Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Curse of Zan Tabak

A common theme for writers nowadays seems to be "the NBA is becoming fast-paced, transition oriented, and defensively underwhelming." Combine that (misguided) viewpoint with some ignorant coach bashing and some voodoo/curse nonsense, and voila, one gets the following:

"Pacers don't fit in new NBA." Sean Deveney. MSNBC/TSN. August 1, 2006

For the past 15 years, the problem for the Pacers has been one of a very good team unable to be great. They've been to the playoffs 16 times since 1990 but played in only one Finals.

Great, start your article with a completely unquantifiable assertion. Good? Great? What's the difference? Any team that's made the playoffs 16 times since 1990 has been doing something right... right? And not only did they make the playoffs consistently, it could be said that in the absence of a certain 6' 6'' G/F out of North Carolina, they would have had a pretty good shot at at least one championship.

Heading into last season -- and the season before -- it seemed the Pacers had the talent and the motivation to break that good-but-not-great voodoo.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot about the voodoo part. That's why they could never get past the Bulls in the East. Forget Michael, forget Scottie, forget Mr. Zenmaster. It was the voodoo. The voodoo that constantly whispered in Reggie Miller's ears "You're good-but-not-great! Good-but-not-great! Good-but..." It was the voodoo Reggie Miller dolls that Chicagoans stuck pins into before every playoff game.

Until, at least, the antics of Ron Artest squashed the hopes of each of the last two Pacers teams before the Christmas shopping season got rolling.

Yep, on that fateful night of the brawl, guess which Voodoo doll Detroitians stuck their pins into? Hint: Not Reggie Miller.

It could be the curse of Zan Tabak. You may remember, Tabak was a little-used center on the Pacers' Finals team in 2000.

It could very well could be the curse of Zan Tabak, you bring up a good point Mr. Deveney. But don't forget the voodoo. How else does one explain Michael Jordan lighting up the Pacers before 2000? Just plain eerie, if you ask me.

Now, Tabak played 18 games all season for the Pacers and was not accustomed to interviews. Poor guy.

What do you mean "poor guy"?!! After all, it's his fault the Pacers have had to suffer such misery and agony after 2000.

The first one he gets is Biff Henderson. I swear, at that moment, Tabak gave Henderson a look that not only cursed him, but cursed the Pacers, the NBA and the entire sport of basketball. Perhaps that curse on the Pacers stuck.

Yes, the Pacers are truly cursed. Zan Tabak shall haunt them forever. Along with voodoo. And to think they don't even play in New Orleans! Poor Hornets. But at least, they don't have the ghost of a little-used, unaccustomed-to-interview-giving center following them around. Unless you count The Curse of Anthony Mason, which completely accounts for their horrific 2004-2005 campaign.

Entering this year, it looks again like the Pacers will break the good-but-not-great jinx. But that's because this year, I'm not sure this team even qualifies as good.

Ah, but do not worry, they are cursed to be good-but-not-great forever more. Forever. And Ever.

Thanks to the NBA's new rules interpretation,

Why does every article insist on including this line? Seriously, does no hand-checking on the perimeter qualify as a "new rules interpretation." I can't figure out what you guys are referring to. The new ball? Is that it? Or maybe you're getting confused with FIBA?

there's no question that the league is turning to increasingly smaller lineups featuring more versatile players.

Yes, a lot of teams have used smaller lineups, but it's not due to a "new rules interpretation." It's merely because faster, more athletic players out-hustle, out-defend, out-everything their sluggish, slow moving counterparts.

And, looking at the Pacers' roster, it seems the franchise is stocking up on that type of player.

If they hadn't gotten Marquis Daniels, would you have even made this comment? Just because you acquire a Maverick doesn't mean you're trying to turn into them. Sheesh.

The awaited return of Al Harrington gives them small forward capable of playing power forward. Second-year man Danny Granger will be a solid NBA wing man.

Wingman? What does that mean? Playing on the wings? Please tell me that's not what you meant.

Rookies Shawne Williams and James White were high-value picks in this year's draft.

High value? Here's some more utter rubbish thrown at readers. What exactly causes a pick to be considered highly valuable? Their tremendous "upside"? "Freakish" wingspan? "Unlimited" potential? Got any more cliches?

Marquis Daniels, acquired in a trade from Dallas, can play three positions.

Thanks for helping me prove my point.

OK, so the Pacers want to pick up the tempo, and they're building a Phoenix-ish roster.

Who the #$@!%# said they were? Just because you trade for Marquis Daniels does NOT mean you automatically turn into the Phoenix Suns. To "be" the Suns, you need a PG that loves to run in transition (Jamaal Tinsley actually fits this description, too bad you didn't have the sense to talk about him instead of some random draft picks), a SG that loves to run around like crazy and fire away at the hoop whenever it is within 40 feet of him, a SF that's really said SG in disguise, a PF that's also really said SG in disguise, and a C who's really a 3 point shooting PF/SF masquerading as a center. As much as it might shock you, Jermaine O'Neal and Danny Granger cannot shoot threes. The acquisition of one player does not cha- eh, you get the picture. (I hope.)

But Indiana is still coached by Rick Carlisle, a guy who prefers the Chinese water torture pace -- you know, drip, drip, drip till you submit.

