How fitting is it that the preseason finale for the Pacers is taking on the Chicago Bulls? This Bulls team that has taken the Central Division title for the past few years. The same Bulls team that beat the Pacers in the playoffs two seasons ago. The same Bulls team that finished first in the Eastern Conference last season. But it won’t be the same Bulls team without Derrick Rose in the line up. Expected to miss the majority of this coming season, the Bulls will look different and probably play different.
It’s up to the Indiana Pacers to take advantage of that and seize control of the Central Division title. There have been a few articles up already about this possibility for the Pacers. Experts on ESPN have picked the Pacers as favorites in the Central Division and could even finish up second in the Eastern Conference. With those type of expectations, can this Pacers team live up to them?
The experience of almost taking Miami out last season in the playoffs should leave the Pacers hungry to prove something. I think most experts don’t think much of this Pacers team as well, so that could provide fuel for the fire. If there’s a Pacers catch phrase for this season, I would think it’s feed the fire.
Feed the fire of Roy Hibbert to make that max contract worth it. He’s going to be a focal point of the offense and defense. If he can give the Pacers 10-15 points a game and double digit rebounds consistently, just think how good he will be. He’s got a chance at making another All-Star appearance, even with the changes on the ballot. Put together some double double games, and he will get noticed.
Feed the fire of Paul George. He’s been looking more aggressive during preseason, but it’s preseason, does anyone pay attention to these games? The talk around Pacers camp is that he’s looking great in practice and seems to carry himself with more confidence. That is what it is going to take for him to make that next step in his game, confidence. If the offense runs through him a couple of times, and he gets to be aggressive, his game will be elevated.
Feed the fire of the second unit. This is where the Pacers seem to have improved, but it is still a mixed bag of players. Sure the starters will play their major minutes. But there are times this bench will be called upon for energy and to get the team back into a game. They could be called upon to preserve a late lead. Guys like Gerald Green and D.J. Augustin will give this second unit what they need.
Feed the fire of the fans. There were plenty of fans showing up during the playoffs for the Pacers, and now it’s time to show up every game. Show off your gold swagger and get behind what could be a fantastic season. Bring the energy and passion that I’ve seen back in the late 1990′s and early 2000′s when the team was rocking and rolling. I think the Pacers will be playing at a higher level, and that means the fans bring their game to a higher level. It’s got the makings of a great season, time to feed the fire.