This is a new series of sorts where I examine playoff teams that came oh-so close to getting to the NBA Finals, and offer up suggestions on how they could be fixed to ensure their next title run is a longer one. Today I’ll take a look at the Indiana Pacers.
Do not fire the coaching staff. I know the popular choice is to fire head coach Frank Vogel, especially given that he is not a favorite of president of basketball operations Larry Bird. However, a big reason why the Pacers have been so successful that last three seasons is because of Vogel. He has gotten this team to focus on defense and it has been paying dividends. I mean sure the Pacers came up short in the Eastern Conference Finals, but I know many fan bases who would take that in a heartbeat (Knicks fans, HELLO!). It’s not the coach’s fault that the Pacers lacked heart and endured chemistry issues.
Speaking of lack of heart…
Get rid of Roy Hibbert. Hibbert became an unraveling, bumbling waste of 7-foot space before our eyes after the All-Star break. Whether it was dealing with “selfish players”, the alleged Paul George boinking his jump-off or the trade of Danny Granger, Hibbert went from an All-Star on the brink of stardom to a dude recording bagels in the playoffs. There is no way on God’s green earth that a 7-footer should without recording a point AND rebound. His God-awful play was obviously hindering the Pacers in the playoffs, including the last game against the Miami Heat where he only attempted three shots (he hit just ONE of those).
If and when Bird pulls the trigger and unload Hibbert’s sorry ass, he should bring in more players with heart. That means…
Bring back Lance Stephenson. I know Stephenson was a few fries short of a Happy Meal at times, but if we all learned anything it’s this: Stephenson had by far the most heart of all of the players on the team COMBINED (outside of David West). Stephenson was not afraid of LeBron James. He was not afraid of Dwyane Wade. Now, should Stephenson cut down the antics? Perhaps. Just as long as he doesn’t lose his heart.
Now having said all of that, I wouldn’t sign him to max-out, multi-year deal. Until he would prove to harness his antics and just focus on his incredible heart, I’d sign Stephenson to a two-year contract at the most.