Just about that ugly. But then, no one said that basketball is a pretty sport. Well, actually someone did, maybe even a lot of people, but they weren't talking about Tyler Hansbrough. That's okay though, because sometimes ugly gets the job done. And this year, in spite of all the ugly, the Pacers are in the playoffs. And, really, that's all we wanted, right?
Three teams in the Western Conference will miss the playoffs with better records than the Pacers. Of those three, two of them (Houston and Phoenix) would have to be considered favorites in a series against the Pacers. The third (Utah) essentially imploded halfway through the year when they lost HoF coach Jerry Sloan and traded away perhaps the best young point guard in the league (Deron Williams). The Pacers could probably handle them right now, but it is worth noting that the Jazz stole one from the Lakers the other night.
They rally to play well against the good teams, occasionally even stealing a win or two, then turn around and play the dregs of the league like just another lottery hound. They started out the year as a legitimate defensive team, then clinch the playoffs by scoring 136 points while shooting almost 60% from the floor . . . all while giving up 112 to the lowly Wizards (at home, even!). So much for defense.
New coach Frank Vogel stands at 19 - 16, which is good enough for a solid handshake and a pat on the back, but probably not enough to keep him in the seat next year. I'm sure the front office will do what they can to keep him around, but not so sure that what they will do includes naming him head coach.
As for the rest of the team, everyone is valuable (in their own way), but everyone is expendable. They are a team of good role players without a leader. Someday, Danny Granger will be the best third scoring option in the league. Right now, he's a shaky first option. Roy Hibbert is a potential force in the pivot just looking for the confidence that will smooth out and reinforce his game. Hansbrough's coming on while McRoberts is fading . . . except on the nights where Hansbrough's fading and McRoberts is rising. And Collison looks for all the world like a young point still learning the game, which he is. The big question is if he ever will learn it, and that answer is not clear.
But, forget all that. The team plays hard, even when they are at their most confused. They give us some amazing stretches of basketball, even if they almost never put together a whole game. They are a bunch of good kids who are really easy to root for.
Forget the record - they're in the playoffs. Screw all the whining about lowered expectations: steal a game or two from the Bulls and we'll call this season a big success.
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I wish Gordon Hayward would have stayed in college and helped Butler last night instead of kicking our butt. -- Phil Jackson, after the Lakers lost to the Jazz 86 - 84 behind Hayward's 22 points.
Oh, my Bulldogs sure missed young Mr. Hayward Monday night. And after a rough rookie season (though expectedly so), he broke out with a series of double figure scoring games to close out the year, capped by this game, where, matched up against Kobe for most of the evening, he managed to outscore him by a bucket.
Which led to another splendid example of Kobespeak. From J. A. Adande's True Hoop column:
Bryant said he was “very, very fond” of Hayward.
“He’s a very skilled, all-around player," Bryant said. "I think he’s going to have a very bright future in this league. He reminds me of a more talented Jeff Hornacek. Jeff couldn’t put the ball on the floor as well as he can.”
Which we shall now translate with our patented Kobespeak Translator:
Nice game, rook. You remind me of another guy who had a cup of coffee in the league . . . now what was his name? If you're still around when the Jazz play us again . . . which, I'd like to point out, won't be in the playoffs, 'cause you jagoffs didn't even make it . . . then I'm a gonna rip your throat out. If I even remember to be pissed at you. Wait, who am I kidding? I'll rip your throat out even if I don't remember to be pissed. 'Cause that's who I am. Kobe fucking Bryant. And, just who are you again? By the way: you're white.