decide. It would be great, we came into this league together. It would be great for us to continue our journey together. He’s played a huge year this whole season and in this postseason. He’s definitely put pressure on us to make decisions going forward.”
A lot of media sources are using the seemingly ambivalent (and maybe it was totally ambivalent) first part of the quote, but omitting the second.
Whatever happens, Stephenson brings a little discomfort to the roster, discomfort for opponents and discomfort for teammates. That can be a net positive, but it can also kill a team.
And for Vogel, what does a coach have to do to keep his job if Vogel can’t? Sure, he looks a little less than authoritative as he watches and evaluates from the bench, but the Pacers have been eliminated from the playoffs by the best team in the NBA the last three seasons – even if the Heat lost in the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011.
The Pacers don’t have a player who appears headed to the Basketball Hall of Fame – at least not yet – and the Heat probably have four right now. While Ray Allen is at the tail end of his ability to be effective, he is still able to be very productive in 18-20 minutes.
You want to coach the Pacers against Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Ray Allen and be fired for losing a best of seven series. Not many in the history of the game would be able to keep that gig.
We’ll talk about all of that at 11a today. Join us.