Wishing, Wanting, and Hopefully Having

            With one of Indiana’s teams down 1-0 in a NBA playoff series, another team with its owner in rehab, and its own college failing to make any post-season run, there is a lot out there for sports fans to desire. Since this may be my last post in a while, I would like to share my thoughts on what would lead Indiana back to the top of sport prominence.

As many readers out there know, the Indiana Pacers, number one seed in the Eastern Conference, dropped their first playoff game to the eight seed Atlanta Hawks. Do not take this article as giving up on a team with talent from top to bottom, but there are problems that have to be addressed. Unless feelings between teammates are significantly changed, moves need to be made and new faces need to be brought in.

The move that needs to be made is allowing Evan Turner to make his way out and secure the future of Lance Stephenson. Despite the fact that Turner has had some worth playing big minutes in Indiana, the on-court chemistry between him and other bench-contributors has not been there; which I believe to be a large part of the team’s struggles. Lance-Stephenson-280x300

The same cannot be said for Stephenson who thrives with second-team players, and has his most value distributing and driving the ball against lesser opponents. However, due to his significant drop-off in production, I would like Lance to realize that Indiana is the place where he will win his championships and take less than a max contract (which will most likely be offered from another, worse franchise).

Since I have already voiced my thoughts about Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay in a previous article, I think it would be better to leave it brief and only discuss players that step foot on the gridiron. The section of the team that I would like to analyze is not always viewed as the most important, but everyone knows that it can change the momentum of the game: Special Teams.

Proven by numerous speedsters- like DeSean Jackson or Devin Hester- successful punt and kick returning gives something for a team to rally around and triumph, and the Colts have lacked this kind of playmaker for as long as this writer has been watching. With free agency in the rearview mirror and most worthwhile players gone, finding a PR/KR specialist could be a steal, and that is exactly what Joshua Cribbs is.

Joshua Cribbs, Bryant McFaddenDespite his lack of production on offense, Cribbs has proven his worth on special teams over and over again. Cribbs has the lateral quickness to make tacklers miss and the speed to distance himself from the rest of his pursuers. Bolstering double-digit touchdowns on special teams, if Joshua Cribbs still has anything left in the tank and the smarts to keep his head down, he could make big contributions to a team that usually plays in the post-season.

The last team I want to talk about is the Indiana University Men’s Basketball team, because I think that it is time for Tom Crean to make his exit from Bloomington. As a Hoosier fan, I respect Crean for bringing the team out of the depths that they found themselves in after the Kelvin Sampson scandal, but he has served his purpose to the university. With his best player, Noah Vonleh, entering the draft and a ton of others transferring to different universities, now is the time to open a new chapter at Indiana. This new chapter is named Mike Woodson.

Fresh from being a scapegoat with the New York Knicks, an Indiana alumnus is exactly what the team needs. Not only does Woodson have ties to IU and the know how to get his players to work hard- shown by the increased effectiveness of his former superstar Carmelo Anthony- but there is nothing more appealing to a high school recruit than NBA experience. Mike Woodson has shown that he can be successful on the professional level, so I am sure that he would thrive in Bloomington.

Chemistry: The Glue that Holds it All Together

Dolphins

Anytime team dynamics get brought up to the media, the first word that comes to mind is “Chemistry”. When selecting which teams are going to have success, chemistry seems as important as the in-game strategy or the players that suit up. Dating back to classic sports movies like Hoosiers or Remember the Titans, no team can have success without creating a unified community.

However, many in the sports world must have slept through that day of class. Take the Miami Dolphins for example. One of the most recognizable sports franchises in the country, but they have been in hot water for just this issue. Charged by an independent NFL investigator with not fostering an acceptable work environment, offensive line coach Jim Turner and athletics trainer Kevin O’Neill have been fired while Coach Joe Philbin has effectively put himself in a win-or-fired situation.

The problem the Dolphins organization has is chemistry. Richie Incognito saw his place on the offensive line as the older brother who gave his siblings a hard time, while Jonathan Martin played no part in the family and saw himself as the harassed outsider. The line lacked chemistry, leading to problems on and off the field. These complications resulted in a media hail storm and sub-par performance from a group that is composed of mostly above average lineman.

Using the stellar model that the Dolphins set down, is chemistry more important than individual players’ talent? That is the question that commentators on the Indiana Pacers are asking. After trading long-time Pacer, Danny Granger, to the Philadelphia 76ers for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen, some critiques are saying that the team has effectively given up their trip to the NBA finals.Granger

Media outlets say that Granger was a big part of the team chemistry, and without him, the entire flow of the game will be changed. But let us act as rational observers and look at a few of the facts. First, the Pacers cruised to the best record in the NBA without their backup small forward, showing that the team is capable of winning without him. Second, Turner and Allen bring young talent to the Pacer’s bench, bolstering the deepest, most skilled bench in the entire National Basketball League. Third, the amount of money saved on Granger’s contract will give the Pacers more cap room to sign blooming superstar, Lance Stephenson, who will need a huge pay day to keep his constant threat of a triple-double in Indiana.

Overall, yes chemistry is a vital component to winning on any level, but there is something to be said about team leadership manufacturing team chemistry on the fly. In the Dolphins’ case, team management was not strong enough to create healthy relationships between feuding players. However,
with the knowledge of Larry Bird and the on-court leadership of veteran players like David West, the Pacers may be able to overcome their chemistry problem and claim their first NBA title.