NBA AM: Can The Pacers Back Up The Tough Talk?
The Indiana Pacers find themselves in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2005 season after eliminating the sixth seeded Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.
The team will now face the second seeded Miami HEAT in the Eastern Conference Semifinals which begin on Sunday May 13.
To most on the outside looking in, reaching this level of success after such a long drought would make the season a triumphant campaign in and of itself but Pacers feel their journey is only beginning.
The HEAT are the consensus favorites to eventually send Indiana packing, but the Pacers aren’t backing down from the challenge – at least from a wordplay perspective.
The Pacers, feeling the lack of respect, have taken the offensive route in dealing with the media in preparation for their upcoming matchup with the HEAT.
All-Star center Roy Hibbert was the first to strike earlier this week, insinuating the Pacers were a team that paid their dues together rising through the ranks, while the HEAT were merely a collection of superstar talent.
“We didn’t do this the easy way,” Hibbert told the Indianapolis Star. “It took time. But Larry Bird and David Morway drafted well. We got (David) West. We got George Hill, Leandro (Barbosa) and Lou (Amundson) for almost nothing. We didn’t do this by signing a couple of superstars.”
Pacers head coach Frank Vogel also joined the mix on Thursday, implying his team shouldn’t even be considered underdogs in the upcoming series.
“I think we’re embracing the challenge,” Vogel said according to Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel. “We feel like we’re on one of the best teams in the league. We are not viewing this in any way, shape or form like a David-versus-Goliath type of meeting. We are not the underdog here. This is two heavyweights going toe-to-toe. That’s how we view this series. We feel like we’re one of the best teams.”
Vogel also fueled the flames by accusing the HEAT of the buzzword of the 2012 playoffs – flopping.
“They are the biggest flopping team in the NBA,” Vogel added. “It’ll be very interesting to see how the referees officiate the series and how much flopping they reward.”
“Every drive to the basket, they have guys not making a play on the ball, but sliding in front of drivers. Oftentimes they’re falling down even before contact is even being made. It’ll be interesting to see how the series is officiated.”
Miami’s first round series versus New York generated the majority of the mainstream headlines, but let’s be honest the Knicks are not a better overall team than the Pacers.
So, the question is, are the Pacers ready for the next level this soon?
On paper they have a solid resume boasting three current or former All-Stars (Hibbert, Danny Granger and West), the 2007 Sixth Man of the Year coming off the bench in Leandro Barbosa and Vogel who finished third in this season’s Coach of the Year award race.
Granger also added a parting shot as we await the opening tip.
“We’re not a team that wants to be in the spotlight. Some teams are like that,” Granger told Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star. “We’re not like that. We’re kind of a meat and potatoes team. (We) try to bang you inside, bang you on the boards. We don’t care who is watching. We’re going to play the same way.”
Miami won the regular season series 3-1, with the first two games blowout victories in the HEAT’s favor. The Pacers won the last meeting by 15 points back in March.
It should be an interesting series and the start of a good rivalry between the two squads.
Kirilenko Won’t Eliminate Returning To Utah Jazz: When Andrei Kirilenko decides to return to the NBA he’ll be an unrestricted free agent, sure to receive plenty of interest on the market.
The former All-Star and three-time All-Defensive team selection has only played for the Utah Jazz during his ten year NBA career.
But ever since the end of the 2011 season he’s been rumored to be a coveted target of the Brooklyn Nets and no longer a part of the Jazz’s future.
But Kirilenko, who is now playing in EuroLeague for CSKA-Moscow, won’t rule out a return to the Jazz if he ever returns to the league.
“I have a huge history with the Utah Jazz and they are a priority for me among the 30 teams competing in the NBA, while CSKA are just as close to my heart in Europe and when the Final Four is over I will weigh my options and make a decision,” Kirilenko said according to Zoran Milosavljevic (Reuters).
Injured Or Not, Deng Playing In Olympics: The Chicago Bulls finished the regular season with the league’s best record, but a torn ACL suffered by 2011 MVP Derrick Rose all but sealed their playoff fate in 2012.
The top seeded Bulls were eliminated by the eighth seeded Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night.
Bulls forward Luol Deng, who was selected to his first All-Star team this season, had been playing with a torn ligament in his wrist for the majority of the campaign.
The injury may require surgery to fully repair the damage and get him back to full strength.
Regardless, Deng said he intends to play for Britain in the upcoming Olympics.
“I just know that I’m looking forward to playing in the Olympics,” Deng told Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun Times after the Bulls were eliminated by the Sixers. “I’m excited about it. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid, and I’m going to prepare myself for it.”
Any talk of surgery procedures will also likely be put on hold until after the conclusion of the London Games.
“I haven’t really ruled out not getting the surgery or getting it,” Deng said. “I just haven’t made that decision. I just know that I’ve got the Olympics ahead of me. Since I was a kid growing up, it’s something I’ve always wanted to be a part of, and the fact that it’s in my hometown that I grew up in, in a country that gave me the opportunity to even be here, I’m looking forward to it.”
Deng averaged 14 points and 6 rebounds on 41 percent shooting during the regular season. The previous two seasons he shot above 46 percent from the floor.
Detroit Pistons Eyeing Draymond Green In Draft? Competing in all four years of collegiate competition has an unfavorable stigma to it nowadays in the era of guys leaving college early for the pros (before their weaknesses can be dissected).
One four-year player expected to hear his name called on draft night is former Michigan State standout Draymond Green.
Green plays more of a power forward role and is listed at 6’7 but believed to be shorter. He finished his career with the Spartans averaging 16.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.8 rebounds as a senior and is known for his leadership and maturity.
His play throughout college has caught the eye of Detroit Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars.
“Draymond is absolutely a great kid, who represents everything you want on and off the court,” Dumars told the Associated Press. “As a player, the individual workouts will be important for him, but he’s proven himself over the last four years.”
The Pistons, in all likelihood, will be selecting in the top ten in the draft with their first round pick.
They also own two second round draft picks.
It is extremely unlikely the Pistons take Green with their first round pick, meaning the team will have to either wait and see if he’s still on the board in round two or trade up the draft board to select him.
In HOOPSWORLD’s latest consensus mock draft, only Alex Raskin had him going in the first round , with the No. 30 overall pick.
The team over at Draft Express has Green slated to be selected at No. 29 in their mock draft.
- According to Jason Quick of the Oregonian, Indiana Pacers general manager David Morway will meet with Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen. Morway met initially met with Blazers officials earlier this week about the team’s vacant general manager position. He’ll be the second candidate to meet with Allen, joining former New Orleans Hornets GM Jeff Bower.
- New York Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire tried to defuse talks that the combination of Carmelo and himself couldn’t work together in New York and translate into sustained winning.“I think as players with Carmelo and myself and Tyson, as a foundation trio, you can’t ask for a better lineup than that in the NBA,’’ Stoudemire told Marc Berman of the New York Post. “We have obviously LeBron [James], Dwyane [Wade] and Chris Bosh. You have your [Russell] Westbrook and [Kevin] Durant. And you may even have your Kobe, Bynum, Gasol. But we’re right there at the top of the bunch with the trio.’’
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