I am sure it would surprise you to know that the Pacers averaged 88.6 PoPG (perhaps the best current way to measure the pace at which teams play.) The Dallas Mavericks, who in your estimation, I am sure play anti-water torture averaged only 87.9 PoPG. Granted the Suns ranked first with a ridiculous 95.1 rate, but 88.6 PoPg sure ain't water torture. If you want to see that, go watch the Grizzlies 85.9 or the Pistons at 86.3. The Pistons incidentally had an 89.1 PoPG average when Carlisle coached them...

Carlisle is good at coaching that way. He twice won 50 games in Detroit with that method and won 60 games in his first season with Indiana.

So why are you saying the Pacers should change again? Oh yeah, I nearly forgot. The curse of Zan Tabak. And all that voodoo stuff.

What makes the Pacers think Carlisle will suddenly morph into Mike D'Antoni? Or that he should?

Trust me, you are the only one who thinks this.

Perhaps, if you're wondering why Carlisle does not have a contract extension yet, the answer is that Pacers brass can't foresee Carlisle adapting to the new NBA.

No, it's because the Pacers have not gone deep into the playoffs, or as deep as one might have expected prior to the 05-06 season. Once again, that can hardly be considered Carlisle's fault with the Ron Artest circus whirling around him. And please, PLEASE, quit with the "new NBA" garbage. You just won't quit, will you? Fine, let's settle this once and for all. You believe that "speed" and "quickness" and "pace" are the new ways to win in the NBA. Well, Mr. Deveney let us then examine the correlation (if any) between winning and running.

Last 4 NBA Champion PoPG:
Miami Heat: 90.1 PoPG (16th overall)
San Antonio Spurs: 87.2 PoPG (27th overall)
Detroit Pistons: 86.3 PoPg (29th overall)
Los Angeles Lakers: 88.7 PoPg (19th overall)

PoPG Team Leaders, 05-06, Season Finish in Parentheses
1. Phoenix Suns: 95.1 PoPG (Lost Conference Finals)
2. Denver Nuggets: 93.7 PoPG (Lost 1st Round)
3. Charlotte Bobcats: 93.4 PoPG (Missed Playoffs)
4. Golden State Warriors: 92.8 PoPG (Missed Playoffs)

5 out of the top 10 Posession Per Game Leaders failed to make the playoffs. The Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, and Detroit Pistons all finished among the last 10. The champion Miami Heat ranked dead even at 16th overall. I rest my case. Surrender. Now.

Maybe the new rules have rendered Carlisle a dinosaur at age 46.

New rules, new rules, new rules. Blah, blah, blah.

I have a hard time imagining Larry Bird firing his friend and protege, but then, once it becomes clear that the Pacers are not so good, Bird is going to need to cover his own rear.

Maybe he can propose some of his own new rules. Wasn't Carlisle the one who wanted bigger rims or something?

That's because, though the Pacers have added eight players, the changes have been cosmetic and the real work has not been done. This team did not need to trade Austin Croshere or Anthony Johnson or Peja Stojakovic.

You're kidding. You think they should have kept Austin Croshere? You're hopeless. Utterly hopeless. Peja, whatever. They couldn't have really done much to stop him from leaving. The "trade" was purely cosmetic, in that it was a sign and trade. Gosh, I thought you were the NBA article writer.

They were not the problem. Indiana needed to dump Jamaal Tinsley and Stephen Jackson. Or at least one of them. Tinsley has done plenty of damage for the Pacers -- in the locker room. He pouts. He does not practice. He milks injuries. But instead of trading him, the Pacers moved backup Johnson, solidifying Tinsley's spot as the starting point guard. Tinsley missed at least 30 games for the third straight year and, effectively, got a promotion. That sends some kind of locker-room message, eh?

Yes, and it also sends a kind of locker room message if you let one of the most talented young point guards in the game (Tinsley) go in place of an aging, veteran, pace-slowing (!) point guard (Johnson.)

Oh, and, has anyone else wondered how the Pacers plan to run more with Gimps-ley as the starting point guard?

I cannot believe you actually wrote this. Tinsley has to rank among the top five point guards you would most want to see running a fast break. The guy has crazy vision, and great passing ability... Sure, blame him for being injured and acting like an idiot, but in the end, he has the talent. I mean the only guys (PG's not LeBron and Dwyane) I'd rather see running a break would be... Kidd, CP3, and... that's it. Oh, wait, and that other guy. On that one team the Pacers are foolishly attempting to copy, in your view.

Even if Bird turns into St. Larry, that won't solve the Pacers' woes. Behind Tinsley are Sarunas Jasikevicius, Darrell Armstrong and Orien Greene. Assuming Tinsley sits out his customary 40 games this year, which of those players would you want to be your starting point guard? I'm going with Armstrong, 38 years old and still ticking.

Is this supposed to be a sarcastic comment? Because there are a whole bunch of teams that would love to have Jasikevicius and Armstrong backing up their 1 spot.

And if Jermaine O'Neal gets hurt, forget it. Harrington would play the four-spot with, um, Maceo Baston behind him.

You could make this same stupid argument for any team in the entire league. "And if Player X gets hurt, and his backup Y also gets hurt, then um, player Z (with obligatory random sounding European name) gets to play!

But that is indicative of where this roster is now. Too many wings,

For the last time, Danny Granger is not a wing player. This is just crazy.

no point guard,

except Tinsley, Sarunas, and Armstrong. Yep, no point guard. And point guard depth? Atrocious.

no depth up front.

*spits out half swallowed water*

At least Pacers fans won't have their high hopes dashed. The best they can hope for this year is so-so.

Wait if they're hoping for a so-so year, how do they simultaneously have "high hopes?" We really need to build that time machine now. Zan Tabak, your days are numbered!