Now that we've had time to put the shock of Lebron not joining the Pacers behind us, let's recap what has been happening in the world of the Indiana Pacers the last couple of days.
First of all, the Orlando Summer League. The Pacers went 3-2. 10th overall pick Paul George (who has the lamest photo on the Pacers' NBA homepage right now) averaged 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals, but shot horribly.
Second round pick Lance Stephenson was the surprise hit, averaging 14.8 points and shooting 0.733 from the field in the first 3 games before injuring his thigh and sitting out the next 2. The other second round pick Magnum Rolle averaged 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds.
Let me just remind everyone that the Summer League performances mean as much as me hitting a shot from my driveway.
Oh, and Roy Hibbert, one of the bright spots from last season, injured his knee when he slipped in an international game playing for Jamaica. Thank goodness it was believed to be minor.
It's a done deal. Lebron James is joining the Miami Heat in the hope that he can win multiple championships with Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh (plus whoever else the team can get for low dollars).
Even though Miami was speculated to be the popular choice, I just couldn't quite believe it. I understand some people saying that Lebron has sold out. He has betrayed his home team in Cleveland, who have done everything they could to help him win over the last few years. He has given up the challenge of winning by himself in the place that drafted him. He has forgone the opportunity to play under the bright lights of New York City. He didn't want to follow the footsteps of Michael Jordan and play in Chicago.
Instead, Lebron went with the easiest way out -- joining fellow All-Stars D-Wade and Chris Bosh to form the new Big Three.
I must say while I am intrigued by the prospect of such a terrific trio playing on the same court for an entire season (and possibly for many years), I have lost a little bit of respect for Lebron. I wanted him to be loyal and stay true to his fans in Cleveland, who are absolutely heart broken. I wonder if they will boo him (along with the fans in New York and Chicago?) when he returns to play next season. I'd be surprised if they didn't.
However, I don't fault Lebron for his decision. At the end of the day, all he cares about is winning. He is taking less than max money to play for a championship. When it's all said and done, people are going to look at the number of championship rings he has on his fingers and make an assessment as to where he belongs in the GOAT discussion. If he only has one or two (or none), that's not going to be enough to get him there. In Miami, he has the chance to win five or six, or perhaps even more?
On the other hand, if I were the Lakers, the Magic or the Celtics, I wouldn't exactly be quivering in my boots just yet. Yes, this new Big Three is pretty impressive, but we'll have to wait and see what other pieces they can scrap together. With these three guys taking up the majority of the cap space, who else are they going to get? Basketball is, after all, a team sport.
That said, I don't see it being a huge problem for the Heat. For starters, Boston proved a Big Three could be enough. In any case, I bet there will be plenty of solid veterans and role players willing to play for the Heat at miminum money.
Provided there are no serious injuries, the Miami Heat are going to be lethal next season.
All three new Pacers rookies played in their first Summer League game against the Orlando Magic, a 86-77 victory.
Second round pick Lance Stephenson impressed the most with 21 points on 8 of 10 shooting to lead the way. 10th overall pick Paul George struggled from the field but was perfect from the line en route to 12 points, while 51st pick Magnum Rolle had 13 points and 5 boards.
Nothing to start spraying your pants over, but a win is a win, even if it is in the Summer League where almost nothing ever translates to the regular season. Nevertheless, it's good to let these rookies get a bit of a run and see how they perform against their peers. Hopefully they can keep this up and make things interesting.
As promised, here is a quick round up of the Indiana Pacers' 2010 NBA Draft and what I thought of it.
Everything pretty much went according to plan on 24 June 2010 when Washington selected John Wall with the first pick and Philadelphia picked Evan Turner.
The focus leading up to the draft for the Pacers was a selecting a PG of the future. Well, they did select a PG, but it wasn't a point guard. With the 10th overall pick, the Pacers selected Paul George, a small forward from Fresno State.
Then in the second round, they picked up shooting guard Lance Stephenson with the 40th overall pick. They then traded up with the 57th pick (acquired through the Shawne Williams deal) and cash to Oklahoma City to acquire Magnum Rolle, a power forward, with the 51st overall pick.
So instead of the point guard of the future, the Pacers ended up with a small forward, a shooting guard and a power forward, the three most stacked positions on the roster.
