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For Bird and the Pacers, the Writing is on the Wall


Corey Elliot
ISR Senior Writer

INDIANAPOLIS – It was a different feeling at the Indiana Pacers practice on Monday afternoon.

George Hill stood at the top of the key during Indiana’s five-on-five half-court scrimmage holding the basketball and shouting out plays. Each time, he looked over at newly acquired Evan Turner and asked “Do you know this one, Evan?” and without hesitation the fourth year pro replied calmly, with confidence, “yes”.

The Pacers are adjusting to their second big roster move of the season. While this trade promises more of an immediate impact than the signing of Andrew Bynum has shown thus far, the curiosity and speculation of what this team is capable of is certainly worthy of a Grinch-like-grin.

That’s because Pacers’ president Larry Bird isn’t messing around. Despite Indiana taking the Heat to seven games and banging on the front door of the NBA Finals, there were still issues that had to be addressed with the Pacers roster. Consider those issues resolved. There are only six guys on this roster that were on the team during last season through the playoff run.

With some minor tweaking in the offseason the Pacers were armed and ready for another run at Miami. But those moves paired with these two huge moves over the last month may be enough to send the Heat into retreat before the playoffs even begin. Okay, maybe it’s not that intimidating, but there is no question the Heat have even more to worry about and figure out if it comes down to a series with the Pacers standing between them and a shot at the highly coveted three-peat.

Indiana’s record thus far is a direct reflection of those offseason upgrades Bird made. After going 49-32 in the regular season last year the Pacers are 42-13 with 27 games still to play. It’s an easy assumption to make; Lavoy Allen and Turner are anxious to hit the floor with the NBA’s best team. Who wouldn’t be excited about coming from a 15-41 team to a 42-13 team? Turner is expected to play roughly 25 minutes Tuesday night against the L.A. Lakers and despite still learning the offense, he is ready.

“I’m pretty anxious. Today was my real first time running (scrimmaging) since I got traded. I’m looking forward to getting things under way,” Turner said after Monday’s practice. “The guys are definitely helping a lot and helping me feel comfortable. I’m lucky to be here. I think (I’ll bring) strength on the second unit. I’m able to pass a little bit, score a little bit and defend. I know with myself, Lavoy, Luis (Scola), C.J. (Watson) and Bynum I think we’re going for a special second unit.”

Yes, a very special unit indeed. That is pending Bynum’s production, of course, but it can still be a very solid relief for the starters with the production Scola and Watson have put in and it shines more often than not. And don’t pay attention to how well Dj Augustin and Gerald Green are playing this season on other teams. If you want to put the possibilities into perspective, think of Green and Augustin as Pacers and then add in the image of Tyler Hansbrough flailing around, up and down the court to bring home a humble four points and three rebounds. This group coming off of the bench is already so far beyond the ceiling last season’s second unit bumped their heads on it isn’t even funny.

The Pacers are inside of their window for an NBA title, a window that has about two or three years, but with this group the window may never be as wide open as it is for the remainder of this season. Indiana has to get it done this year or all of these strategic chess moves by Bird will be all for not. There is a big storm on the radar and it’s going to hit Indiana hard this July; Lance Stephenson, Turner, Bynum and Scola (for monetary reasons) may not be here next year in one combination or another, count on two, if not three of those guys gone. The Pacers just don’t have the money and won’t have the money if they pay Lance equal to what will more than likely come his way from other teams.

While it’s speculated that Philadelphia may buy Granger out, letting him walk freely to a contender like the Heat, the problem not many have pondered is even more interesting: Who’s to say the Heat don’t try to beef up this offseason and sign Turner and Bynum? Bynum isn’t going to play into his prime again in just 27 games (or less) and Turner isn’t in the ball park, nor deserving, of anything above $8 million a year; they are both going to be affordable.

It’s all or nothing this season.

Sure, the Pacers would only regress to the two or three seed with the loss of those players but regression is regression regardless how big or small it may be. The Pacers are 3-3 in their last six games cracking the door for the Heat to start creeping in on the No.1 seed in the East. But the blueprint remains the same.

“We’re just going to continue about our business and we’re going to try to win every single game we play and just worry about what we do,” West said. “We’re trying to make sure we come out with the right kind of energy and get off to good starts because we want to be strong and almost unbeatable here in the playoffs.”

Corey Elliot is a Senior Writer at the Indy Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Pacers and has full media access.  Follow Corey and the ISR on Twitter.

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