It’s been proposed the Paul George-less Indiana Pacers should simply curl themselves into the fetal position these final 33 regular-season games in an attempt to obtain the No. 1 pick of the 2015 NBA Draft.
Foot off the gas. Mailing it in. Calling it a season. Tanking.
Take your pick.
To do any or all of the above means Pacers victories from this point forward wouldn’t be due to all-out effort and effective strategy.
Now, back to reality.
There’s no crying in baseball, and there’s no lobbing the towel into the center of the ring as long as Larry Bird is employed by Pacers owner Herb Simon to make the big decisions.
It’s difficult visualizing any product involving Bird, David West and Frank Vogel throwing their hands up as if to say, “We’ll get ’em next season” despite the fact that, to most of the team’s fans, next season can’t get here soon enough.
The ultimate competitor, Bird would want to kick your can in a game of Kick the Can (does anyone play that anymore?) — bum shoulder and all. Tiddlywinks. Go Fish. Doesn’t matter. The man doesn’t expend effort unless the very real chance for triumph is within his grasp.
The Pacers are undermanned. And there are nights they simply aren’t very good.
But to quit?
Tanking is an art form for others — 76ers and Knicks, anyone? — to grasp. For Indiana to even consider it runs against the grain of the Blue Collar, Gold Swagger mantra the franchise worked so hard to build the past few seasons.
The Pacers might be on the wrong side of .500, but the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 seed remains in view. It’s been shrinking almost daily of late, but the Pacers can still see it.
You can bet your drastically discounted Andrew Bynum game jersey that Bird does.
Fifteen of the first 31 games Indiana lost this season were by seven points or less — a staggering 10 of those being by no more than three points.
Without George, who was emerging into one of the league’s superstars before breaking his right leg playing for Team USA on Aug. 1, the Pacers aren’t complete. But they are competitive enough to feel some sort of turnaround is entirely possible along with a fifth consecutive playoff appearance.
As for that top draft selection, I’m not seeing any Patrick Ewings or Hakeem Olajuwons as options, so, really, what’s the point of even discussing the possibility of tanking much less doing it?
Indiana is not going to roll over simply to enhance its chances of fitting 6-foot-10 Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor for one of its uniforms.
George won’t be back. Not this season. But he will eventually, his impact on the court and in the community far greater than what a 19- or 20-year-old rookie could provide.
For now, it’s the duty of West, George Hill, Roy Hibbert, head coach Vogel and the rest of the Pacers to continue chasing that No. 8 seed.
Not that there was ever a doubt they would.