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Indiana Pacers Team Report

SMALL FORWARD:

The small forward position’s been the lone constant on what’s been a topsy-turvy start to the season for Indy. Leading scorer and resident All-Star Danny Granger’s dealt with lingering heel soreness and a strained MCL, but still managed to post a 24.8 point per game average. He’s been unstoppable at times, evidenced by his 36 point effort against the Raptors and his 30 point first half scoring output at Conseco Fieldhouse on November 18. Unfortunately, whether it’s the injuries, the lack of a competent point guard, or his alarming reliance on the perimeter jump shot, Granger hasn’t quite lived up to expectations this year. Sure, the expectations are enormous — namely carrying a franchise in transition to the playoffs by averaging close to 30 points — but still, Indianapolis sports fans who follow the team have come to demand so much from Granger that any little deficiency in his game is subject intense scrutiny.

The exact opposite’s been true of Dahntay Jones. Despite signing a fairly lucrative deal in the offseason, Jones was written off by both the Indianapolis media and the national media as nothing more than an intense defensive standout. He wasn’t supposed to contribute much outside of those areas…or so we though. Fourteen games into the 2009-10 season, and any person who calls themselves a Pacers fan has to be tickled by the reality that Jones has a hard-nosed offensive game to match his defensive prowess.

Averaging 16.4 points — good for second on the team — Dahntay’s also hauling in four boards, and dishing out two assists per contest. With the return of Murphy and  Dunleavy, he now finds himself in a battle for playing time. One stat I hope O’Brien keeps in mind when shuffling around his lineup; The Pacers are 0-4 when Jones plays less than 30 minutes a game. When he hits the 30-minute mark, they’re 6-3. Pretty revealing if you ask me.

POWER FORWARD:

Troy Murphy’s missed six games with a sore back, so gauging his performance is a little tough. His numbers are down across the board, but he spent two games being eased back in the lineup, and left before the second half in another. Looking at just the five games in which he’s played his normal role, Murph is averaging 13 points and 8.8 rebounds with at least two three-pointers made in four of the five games. Not quite up to last year’s outstanding levels, but more than serviceable, and probably a reasonable prediction of what to count on the rest of the season.

After missing the first four games, Tyler Hansbrough quickly carved out a niche for himself as a sparkplug off the bench. In a little over 15 minutes a game, Larry Bird‘s most recent draft pick is averaging over seven points and four rebounds a game. He’s struggled to make shots when faced with a one-on-one situation in the post (something that will most likely always be a bit of bugaboo), instead using his non-stop motor and disregard for personal safety to clean up after other teammates missed shots and miscues.

Although he’s an NBA neophyte, his penchant for drawing fouls in college has followed him to Indianapolis. He’s making only 64.9 percent of his 37 attempts, but that should number should rise considerably. Hansbrough shot over 84 percent as a senior at North Carolina. With the sweet shooting game of Murphy, and the hustling scrappiness of Hansbrough, the power forward spot should be a strength position for the Pacers going forward.

CENTER:

Through the season’s first nine games, Roy Hibbert was tossing up 12.7 points and 9.4 boards in just over 28 minutes a game. He had five double-doubles and seven multi-blocked shot game, all without fouling out — a problem that plagued him during his rookie year. Then, suddenly, he fell out of favor with O’Brien. After putting up 14 points and 12 rebounds on November 18 against the Knicks, Hibbert spent the next the five games playing just 18 minutes per contest.

Citing an inability to defend the high post pick and roll, he was even benched against Toronto, a game the Pacers lost 123-112. Jeff Foster’s picked up what used to be Hibbert’s minutes, a curious move considering the state of the team. Not to disparage Foster, he’s always been a personal favorite of mine, but giving minutes to a 32-year old with limited offensive skills and a bad back over the blossoming second-year center is a very confounding decision.

And therein lies the dilemma the Indiana Pacers are currently faced with. Do they play to win now, content to flirt with .500 and an 8th playoff seed for the next five years, or do they commit to developing their young talent, possibly sacrificing a few wins in the present, for a chance at a brighter future. I know what I’d do (play the youngsters, warts and all), and I thought that was the direction Bird and O’Brien were leaning, but after watching the recent handling of Hibbert, I’m all kinds of confused. And I think the team is too.

And therein lies the dilemma the Pacers are currently faced with.  Do they play to win now, content to flirt with .500 and an 8th playoff seed for the next five years, or do they commit to developing their young talent, possibly sacrificing a few wins in the present for a brighter future.  I know what I’d do (play the youngsters, warts and all), and I thought that was the direction Bird and O’Brien were leaning, but after watching the recent handling of Hibbert, I’m all kinds of confused.  And I think the team is too.

For more Pacers news, keep coming back to funcityfinder.com. And if you want to catch the Pacers live in action on a frequent basis this season, check out more information about relocation to Indianapolis.

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