Paul George of the Indiana Pacers (Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
NBA fans have spent much of the season waiting for Kobe Bryant and listening to talk about LeBron James and the Miami Heat on their road to a three-peat. All of this makes for compelling chatter on sports talk radio. The better story for the 2013-14 season, however, might not be playing itself out in South Beach, in the Big Apple or in Tinseltown but in the heartland of America.
Twenty-plus games into an 82-game season, the team all the radio talk should be centered on is the Indiana Pacers, because they are proof that a solid lineup of selfless players might be the better way of building a team with championship expectations.
Look, no one knows if the Pacers are legitimate, even with an NBA-best 19-3 record and a roster 12-men deep in almost nameless talent. We do know the Pacers, last post season, gave ’Bron and the Heat a scare that no person who follows the NBA predicted.
Now, the Pacers look even better than they did a season ago. For they are a team with great length inside with 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert, athleticism on the front line in 6-9 forward David West, and a dogged 6-3 point guard in George Hill. The Pacers also have more experience and still have their far under-the-radar superstar in 6-9 guard/forward Paul George.
What Vogel has assembled is a team for the millennium, something that the NBA has witnessed perhaps never. The league is built on megastars, which is why the media and fans have fretted over Kobe’s return and over Derrick Rose’s latest knee injury.
Both those men’s stories did deserve media attention. Kobe and Rose are skilled players whose stars shine almost as brightly as LeBron’s. But only the most myopic NBA fans can see either Kobe’s Los Angeles Lakers or Rose’s Chicago Bulls making an honest run for the 2014 title.
Those fans didn’t likely see the Pacers making such a run either, and they might not be in the conversation once the long pull of the season starts to wear players down. Then again, pore over their roster afresh.
If you do, you see Vogel’s Pacers are in the race for the duration, a point they proved Tuesday night in dispatching the Heat. The Pacers showed offensive firepower and applied unrelenting pressure with their length on ’Bron and his boys.
Strength on offense, determination on defense and roster depth are recipes for championships. While no team has ever won a title in the middle of December, the Pacers are doing more to suggest they can win when a title run is looked at in weeks and not months.
The prudent play might be to bet on the reigning champions, but the smart play might be to let what you see determine who to pencil in as champions. And these Pacers score well on the eye test.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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