Yesterday we looked at the trip highlights from the Indiana Pacers in China. Today, we go behind the curtain to see the negatives that surfaced on the “NBA Games” goodwill tour.
-As strong and enthusiastic as the Indiana Pacers were on the defensive end in the first game, they were equally as bad and lackluster in the second. Surrendering 70 points after halftime, Indiana committed an astounding 41 personal fouls, and allowed Carmelo Anthony to “freak out” on his way to a game-high 45 points.
“It was a big setback,” Pacers guard Brandon Rush said. “But you can’t control how many shots they make. Melo just went crazy.”
While that may be the case, Conseco Fieldhouse‘s finest will see plenty of primetime players during their quest to make the Eastern Conference playoffs (LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh immediately come to mind), and using “so-and-so just went crazy” as an excuse won’t cut it when the games start meaning something.
Newly signed players Earl Watson, Dahntay Jones, and Solomon Jones were signed specifically to bolster the beleaguered unit, and they need to quickly assert their defensive skills for the Indianapolis based Pacers to have a shot at ending their three-year playoff drought.
–Danny Granger was ejected after picking up two technicals and four personal fouls a mere nine minutes into the game. It may be argued that maybe Granger has let his near “superstar” status go to his head, but considering the game was officiated by “scab” refs — the league has locked out its regular referees — fans of basketball played “Indy style” should let this indiscretion pass.
On a side note: Perhaps the lowest of lowlights was the atrocious officiating. The replacement refs whistled a ridiculous 121 fouls during the two games. Compare that with an average of 42 fouls per game last season, and you can see why the players, along with Jim O’Brien and Larry Bird, were so frustrated (and why there were six technicals called). If the league office doesn’t get this issue settled by the start of the regular season, “scab” won’t be the most offensive thing these second-rate officials are called this year. Not by a long shot.
-Other than a scintillating appearance in the Orlando Summer League — he led the Pacers squad to a 5-0 record while posting averages of 18.2 points and 5.6 points — Tyler Hansbrough’s yet to show Indianapolis sports fans the fiery attitude and impressive skill set that led Indiana to make him the 13th overall player selected in the June draft.
A shin injury that persisted through his senior season at North Carolina flared up over the summer, and team doctors shut the forward down for roughly two months. He’s been able to participate in some practice drills, but his full-contact scrimmaging has been held in check by trainers.
I guess that doesn’t really have anything to with the China trip, but just in case you thought you missed something…you didn’t. Hansbrough’s availability for the opening game is looking less and less likely.
Now that we’ve touched on some of the lowlights — and really, other than the defensive lapse, there wasn’t much negative to take away from the exhibition — let’s end this piece with one last highlight.
-In reading accounts from the unique overseas experience, an overriding theme became clear. The Pacers had fun on this trip, and not just the type of fun that you have when visiting a new and exotic location (and if you happen to be visiting the Pacers home city, check out some things to do in Indianapolis). The players had fun with each other. As Roy Hibbert put it;
“It was a growing experience. We walked The Great Wall together, we went down the slide together, we had dinnertogether. We had all-around fun.”
A bonding experience like that can prove invaluable if the going gets tough later in the season. When faced with challenges, the team can lean on the bonds they formed during their time in China, and use that connection to overcome whatever obstacles are in the way. Chemistry won’t trump talent in all cases, but it sure doesn’t hurt. And for a team struggling to find an identity, it could be the lynchpin that binds them together over the course of a grueling 82-game schedule.
Anybody know how to type “success” in Chinese?
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