The Indiana Pacers gave the Miami Heat quite a fight in their playoff series but, in the end, it was Miami that came out on top. I bring back Jared Wade (@Jared_Wade) of 8 Points, 9 Seconds to get his reaction on the Pacers' playoff run.
Did you, at one point, think that the Pacers could pull off this upset?
Sure did. Publicly predicted Pacers in 7 on HoopSpeak Live after Indiana's Game 3 win even. At the time — which feels like a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away — Dwyane Wade was a shell of himself. The Pacers' pick-and-roll defense was taking away everything the Heat wanted to do. And Shane Battier looked like he would never make a shot again. Then, the next three games happened and Wade proved that there might only be one player on the planet who is better than him. That guy, as it so happens, also plays for Miami.
What disappointed you the most about this series? Besides losing, obviously?
Honestly? Nothing. The Pacers were built to win a round and give some team hell on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Chris Bosh going down made it seem like Indiana's talent advantage in terms of players two through ten might be enough. It made us think they might have the horses to get past Miami and even to the Finals. (I think Indiana would beat Boston or Philadelphia in series, which, since it will never happen, is almost as convenient of an as my belief that the '98 Pacers would have roasted the Jazz in the Finals had they not allowed the Bulls to grab fourteen thousand offensive rebounds in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Don't worry though — I'm not still bitter at all about it.) But that reality only existed because Dwyane Wade was not playing like Dwyane Wade. He soon fixed himself and played as impressive of a close-out game as I can remember watching. We can talk about Indiana's inability to dominate the paint as much as their size advantage suggests but what this really all came down to was Wade and LeBron being arguably the two best basketball players alive.
What's next for the Pacers in terms of the roster?
Roy Hibbert is a restricted free agent so obviously that is priority number one. I'm not sure that means "retain him at any cost," but if you don't keep him, the entire makeup of the team becomes completely different. David West is only signed for one more season (though I think he has found a team he wants to never leave), so the front-court future could obviously change dramatically soon if Hibbert isn't re-signed. But I think they get that done.
Then you have to decide whether or not to keep George Hill, another restricted free agent, of swing for the fences by going after Deron Williams of Steve Nash. Getting D-Will would obviously be the greatest move the team could make to set themselves up for true Finals contention for the next, say, five years, but who knows where Deron's head is at? Roster-wise, there is no better option for him to go to a plug-and-play, ready-made title contender.
Nash also would do wonders for this team, which struggles to maintain focus on a game plan and often lets the tide of the game take them off course. Steve wouldn't let that happen and he would remove all the hesitation and second-guessing you see on so many offensive possession. Nash would put the ball in people's hands in positions where the only logical move would be to score. As we saw in these playoffs, the "team-first" attitude currently among the players sometimes leads to guys passing up good shots and the general lack of a creator makes scoring way harder than it should be for such a collection of players who can all make shots from basically anywhere on the floor.
But they won't have money, probably, to sign Hibbert, Hill and another marquee free agent. So going after a franchise-altering point guard would likely mean losing Hill, an Indianapolis native who fans like and you just gave away Kawhi Leonard for. I don't think that should matter, but it might for a team that was second to last in attendance last year. Regardless, as much as I like Hill (as a 6th man more so than a starting point guard), going after a great player is the only way this team ever makes it out of the East in playoffs. If I was the GM, I would send two dozen roses to Deron Williams' mom every day for the next two months.
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