From an overall perspective, this was a disappointing draft for me. I, like most Pacers fans, expected the franchise to pick a point guard like Eric Bledsoe (Wall's running mate at Kentucky) or Avery Bradley (from Texas), the second best options after John Wall.
However, the Pacers didn't feel either player was worth the 10th pick and they didn't deem it necessary to (or weren't able to) trade down for them.
Paul George has already signed a two-year deal, and while neither second rounder has inked in a deal yet, it looks like they are all here to stay, at least for now.
Originally, I expected the Pacers to make a few moves during the free agent signing period (which has commenced), but this is looking increasingly unlikely.
So unless a miracle can be pulled off with some amazing trade or signing, it looks like the Pacers are stuck with TJ Ford for another year, who we all know is not the answer at point guard and never will be. Earl Watson will probably be gone shortly, and in any case, he wasn't the solution either. Lance Stephenson could play some PG (and has been trialled at that position in camp), but few expect him to be capable of being a starting point guard in the NBA.
Don't get me wrong, George is a solid pick with upside. He can shoot with range, take it too the basket, and can be a capable defender in the league. At 6-9 and and 214 lbs, he has an NBA body. The sophomore from Fresno State averaged 16.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists last season. I even said he could be this year's Danny Granger.
The problem is, the Pacers already have a Danny Granger on the team. At the wing positions they also have Mike Dunleavy Jr, Dahntay Jones and Brandon Rush. Unless one or two of these guys go, where are they going to find playing time for this promising player who is supposed to "contribute right away?"
Or does this mean Danny Granger is now likely to be traded? Unless he can get the team someone like Chris Paul (super unlikely), I highly doubt it.
The Pacers were surprised that a player of Stephenson's calibre was still available at the 40th pick, so they snapped him up. There is a good reason why the freshman from Cincinatti, who was ranked coming up in roughly the same class as Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair, slipped so much in the draft: teams think he is bad news.
Stephenson has had a few run-ins with the law before, which is what makes this pick such a head scratcher as Larry Bird had been desperately getting rid of knuckleheads the last couple of years.
To me, it looks like Larry Legend is swinging for the fences with this pick. If Stephenson turns out to be a real steal, then he'll look like a genius. If he turns out to be another Shawne Williams, at least Larry is being consistent.
Stephenson is 6-5 or so, and doesn't have the explosive athleticism of a lot of NBA guards. But at 227 lbs, he manages to overpower a lot of the weaker, smaller players. Not sure if this will be enough for him in the NBA, but the Pacers seem to be impressed with him. He averaged 12.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists last season.
Stephenson also faces the same problem as George on the wing (ie finding playing time). If he ends up at the end of the bench for long periods of time, which he probably will, I just hope he doesn't end up being a distraction.
The guy with probably the coolest name in the draft is a 6-11, 220 lb power forward that goes for every loose ball. Exactly the kind of player the Pacers need with Jeff Foster in decline.
Apparently, Rolle has been tearing it up in camp (according to this Indystar article), being by far the most dominant player amongst the Pacers' draft picks. I will take this with a grain of salt because many players have done well in camp and then do nothing when they're given proper playing time.
Rolle is 24-years-old, so his upside is more limited than the other guys, but he could end up being a steal. The Pacers obviously think so, having traded up for him.
However, will Rolle get any playing time behind Troy Murphy, Jeff Foster, Solomon Jones and Josh McRoberts? And what about last year's power forward selection, Tyler Hansbrough? Having missed so much time last season, this will almost be like another rookie campaign for Hansbrough. Can a guy like Rolle, who, let's not forget, is the 51st pick, challenge these players for court time? Very pessimistic about his chances.
I think all three guys (George, Stephenson and Rolle) are solid selections, but I have doubts that they are the right selections for the Indiana Pacers at this point in time. What they really need is a starting point guard, or at least someone that can become a starting point guard in a couple of years.
Instead, they drafted three somewhat promising players in their most stacked positions, who will all struggle to find playing time behind more experienced veterans. I don't care who it is, but someone has to go. It'll be interesting to see if the Pacers can pull something off before the start of next season. For the sake of all the fans, I sure hope so.