The Indiana Pacers are in great position to accomplish something they have not done in 9 years by winning the NBA’s Central Division. The Chicago Bulls have won the division title the past two years behind the on-court leadership of their All-Star point guard Derrick Rose. Unfortunately for the Windy City, Rose suffered a devastating injury when he tore the ACL in his left knee at the end of Game 1 of their first round series with the Sixers. Doctors say that Rose is set to miss the majority of this upcoming season, and that’s being optimistic.
Saying that Indiana has a good chance to win the division at this point would be an understatement. There is no telling how far Chicago might fall without their young leader, but even if he returns towards the end of the regular season they can expect to be towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff pool. The Milwaukee Bucks finished third in the division with a sub-.500 record last year and failed to make any significant personnel moves in the offseason. The Pistons and Cavaliers are coming into the season are coming into the season with low expectations and are simply trying to groom their young player and put themselves in position to bring on additional talent. The Pacers were already poised to challenge the Bulls for the Central Division crown this season even before the injury to Rose. The Pacers should have the division well in hand now, barring an incredible performance by a division foe or a disappointed collapse by Indiana.
This team is talented and hungry so they are sure to have their sights set on much greater achievements than that. The 2003-2004 season was the last time that Indiana won the Central Division, finishing with the NBA’s best record anchored by Jermaine O’Neal and head coach Rick Carlisle. With last year’s retirement of Jeff Foster the current Pacers roster features none of the players that were on that championship contending ’04 team. So, although not much glory is received for winning divisions, it would be nice for this new group of players and coaches to be able to raise the first Indiana Pacers banner of the post Reggie Miller Era. It must be hard to consider yourself one of the best teams in the NBA when you can’t even claim to be the best team in your own division. This should be just one more step in the path to becoming a true NBA Championship contender.