In the year 2015, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors met for the first time in what would be a historic NBA finals. Considered at the time by many to be an upset, Golden State took the series after Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love of the Cavaliers were both unable to play the whole way through the playoffs due to injuries and solidified themselves as more than just a “three point gun” squad. Many started to take note of the amazingly accurate point guard Stephen Curry, and his beloved splash brother Klay Thompson. Running the offense (in what was quite the unorthodox set up) would be Draymond Green, who was considered by those on the squad (and still is) to be the glue that kept the team together through the grind of the regular season.
Thus, it should be little to no surprise that the same team that won the NBA finals then went on to have the most historic regular season in NBA history, topping the 1996-1997 Bulls’ record 72-10 season, and going 73-9 themselves. They’d once again meet with Cleveland, and after taking a 3-1 lead would fall to the almighty LeBron James, who played out of his mind, alongside a phenomenal performance from Kyrie Irving and outstanding play by Kevin Love. These two teams would face off again this past season, and after ditching Harrison Barnes for Kevin Durant, we all know how Golden State would fare.
This success story (drafting, getting one of the biggest name free agents, beating a heated rival twice in three match-ups), is legendary. It’s almost from the movies, really. Basketball of this caliber is truly special, which is why I find myself all the more shocked that other teams are trying to copy it, instead of finding their own path to greatness. Don’t get me wrong, I understand it. Some teams are trying to copy it to win championships, and get ahead. Some for the money. But in the case of what seems to be the perennial eighth seed winner, I can’t get my brain around why Indiana would even bother. Why throw away what was an amazing defensive team led by Frank Vogel, (focusing primarily on scoring more than the opponent through an inside scoring, low opponent PPG type of play), for Nate McMillian, who I’m sure is a great guy, but let’s just say his first season wasn’t exactly the one any Pacer fan had in mind. McMillan is exactly what he is, a .500 career NBA coach with over 1000 games coached, not exactly what I’d hope the Pacers are striving for.
A common defense for this mindset and previous season was that the league was moving in a different direction. However, I would like to remind the naysayers it was not too long ago we nearly got to the NBA finals, losing to the Heat in the eastern conference finals in a series that should have been ours. The unfortunate truth is as of right now, the Pacers are a team lacking identity. Last season, they were a fast-paced team, something they hadn’t been for years, and it backfired. Now, with the departure of their best player, the pickup of a young PF in T.J. Leaf, and the arrival of Oladipo (who doesn’t shoot threes well at all), the Pacers may need to revert back to their old style of play before they’re in serious trouble.