Pacers Stumbling Down The Stretch
For most of the season the Indiana Pacers have led the Eastern Conference, seemingly in control of their quest to secure home court advantage throughout the (East) playoffs. However, the Pacers’ goal may be one that is ultimately unfulfilled as the Miami HEAT finally pushed past them in the standings on Monday night.
After a 33-7 start to the campaign, the Pacers have gone 19-16. Indiana’s struggles have continued down the stretch, compiling a woeful 8-10 record in March. While the HEAT are the new leaders of the East, they haven’t exactly been the pillars of consistency, compiling slightly above average 10-8 record during March.
The Pacers entered the season extremely vocal in their desire to secure home court advantage in this year’s playoffs. Most attribute this target due to the team’s Game 7 road loss to Miami in the Eastern Conference last season.
Despite their struggles, the Pacers are an elite team at home winning 33 out of 38 contests. But the club loses a step on the road, winning just 19 out of 37 contests outside of Indiana.
The late season collapse has many on the team searching for answers, where team only meetings have yet to reveal the true root causes of the struggles.
“We’ve had plenty of players-only meetings,” All-Star center Roy Hibbert told Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star. “We’ve had plenty of sit-downs with the team and coaches, some with upper management listening in. Maybe we should all go to group therapy and have an airing of grievances.”
Many point to the trade deadline acquisition of forward Evan Turner and the signing of former All-Star center Andrew Bynum as events which could have shaken the team’s chemistry. Turner has struggled to adopt the team’s defensive philosophies and Bynum is on the shelf with knee issues.
On paper, the schedule is favorable for the Pacers to regain the top spot in the East with matchups versus Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee and Orlando on the menu over the next two weeks. But the team has yet to show the consistency needed to turn things around.
“Maybe this will be a reality check,” All-Star forward Paul George said. “To be No. 1 and controlling our destiny, this is the time we could have had guys resting and really enjoying being in the position we were in. Now we’re playing down to the wire. It’s tough, but hopefully it lights a fire under us. Maybe we’ll have a better understanding of what we need to do.”
Sacramento Kings’ Rudy Gay Keeping Free Agency Options Open
Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay is one of the most talented players in the league without an All-Star appearance on his resume. Gay has also been traded twice in the past 15 months and is in the process of trying to secure a long term NBA home.
Gay is set to earn $19.3 million next season but is expected to opt out this summer in order to gain a lucrative multi-year deal in return. There will be suitors for Gay’s services, but the veteran has remained mum on whether he would look to join a contender or a team in the midst of a rebuilding project.
“I’m not the age right now where I just have to be on a championship team,” Gay told Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com. “Right now, I’m at the age where I can still make a good team great. Rebuilding, I possibly could do that too. Those are the things I have to weigh. Do I want to be on the rebuilding side? Do I want to make a good team great?”
The Kings have insisted since acquiring Gay last December that the forward is part of their long term rebuilding plans, but there are no guarantees from the player or his camp that he will be in Sacramento next season.
Although uncertain what his next move will be, the veteran has maintained he’s looking for more career stability citing family and peace of mind.
“It’s tough moving around when you have a family,” Gay said. “I have a kid on the way. It’s tough. I want to be settled, obviously, and I want to be comfortable. That has a lot to do with it.
“I love this game. I don’t play it for money. Obviously it’s a very big plus that we make a lot to play this game, but I think it’s more important to be happy.”
Gay respects the direction Sacramento is going in and maintains he can envision himself with the Kings long term but fully plans to evaluate all of his options this summer.
“I think I can have a future here for sure,” Gay said. “For sure. With the people we have in the front office, with the coaches, I definitely fit in here. It’s just when you get here, you’re set and you’re settled and everything’s blown over, when you have your contract and everything’s set, no matter where you are, it’s just where do we go from there? I’m looking forward to weighing my options.”
Gay is averaging 20 points and six rebounds on 46 percent shooting on the season. The veteran is shooting 48 percent since arriving in Sacramento.
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