The Indiana Pacers tore up the NBA lines over the first half of the season. Then they fell apart like a cheap suit. Where do the Pacers go from here? Larry Bird has a few ideas, and as you might expect, they’re good ideas.
Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to June 3 inclusive:
3-1 Series (+2.0 units)
So it’s been another profitable year of basketball betting here at the ranch. And as I look over my NBA picks for the season, I can’t help but notice how well the Indiana Pacers ended up delivering. It was like picking cherries off a tree; we followed the Pacers when they were hot, cashing in six straight times to start the season. Then Indiana honked a pair, we switched from follow to fade, and we went 7-3 ATS from there as the Pacers turned to dust before our eyes.
It’s a rare and beautiful event in NBA betting when you get a team like the Pacers. They played at such a tremendous level to start the season, especially on defense, and Indiana was just pounding the basketball odds at 29-13 ATS in late January. After that? Try 9-30-1 ATS going into the playoffs. Then the Pacers teased us by getting their act together and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, before the Miami Heat made them humble in six at 4-2 ATS. Back to the old drawing board for PBO Larry Bird.
Bird Is the Word
The Pacers flamed out so spectacularly, people naturally want to know what Bird’s going to do about it. And based on what he’s been telling reporters, the answer appears to be: not much. “I don’t want to make major changes,” Bird was quoted by Candace Buckner in a tweet on Monday.
Nor should he. For almost three months, Indiana’s starting five was one of the best the NBA had ever seen. Regression to the mean was to be expected, but Indiana’s slide was exacerbated by the team’s disappointingly poor bench, and the sheer number of minutes the starters played. Maybe they overextended themselves chasing down that No. 1 seed and home-court advantage in the East. Emotions also boiled over far too frequently as things fell apart – again, not unusual for a team of twentysomethings. The Pacers need a tune-up, not an overhaul.
That’s clearly the track Bird is on. When asked whether the Pacers would bring back unrestricted free agent guard Lance Stephenson (14.7 PER), who didn’t have the best of times against the Heat, Bird didn’t mince words. “I always want him back. You just don’t let talent like that walk away if you can help it.” Bird also indicated that head coach Frank Vogel’s job is safe, and that they’ll sit down together and see what they can do about Indiana’s bench.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
None of this means that the starting five are off the hook. Bird wants to see better results in 2015, and he’s leaning on his players to keep pushing their development. He’s reportedly told Paul George (20.1 PER) to work on his post game, and Bird wants Roy Hibbert (13.5 PER) to put some time in over the summer with mentors like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton.
Bird also acknowledged that he was disappointed in Stephenson’s behavior during the Eastern final. It wasn’t the first time Stephenson had acted in ways that his teammates and bosses didn’t like, and if anyone of major significance is going to leave Indiana this offseason, it’s probably he or Hibbert. Otherwise, it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge to find some better bench players, despite Indianapolis not being a prime destination for free agents. Bird’s even hopeful he can get someone “pretty decent” with the No. 57 pick in this month’s NBA Draft. It can happen: Stephenson was a second-round pick in 2010.