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.

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The Pacers’ Plummet

AP Photo

AP Photo

At the start of the season, the Indiana Pacers were the hottest team in the NBA, bolstering the league’s best record and its’ next emerging superstar, Paul George; not to mention to development of Lance Stephenson into a perennial triple-double machine.

However, the season progressed and reality caught up the Pacers. The trade for Evan Turner didn’t seem to be panning out like it was supposed to, revived former All-Star Andrew Bynum once again was out due to knee problems, and the team lost its top spot in the East. The Pacers have lost 10 of their last 21 games, at a time when the playoffs seem to be close enough to touch.

In this slide, the entire roster has not nearly played to the bar they set for themselves when they owned the top spot in the Eastern Conference; a position that was taken by the Miami Heat, a team that the Pacers just beat and will be playing again on April 11th. In recent games, the bench has had its production crippled by the injury of C.J. Watson, the drop-off of Luis Scola, and the lack of production from Evan Turner. However, the major problems seem to be with the starters.

Since before the All-Star Break, the starting five did not seem to be clicking like they had been, and the situation reached a peak after Friday’s loss to the Washington Wizards. While answering questions after the game, Center Roy Hibbert had some harsh words about his teammates: “Some selfish dudes in here…I’m really trying hard not to spaz out right now, but I don’t know. We’ve been talking about it for a month.” (For Full Quote)

AP Photo

AP Photo

One can only guess that Hibbert’s comments are referring to Paul George and Lance Stephenson, who seem to be handling the ball most often when the team is on offense. And it is true, during their recent rough patch, attempts by George and Stephenson have stayed significantly higher than Hibbert’s. Not to mention the numerous rebounds that Stephenson has stolen from the center, which has to be extremely obnoxious coming from a teammate.

To this writer, it all comes down to winning basketball games. When a team can put a check in the win column, chemistry problems seem to fade away. Every athlete is a competitor down to their core, and losing exacerbates negative feelings that would normally not be strong enough to voice to the media. If George can rise back to his MVP status and Stephenson can flirt with a triple-double every night, I feel like Hibbert would not have the urge to make such a comment.

Most NBA analysts are quick to hop off the Pacer’s band wagon, but I will always keep some faith in a team that can beat the Heat. Lebron James refuses to lose, especially when it comes to the Pacers, so the win proves that there is still some drive in the roster. During their third match-up, both teams admitted to the impact of the game to their momentum, both experiencing their own version of a skid; and the Pacers pulled out a win, temporarily holding off the Heat from the coveted one-seed.

What I learned from that game is that the Pacers do have the ability to pull it all together and win, even against talent like Miami. But, if the Pacers do continue to play like they are, who knows if the Pacers will even get to face the Heat come playoff time. Getting crushed by double digits on a consistent basis does not bode well for a team that was expected to fly through a weak East and beat Miami to get over that hump.

 

Paul George Building Up A Bad Image

Image

These past two years, Paul George has made a huge buzz for himself in the NBA. Three years ago, his rookie year, nobody even heard of him and now he’s considered one of the top five players of the NBA.

Well last week there was a rumor going around that he was “catfished”. For those of you who don’t know what being “catfished” means, I explain it to you. A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.

So what happened was that someone was sending him selfies of a woman and he obviously thought it was a woman that was sending it to him. Well he was wrong. It was actually a gay male who was sending him those selfies and then later nude photos. So after he received those nude photos, he decided to send back some nude photos.

Once the gay male received these photos, he posted them on the internet and they went viral. This currently gave Paul George a bad image.

It turns out that this gay male who was “catfishing” Paul George was also doing the same scandal to Kenyon Martin and even rapper Romeo. This gay male might even be able to “catfish” some more celebrities.

Well being a pro athlete, this wasn’t a very professional thing for him to do. Especially right now because the Pacers have been struggling really bad. This is probably the worst the Pacers have been playing this whole season.

I wouldn’t even say that the Pacers are the only ones who are playing bad right now, I think Paul George is playing pretty terrible too. If you’d ask me, I’d probably say that this scandal is what has caused some of their losing lately.

 

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.

Getting Loud in Naptown

Source: Indianapolis Monthly

Source: Indianapolis Monthly

After witnessing Friday’s overtime victory over the Portland Trailblazers in person, the Indiana Pacers bolster the NBA’s best home record of 24-2. The record reflects the electricity in Bakers Life Fieldhouse’s home crowd, an arena filled with homegrown Indiana passion. With 8 seconds left in a game against the second best team in the western conference, George Hill forced overtime with a three-point basket; needless to say, the building erupted. However, there would not be as many fans jumping out of their seats only a few seasons ago. In 2011, the Pacers had the worst home attendance in the NBA and numbers were not that much better as recently as last season. But the Pacers were set on track to a have a successful home court four seasons ago with the addition of Roy Hibbert’s own Area 55.

Area 55 is section number 55 in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and was established for the goal of home court dominance. The section is filled with 55 fans, accompanied by friends and family, who were hand chosen for free tickets by the center himself. The point was to bring a college atmosphere to the NBA. Like Duke’s Cameron Crazies or Indiana’s Hoosier Hysteria, college basketball is chockfull of arenas with passionate fans that bring true home court advantage. However, many NBA analysts believe that the home crowd does not transfer to the professional game. This notion is challenged by Area 55 and the recently created G2 Zone, which is supported by the team’s Paul George and George Hill. As chosen fans, the participants equip themselves with outrageous costumes, signage, and booming cheers that can rival almost any arena in basketball.

Whether you believe that the home crowd can influence an NBA game or not, the creation of Area 55 changed the atmosphere at Pacer’s home games. Bankers Life Fieldhouse will always be filled with fans that have passion and care about the team, and I think that this translates into success on the court. When a team knows that their fans will be there- cheering when they hit the big shot, booing at the questionable foul call, silent during the free throw- there must be a comfort which elevates the players’ game.