Indiana Pacers fans will wonder just who the hell they are watching, and then love them

Kevin Pritchard introduces three of the many new Pacers to coach Nate McMillan and the media.

Gone are Paul George, Jeff Teague, Monte Ellis, Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Miles, Lavoy Allen, Aaron Brooks and Rakeem Christmas.  Those players represent roughly 75 points per game, and played more than half the minutes for the Indiana Pacers last year.

Replacing them are players both familiar and not so much like Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bodganovich, Darren Collison, T.J. Leaf, Domas Sabonis, Cory Joseph,, and others.

When Kevin Pritchard replaced Larry Bird in April as the president of basketball operations, fans and media thought, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Not so much.

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As soon as George informed the Pacers that he could not be paid enough money to be compelled to remain in Indianapolis after next season when he will become a free agent, the Pacers aggressively became younger and faster.

They will hopefully compete at a higher level as well.  Fans in Indiana want fundamentally sound basketball played with grit, and for all of George’s vast physical tools, he never displayed a version of himself that could be described as “gritty”.

George’s chief focus has always been to brand himself effectively, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Being a successful businessman will bring George and his family great wealth throughout the rest of his career, but his self-immersion renders him incapable of winning a championship as the best player on his team.

That the Pacers will be less talented in 2017-2018 is a given.  No current players on the roster have ever played in an all-star game.  But that doesn’t mean they won’t be fun to watch once we figure out who they are and what drew Pritchard to acquire them.

Pritchard’s Pacers are undefeated right now, and so fans are willing to embrace the new direction designed around the development of young players who have not yet reached their prime.

Maybe the Pacers win 35 games next season.  That’s alright because no matter who plays for the Pacers for the next couple of years at least, NBA championships will be won by either the Golden State Warriors or the team for whom LeBron James plays.

Pritchard’s focus is on 2020-2021 because that is the first season a window might open for someone else to hang a banner.

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Until then, let’s embrace these guys win or lose – as long as they fight like hell and get in a defensive stance rather than wander around the floor lost and disinterested.

Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-7p, and writes about Indiana sports at

4 thoughts on “Indiana Pacers fans will wonder just who the hell they are watching, and then love them

  1. Kevin

    I understand that Indiana fans want fundamentally sound basketball , however Indiana fans need to realize that’s not winning championships for either the pacers or the HOOSIERS! I am a die hard IU fan and we need to stop living in the past. All the other great programs are passing us because they are living in 2017 and tailoring the program to what the recruits look for. They want to be edgy and flashy. They want everything that is current. Indiana fans are living in the past and the game has passed them by. Forget how you want the game to be played, you better get with the times and play how the players play today and want to play. Go HOOSIERS!!

    1. Kent Sterling Post author

      Wait a minute. Just because Indiana used to play fundamentally sound basketball and doesn’t anymore doesn’t mean fans are wrong to want it. Fundamentals win games and championships. Butler went to back to back National Championship games and Wisconsin played in back-to-back Final Fours because of their fundamentals. Kentucky is full of flash, and the Wildcats have won a single National Championship since 1998. The Spurs play fundamentally strong basketball, and so do the Golden State Warriors.

      1. Ghost of Al Davis

        If the discussion is championships, the numbers are what they are re: KY. There’s no denying they have won a ton. By MY standard it’s been a success but I value consistent title contention and final fours as the best measure of success. Some don’t.

  2. Neil

    And how is that? Maybe we can package it and sell it. The formula for success is get the best basketball players, get good coaching and play really smart and hard. The idea of playing in the past is simply an unremarkable criticism or excuse..


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