Opening Statements: Wizards vs Pacers, Game 5 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Pacers, Game 5

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Updated: November 5, 2014

Washington Wizards at Indiana Pacers - Nov. 10, 2012

It has almost been six months since the Pacers defeated the Wizards in Game 6 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Playoffs.  After Bradley Beal’s 3-pointer gave the Wizards a 74-73 lead, the Pacers—led by David West’s eight points—went on a 20-8 sprint to end the Wizards’ magical run. West held court in the media room after the game and told everyone, “I wanted to put this game on my shoulders.” Shortly after that, a tearful Beal and a solemn John Wall reflected on what could have been.

[via @recordANDradio]

[via @recordsANDradio]

Since the end of that playoff series, both teams have gone in very different directions. The Pacers were disappointing in their 4-2 loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, Frank Vogel’s job was allegedly in jeopardy, Roy Hibbert was a no-show and there were still whispers of a disjointed locker room. A month later, Lance Stephenson bolted to the Charlotte Hornets via free agency. The coup de grace came when Paul George suffered a devastating leg injury during a Team USA intrasquad scrimmage.

The Pacers offseason ended on a positive note, with Frank Vogel signing an extension and the acquisition of former Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey, but the expectations have been adjusted. Last year’s Pacers were arguably the NBA’s best team at the All-Star break, and the current incarnation of the Pacers would be lucky to be in contention for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

It can be argued that the Wizards have gotten stronger since the Pacers booted them out of the playoffs. They lost Trevor Ariza, but gained a confident Glen Rice Jr., an even more confident Otto Porter, and improved the product with free agent signings Paul Pierce, Kris Humphries and Dejuan Blair. The injury to Beal’s non-shooting hand was a bit of a setback, but the play of Garrett Temple, Porter, and John Wall have more than softened that temporary blow. More importantly, the Wizards have no reason to believe they cannot be a contender in the East behind the Chicago Bulls (provided Derrick Rose stays healthy of course) and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

This matchup does not quite have the flair of last year’s playoff series, but a victory would be a unique statement for both teams. If Indiana wins without Paul George (injured), Stephenson (free agency) and David West (injured), they could gain a mental edge over the Wizards, and start to get into their collective heads. A Wizards victory would be a baby step towards erasing last year’s playoff lost, and it would let the shorthanded Pacers know that this is a new year.

Jared Wade (@8pts9secs) of the Indiana Pacers blog, 8 points, 9 seconds will be the featured Truth About It guest in preparation for this glorious matchup. Let us begin.


Teams: Wizards vs Pacers
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, DC
Television: ESPN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WTEM-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards favored by 10 points.


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Q #1: It is Monday, and this may end up being overtaken by events by Wednesday’s tipoff, but right now there is a rumor that J.R. Smith could be Indiana-bound for Chris Copeland.

Larry Bird and Frank Vogel tolerated the bonehead side of Lance Stephenson because he was talented, he could play multiple positions, and he played hard. Will the leash be as long for J.R. Smith? Is that a trade you like for this current Paul George-less team?

@8pts9secsI don’t think there is anything real to this. Just rumor-mill chatter. It doesn’t make sense financially for Indiana, and as bad as they do need some talent, I can’t see the front office thinking J.R. Smith’s positives outweigh his … other stuff. If it did happen, I don’t think it would work out very well, but I seriously doubt there is anything to it.

[Author’s note: Jared wrote about this topic at greater length on his site]

Q #2: Will David West be an Indiana Pacer the entire season? And if you had to construct a mutually beneficial trade where West can land on a contender and the Pacers can get some meaningful players, what would it be?

@8pts9secsYeah. I understand why the whole world of intelligent basketball writers think the Pacers should move him, and the rationale is valid. But I think most people who actually think it will happen haven’t been paying attention to how Indiana operates. There is a scenario in which the team totally falls apart competitively, if, say, George Hill misses two months while Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Watson also miss a lot of time. But unless the bottom completely falls out, I think the front office wants to try to win as many games as it can and they want to keep David West as the leader and centerpiece of this team’s identity.

Q #3: What positives have you seen from the Pacers so far in this young season? Is Roy Hibbert back?

@8pts9secsRodney Stuckey looks great, and Chris Copeland is scoring well enough that Frank Vogel is looking even dumber for not playing him at all last season. Both have been tremendous and further given credence to the idea that a healthy roster (Paul George not included) could squeak into the playoffs. As for Roy Hibbert, he looks like his old, better self again, yes. He has been more focused and purposeful on the court.

Q #4: During last year’s playoff run, the perception was that Frank Vogel was on the hot seat, because the Pacers were not playing as well as their talent suggested they should.

Three weeks before this season started, Larry Bird gave Vogel a multiyear extension and a vote of confidence (the good kind). Was Vogel every really on the hot seat, and were those rumors justified? And do you think the adjusted expectations, due to the absences of Paul George and Lance Stephenson, will ease the burden on Vogel this season? Most importantly, would that extension have been offered if George did not get hurt?

@8pts9secsI’m no insider, so it’s hard to say for sure. The team denied it the whole time and Frank Vogel recently said (on a podcast with Grantland’s Zach Lowe) that Larry Bird came to talk to reassure him immediately after those reports surfaced (beginning with one from, I believe, ESPN’s Marc Stein).

That is what you would expect the people involved to say either way, but knowing how Bird operates, I doubt he was thinking about firing Vogel one day and then giving him an extension just a few months later. The team did stop the bleeding by getting by Atlanta and Washington, but they never exactly looked great doing it. Not enough, anyway, for me to believe a sober-thinking guy like Bird would reverse course so sharply.

So, no, I don’t think his job was ever truly in jeopardy, and I do think the front office wants, in an ideal world, Vogel to coach this team for the next decade. The lowered expectations certainly make it easier to commit to that though. And I honestly don’t know if they give him the extension before the season if they were still hoping to make the NBA Finals. But regardless, Vogel now has the security and time to work on improving himself as an offensive schemer. And if the front office sees growth on that front this year from the still-young coach, I think they will be thrilled to have him locked up for the next few years.

Bullets:

 

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.