In January, I made an announcement:
ANNOUNCEMENT: I am officially adopting the Indiana Pacers for the rest of the Pistons rebuild.— Lazarus Jackson (@lazchance) January 8, 2020
They will join the Blazers as teams I enjoy and root for unabashedly, except when they play each other, where I root for the favored Detroit Pistons.
I am a man of my word, and as much as Ja Morant takes my breath away, I cannot forswear a Twitter oath. Plus, I still love the Pacers! Here’s why I’m rooting for them, and you should too:
Their team is fun
Apparent Killian Hayes comp Malcolm Brogdon (if he’s fine after the ‘rona) and Victor “Thingamajig” Oladipo (if he decides to play instead of being a case precedent) form a fun, balanced, do-everything backcourt. At a time when teams around the league are choosing to go small, the Pacers start two centers in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. Then, they ask completely different things of those two centers, stagger them, and ride the hot hand. It’s funky as hell and I love it.
Sabonis and Brogdon have already developed a beautiful chemistry in the PNR, and it’s fun to watch two high-IQ players pirouette around each other. The Pacers have two Holiday brothers, they play on the floor at the same time, and they occasionally do mind-meld stuff you’d expect from two guys who have played basketball together for a large chunk of their lives. Zach Lowe loves watching guys panic as Doug McDermott rumbles into daylight after a Sabonis screen - you should too!
Do they shoot a ton of threes? NO! And that’s fun because every other team shoots a bunch of threes! Tiny Ninjas!
Indiana had the 10th best halfcourt offense this season despite being 30th in 3-point rate. They’re just like 30 tiny ninjas stabbing you with tiny knives all over.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) July 19, 2020
They have bubble drama, too. Will T.J. Warren continue his beef with Jimmy Butler? Jimmy does not seem like the kind of guy who lets things slide. Gotta tune in to find out!
Their consistent success is admirable
The Pacers have missed the playoffs only six times since 1990. And it’s not like they’ve gotten bounced in the first round all those years - they’ve been to a bunch of Eastern Conference Finals in that span, they’ve just never made it over the hump. But I admire the sustained level of exceptionalism they’ve pulled off in a “small” (read: non-coastal) market, and that’s something I’ve often hoped (especially during the last decade or so) the Detroit Pistons could and would emulate.
Sure, it’s “easier” to do what the Pacers have done than build a championship team, but fewer teams have had that level of sustained success.
Their fans and analysts like basketball
Caitilin Cooper at Indy Cornrows is one of the best basketball writers out there, capable of dissecting T.J. Warren’s footwork along the baseline or the Pacers’ Disney Equivalent in equal detail and clarity. The Locked on Pacers duo of Tony East and Adam Friedman offer a great listen consistently when I need to drop in on the team. Because the Pacers are rarely in the Hot Take Ecosystem, their fans want to talk to about the actual game of basketball instead of where LeBron ranks in the GOAT discussion for the fifth time this month.
Indianapolis is a great city
I went to Indianapolis for GenCon last year (you know, when we had large gatherings of people without fear of infection or police overreaction). Loved the city, loved it. Downtown Indianapolis was walkable, greener than I expected (as I get older, the more I recognize the value of green spaces interspersed within a city) and was full of things to do that had nothing to do with the fact that there was a convention downtown.
Plus, the people in the city are willing to talk ball - my Uber driver was talking about Romeo Langford’s finishing ability five minutes after he picked me up. I had a nice conversation with a bartender (remember bars?) about Blake Griffin’s newfound perimeter shooting. I actually met up with the aforementioned Tony East, which was a lot of fun. I would DEFINITELY go back to Indianapolis and just hang out for a weekend when the world stops burning.
As you look for teams to root for in the NBA bubble, forget the shoved-down-your-throats-by-the-league Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans, and do a little better than the why-are-they-here Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns. Be different. Go Pacers.