Indianapolis might be the king of short-lived slogans when it comes to its professional sports teams.
Where once we were “Chuckstrong,” the Indiana Pacers countered with “Blue Collar, Gold Swagger.”
The latter was catchy. Creative. A nice play off of the team’s colors.
Speaking of the Pacers, do those seasons featuring Roy Hibbert’s leverage in the post, David West’s toughness in the paint and Lance’s irritating persona seem long, long ago?
It was just two years ago. Time apparently doesn’t fly when you’re incredibly average, which, unfortunately, the Pacers are after trips to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013 and 2014.
Now we’re a No. 7 seed in a not-so-great conference. An eliminated No. 7 seed, at that.
Almost faceless in the NBA’s vast landscape.
Blame for this franchise’s rapid tumble toward mediocrity is three-pronged — Larry Bird’s decision-making regarding personnel, coach Frank Vogel’s decision-making regarding substitution patterns and the ghastly leg injury that sidelined Paul George for the entire 2014-15 season.
George can’t do anything about his misfortune. It’s sports. It happens.
As for the other two, a coin-flip might be required to figure out who is more responsible.
Bird’s legend as one of professional basketball’s greatest players is especially noticeable in this, his home state. Watch sometime how many autographs Bird scratches — left-handed, no less — the next time the Pacers play a game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Hoosiers relate to Bird. They love him.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t assure him status as one of the league’s great administrators any more than it did Isiah Thomas, Elgin Baylor or Joe Dumars.
I like Bird a great deal and would be sad to see him go. But maybe it’s time.
Now take the above paragraph and insert Vogel’s name.
Indiana’s collapse in a Game 5 playoff loss at Toronto recently might undo all the good Vogel has done since taking over for the fired Jim O’Brien 44 games into the 2010-11 regular season.
Vogel’s record is 250-181. A lot of franchises would love to have him.
Maybe Indiana still is one of them.
Regardless of who is coaching the team in 2016-17, this off-season is crucial in once again making the Pacers a viable Eastern Conference contender.
The prospect of two tremendous building blocks in George, who turned 26 on Monday, and rookie forward/center Myles Turner, all of 20, hopefully can lure in free agent talent during the months ahead.
I like what Monta Ellis brought to the backcourt in his first season in town (he signed a four-year deal worth $44 million last July), especially late in the season when the team benefited from his points as well as his leadership.
Meanwhile, hometown favorite George Hill is unspectacularly efficient in his backcourt role. Solomon Hill enjoyed his best season.
Pretty much everyone else is tradeable.
Don’t expect much when the annual NBA Draft takes place on June 23, either. As a playoff team, Indiana will end up selecting some player who is labeled as a “project” or “possible contributor down the road.”
Should Vogel not return, I’m guessing former Pacers guard and Golden State head coach Mark Jackson will get an interview.
It’s all up to Bird. That is, if he’s back.