It must have started a few seasons ago – during the brawl in Detroit – when fans and players were exchanging haymakers at the Palace of Auburn Hills. That’s when the downward spiral of the Indiana Pacers began.
While Portland has cleaned up their mess – going from the “Jailblazers” back to the Trailblazers in a relatively short amount of time – Indy has now taken over as the primary example of what you DON’T want to be if you’re an NBA franchise.
Granted, they’re trying to get it right. The Pacers have two of the best basketball minds in the game steering their ship: Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird. But even with their experience and skill as evaluators of talent, something still stinks.
Ron Artest was given the heave-ho; and another problem child, Stephen Jackson, was sent packing too. They may have been the biggest distractions (Artest for his antics, and Jackson for his off-court headlines) but they certainly weren’t the last.
When Jackson was traded to Golden State last year there was a feeling that the team was truly moving in the right direction now. Guys like Mike Dunleavy Jr, Troy Murphy, and Ike Diogu came to town and the culture or atmosphere of the Pacers locker room appeared to be back on track.
But then the problems continued … in the off season and into this present season as well.
Jamaal Tinsley was involved in two separate incidents involving guns: one where he was packing; the other where he was actually fired upon. And while you can’t really “blame” the latter on him, it was just another bad headline for the Pacers organization. Plus, maybe Tinsley needs (needed) to make better decisions about the places he was attending, the time of night he was there, and the people he was choosing to hang with.
This week alone - in a matter of 3 days – two more headlines broke in Indy … one involving a murder suspect, the other involving an alleged rape.
Again, Pacers players were connected to these stories, but not directly involved.
On Sunday evening, during a small gathering at Marquis Daniels’ home, a woman was allegedly raped. Daniels is not considered a suspect by police, but the incident did take place at his home so it’s just more bad press and unwanted attention for the Midwest NBA franchise.
On Wednesday night, Shawne Williams left the Pacers game against the Bulls at the half because he found out that police had arrested a man wanted for murder in Tennessee … that had just left Williams’ home! Apparently the murder suspect, Gary Bohanon, is good friends with one of Williams’ cousins, but Williams had no idea that Bohanon was at his home. Thus, again, Williams / the Pacers aren’t the main focus of this story but they’re certainly guilty-by-association … especially in the courtroom of public opinion.
Plus, while Williams says he had no idea that Bohanon was at his home, he does know who Bohanon is. The two were arrested together back in September when police found marijuana in an SUV Williams was driving. Williams later pleaded guilty to driving without a license, while Bohanon had drug charges filed against him.
It has become a circus in the heartland of basketball.
And I didn’t even mention Jermaine O’Neal, who, thankfully, is just being vilified in Indy for his on-the-court play … or lack there of. Folks are questioning his work ethic and commitment to the city and the organization. Many simply want him out of town ASAP. He has played in only 33 of 58 games this year (currently appearing on the Inactive List with a “bone bruise” in his left knee) … averaging his lowest points per game (15.3) and rebounds per game (7.3) in seven seasons. Most people around the NBA believe he won’t be wearing a Pacers uniform next season.
There was a time – not that long ago – that Indiana was a consistent playoff threat, year after year. The Canseco Fieldhouse is one of the toughest buildings to play in (not to mention … one of the most beautiful arenas as well). Now the Pacers struggle at the gate. They’re lucky to draw 10,000 folks to a game; that’s a good night!
It should be an interesting off-season for Walsh and Bird … ’cause if a major overhaul doesn’t come … they could be part of the housecleaning as well.