Bloggers Talk: Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers make their second and final visit to the Izod Center, so NAS is serving up our second and final Bloggers Talk with the fantastic Eight Points Nine Seconds site from the TrueHoop network. Tim Donahue, who helped us out earlier in the week by providing some insight on Shawne Williams, does the honors.

NAS: Are you more optimistic about where this season could end up for the Pacers now that Danny Granger has come back from injury?

Not particularly, at least in terms of the standings.  To have a shot at the playoffs, the Pacers would probably have to win a minimum of 26 or 27 of their remaining 45 games.  With Danny, they’re probably a team that is .500, maaaaaaybe a little better, but I don’t think they’re capable of playing well enough to put together a stretch at 8 or 9 games above .500.

It really depends on how you look at things.  Some could view Danny’s return would result in .500 ball the rest of the way, putting their win total in the low 30’s, but likely moving their draft out of the top 5.  The fear is that we once again finish with a middling pick and get a middling player and don’t really move forward.

Objectively, I understand the value of just being bad and getting a Top 5 pick.  The fan in me, however, hopes that Danny can play like he did last year (and for the last three quarters on Monday), the young guys can develop, and the Pacers can be competitive for the rest of the season.  It may be ill-fated, but I’ll take a middling pick over the outright embarrassment I’ve felt over this team and it’s play at times this season.

NAS: In both of his games against the Nets this season, Roy Hibbert has had some of his best games of his career. Besides the fact that it’s the Nets, and everyone beats up on them, have you been able to pick up on why Hibbert seems to have an easy time with Brook Lopez?

Three big reasons – two related to Lopez and the third towards your team’s strategy.

First for Lopez, he takes too many jumpers.  In two games against us, he took a total of 16 shots from 16-23 feet.  He only hit 3 of them.  That doesn’t put enough pressure on Hibbert, who will get in foul trouble if tested.

Second, Lopez plays behind Roy too much defensively.  If you let Hibbert catch the ball, and work, he’s going to be very effective.  He’s not overly strong, but he does have size and a very, very nice set of post skills, when he’s not rushed…which brings us to the team strategy:

When Smits played here, the teams that he struggled against were the teams that knew they were too small to play him straight up.  Essentially, they dug and doubled and harassed him so that he could never get into any rhythm.  On the other hand, he had a tendency to destroy centers that would seemingly be able to deal with him without help:  Ewing, Mutombo.  The same’s going to be true with Roy.  It’s been a while, but my impression was that NJ did very little in terms of helping Lopez.  Therefore, Hibbert had time to work, and if you let him do that, almost every Center in the league is going to be reduced to hoping he misses (or gets in foul trouble).

I’d have Lopez mix and match his positioning, and I’d send diggers.  The Knicks doubled aggressively a couple weeks ago, and Roy ended up with 7 assists, but that game was such a disaster, it’s difficult to tell if that meant anything.  Also, you have to attack Hibbert, both on perimeter penetration and in the pick and roll.  He’ll take himself out of games with fouls.

NAS: There was some recent buzz that the Timberwolves could send Al Jefferson to Indiana. Would you welcome Jefferson to the Pacers and at what price?

I like the idea of Jefferson, but I would not want him if it cost us Danny Granger.  The other problem is that playing Jefferson and Hibbert together results in two players who would get in each other’s way offensively, while being disastrous defensively.  I suppose you could build a package around Hibbert, but, truth be told, I’m far from convinced that Al Jeff is the second foundation player we want to put next to Danny, and our assets are so sparse, that it’ would be difficult to come up with a coherent offer that excludes Danny.

NAS: If there was to be a front office shakeup in Indy after this season, who deserves to stay and who deserves to go between Larry Bird and head coach Jim O’Brien?

Tough call…I’d say it’s really all or nothing.  I think O’Brien is implementing Bird’s policies almost to a T.  I also think it’s because they’re pretty much in sync, worldview-wise, as opposed to Obie being a “yes” man.

Honestly, I don’t expect there to be a shake up this summer.  It makes no fiscal sense, and probably only makes marginal basketball sense.  If there is one, I believe it will be Bird deciding to step down, because he simply doesn’t want to deal with the crap, and his replacement possibly firing O’Brien.  However, David Morway is sure to succeed Bird, and I could easily see him staying with O’Brien for the last year of his contract (2010-2011).