In terms of achievement, the 2014-15 season won’t be recalled as one of the Indiana Pacers’ finest.
But with regard to maintaining fan support, the campaign has been somewhat remarkable. Consider:
They have a losing record.
They have no stars.
They have really struggled of late.
They are at high risk of missing the playoffs.
If they make it in, they won’t go far.
Couple all of the above with the fact expectations were ridiculously low to begin with, it would be easy to understand if fans stayed away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse in droves.
Yet they haven’t.
Although far from the league leaders in attendance, the Pacers aren’t at the bottom. They’re 23rd in the 30-team league. Through 37 home games, Indiana’s average attendance is 16,723 — down noticeably, but not precipitously, from last year’s average of 17,501, when the expectation was the NBA Finals.
This year’s expectation, of course, was something significantly less than a run for a championship.
With no Lance Stephenson and no Paul George, no way were the Pacers contenders. That was no secret, nor did they pretend that it was. But they did talk about making the playoffs, which, at the start of training camp, seemed more an obligatory message to fans than a sincere belief.
Of course they would try to make the playoffs. What else would — or could — they say?
Well, with the regular season rapidly winding down, we know this much: The Pacers believed what they said.
They still might not make the playoffs, but they’ve done much more than go through the motions.
Despite a wretched start, followed by injury after injury after injury (think George Hill, C.J. Miles, Ian Mahinmi, C.J. Watson, only to name a few), the Pacers have somehow stayed in the playoff picture.
Clearly, the fact the East is pathetic has kept the Pacers in the race. But their refusal to go away has kept them in it, as well.
Some nights have been ugly, and others downright embarrassing. But the Pacers have not stopped competing. Ever. It’s why they don’t have the NBA’s worst record or its worst attendance.
Despite the losing record, fans largely like what they see — a short-handed, journeyman-powered team that hasn’t given up, that rallies from huge deficits, that is still fighting for its playoff life. That’s the remarkable thing about “the lost season.” It isn’t lost at all.
Still at the forefront of a mad scramble for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot, the Pacers are relevant. Fans still come out and watch.
Maybe the Pacers are doing it, after all.