It seems that there is a lot of "revisionist history", or at least forgetfulness when it comes to the topic of the Eastern Conference power Indiana Pacers. There seems to be a lot of belief that the Pacers didn't "tank" or in simpler terms, pick in the lottery while building their current team, and that they went straight from the Reggie Miller-led version of the Pacers to the current Paul George/Roy Hibbert-led version of the Pacers.
This really needs to be cleared up, and what better time to do that than now?
First of all, as some of us remember, Reggie Miller decided to hang up his jersey and end an illustrious career following the 2004-05 season. From the moment of Reggie's retirement until Frank Vogel being named interim Head Coach, the Pacers franchise faced some rather dismal times.
Life After Reggie
Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson managed to lead the Pacers to a 41-41 record and a first round exit to the New Jersey Nets following a 2005-06 season which saw "Malice at the Palace" ringleader Metta World Peace (then known as Ron Artest) traded to the Sacramento Kings for Peja Stojakovic.
Tanking Rebuilding Era Begins
The 2006-07 season brought on more changes for the Pacers, who decided that it was time to disassociate themselves from all the participants of the November 2004 brawl with fans during a game with the Detroit Pistons. Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington (who wasn't a member of the Pacers during the brawl) were traded to the Golden State Warriors for Mike Dunleavy, Ike Diogu, Troy Murphy, and Keith McLeod (??). Jackson and Harrington would go on to give us this memorable moment.
The Pacers finished their first (yes, there were more)
tank rebuilding season 35-47, and 9th in the Eastern Conference, which was good enough to land them the 11th best chance of winning the draft lottery. Their pick was top-10 protected, and since it ended up being 11th, it went over to your Atlanta Hawks (!), who then selected Acie Law IV.
The 2007-08 brought along more
tanking rebuilding for the Pacers. Point guard and "Malice" participants Jamaal Tinlsley, who didn't play after February 5th, and Jermaine O'Neal, who got hurt on January 16th, came back on March 31, and led the Pacers to a 6-3 record to finish the season (OOPS!). Tinsley and O'Neal combined to play 82 games between the two of them and the Pacers finished the season 36-46, and ONE game behind your Atlanta Hawks (!) for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks went on to give us moments like this.
Their ninth place finish in the East due to their
botched tank job inability to get Jermaine O'Neal back on the court sooner, netted them the 11th pick in the draft for the second straight year. The Pacers selected Jerryd Bayless, who was traded on draft night along with Ike Diogu to the Portland Trail Blazers for Brandon Rush, Jarrett Jack, and Josh McRoberts (the dunk only version). That night the Pacers also continued their "cleaning of house" trading Jermaine O'Neal to the Toronto Raptors for the 17th overall pick in the draft who became piece #2 (or #1 depending on how you see things) of the Present-Day Pacers, Roy Hibbert.
A New Day in Indiana
The 2008-09 marked the first season without any of the "Malice" participants after the Pacers' brass told Jamal Tinsley that he was no longer welcome and they would pay him to stay away (for those who remember this, can you say awkward?). Tinsley would sit out the entire season and never play for the Pacers again. Danny Granger was officially introduced as the face of the Pacers, and lead the team in scoring at 25.2 ppg for the season. Rookie Hibbert played in 72 games, starting 40 of them and finished with averages of 7.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in 14.4 minutes per game. Granger's scoring wasn't enough to get the Pacers back into the playoffs, and they once again finished the season 36-46.
Their 9th place finish in the East was only good enough for the 13th pick in the 2009 draft, which they used to
reach on select, for lack of a better term, " white people image friendly" UNC standout Tyler Hansbrough (AAH!), and left your Atlanta Hawks(!) this guy at pick 19.
A Savior is on the Way
The 2009-10 season was what you could call "rock bottom" for the Pacers. Danny Granger continued to
chuck light it up for the tune of 24.2 ppg, and second year Hibbert continued to improve, averaging 11.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 25.1 minutes per game. Rookie lottery pick Tyler Hansbrough averaged 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 17.6 minutes per game, but only played in 29 games. The Pacers, even with progress being made, got worse and finished the season 32-50 (Oh my!), which placed them 10th in the Eastern conference. I guess you really do have to take a step back to take a step forward.
The draft lottery didn't jump the Pacers into the top-3, therefore they stayed in the 10th slot, where they selected the
overrated, All-Star, superstar, 1000-times-better-than-Rudy Gay, way better than Melo, not afraid of the moment, not afraid to go toe-to-toe with LeBron James, Gordon Hayward LeBron James equivalent, Kobe fanatic, Paul George. Also that night, after unsuccessfully being able to trade back into the first round, they still got their man, Lance Stephenson in the 2nd round at pick #40. Yes, they were going to pick Lance in the first round.
Playoff Bound Indiana Pacers
The 2010-11 season was the step forward after the step back for the Pacers, if you want to call it that. They fired their Head Coach Jim O'Brien after a 17-27 start and made Frank Vogel the
Interim Coach. Vogel finished the season 20-18 and the Pacers finished the season 37-45, which was good enough for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The playoffs pitted them against the #1 seeded Chicago Bulls, who they put a scare in lost to 4 games to 1. Granger's chucking scoring dropped to 20.5 ppg, and now third year Roy Hibbert improved again posting averages of 12.7/7.5/1.8 in 27.7 minutes per game. Second year Hansbrough averaged 11 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, playing in 70 games. Rookie lottery pick Paul George averaged 7.8 points in 20.7 minutes per game.
The Pacers were slotted to pick 15th in the 2011 draft, and they selected Kawhi Leonard, who they immediately traded to the San Antonio Spurs for George Hill, supposedly at the advice of then-Spurs assistant and current Head Coach of your Atlanta Hawks (!), Mike Budenholzer. Also that offseason, the Pacers signed power forward David West from the New Orleans Hornets, and the Pacers starting five as we know it, Hill,
Granger Stephenson, George, West, and Hibbert was complete.
There is really no need to elaborate any further than this point, because I think we all remember the last two seasons of Indiana Pacers' basketball, and the results of those seasons all the way up until this moment happened, which erased some of our memories faster than a neuralyzer ever dreamed of.