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If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

February 16, 2013

In a hallway outside the Pacers' locker room, before an assembled arc of media, Frank Vogel spilled the secret before Wednesday's game against New York.

“We've overhauled our entire roster for first-round draft picks,” he said. “We're building for the future.”

Well, then. How about that farewell performance the Pacers put on at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Wednesday? They went out in style with that 125-91 victory over the Knicks, eh? Now, finally, they can get down to some serious rebuilding.

Game Rewind: Pacers 125, Knicks 91 »

Vogel jests, of course, as do we, but most trade deadline conversation deserves to be reported with a grin and a wink, if not a LOL and a :). The majority of it is misleading, time-wasting nonsense, if not utter excrement, yet it keeps keyboards clicking for columnists and bloggers, and studio board needles jumping for sports talk radio hosts.

Reality check: Trade deadline deals don't happen very often, especially for the Pacers. It's a whole lot of talk for what usually turns out to be very little action, but in a modern sports culture where speculation and fantasy often overwhelms mundane reality, the rumors are catnip for the masses. What if? Why not?

Here's Walsh, to quiet the noise: “Most of the stuff I read about us is total nonsense, so I can only assume the same about other teams.”

Since taking over as the Pacers' general manager in 1986, Walsh has made five deals at or near the trade deadline, and one of those was in tandem with another with Denver (see chart). Larry Bird made one deadline deal, when he sent a second-round draft pick and cash to Toronto for Leandro Barbosa. We're not including a pair of major January trades, with Sacramento and Golden State, which were made about a month before the deadline.

The Pacers are 33-21 following Wednesday's grand return from the All-Star break, 20-9 since mid-December. They're the best defensive team in the league, statistically, and proved Wednesday' they're capable of offensive explosions. They're a half-game back of the Knicks for second place in the Eastern Conference. They are 2-1 against the Knicks this season, giving them a chance to control the tiebreaker, and are 2-0 against front-running Miami. Their leading scorer of the past five seasons, Danny Granger, is expected back soon, perhaps on Friday against Detroit.

Why would you trade? Who would you trade? Some argue that the team's recent success opens the door to move Granger, but for whom? And what is the market for a soon-to-be 30-year-old with a recent history of knee issues, with a contract that pays him a reported $13 million this season?

The Pacers are a complete team, with no gaping holes and improving depth. It might be nice to have more proven scoring punch off the bench, but it's adequate now, and Granger's return will improve it. Once Granger is ready to move into the starting lineup, the increasingly viable Lance Stephenson will go to the second unit. He said Wednesday he looks forward to an increased role with that group. Orlando Johnson's emergence also addresses that need. He's hit 50 percent of his three-pointers in 24 appearances this season, which happens to be better than a lot of other more established shooters around the league, such as, oh, say, Orlando's J.J. Redick, who's shooting 39 percent.

If the Pacers were to trade for a player with a career 18.2-point scoring average and had been his team's leading scorer for the past five seasons, fans would be ecstatic – as long as Paul George or David West weren't part of the deal. They're getting exactly that player in Granger. The cost: Tossing one more uniform into the wash.

“You have to understand, when Danny comes back, that solves a lot of stuff that I would say we need,” Walsh said. “I watch us practice, and I came out of (the last two) saying, 'I forgot how good he really is.'”

That's not all. The Pacers have developed a winning chemistry off the court as well as on. We should never assume everybody loves everybody in any workplace, but the Pacer roster appears to be cancer-free. A trade wouldn't necessarily change that, but the threat remains.

“A good team is more than just a collection of talent,” Walsh said. “If you have a good team that's functioning well and you start messing with it, you can really mess it up.

“To me, the way you approach it, particularly when you have a good team, is that you're not looking to shop players, but if somebody offers something that can add to our team, I'd consider it.”

Walsh and General Manager Kevin Pritchard have received calls, of course, but nothing appears to have caught their interest. That could change, and a relatively minor deal isn't impossible, but the likelihood is that the Pacers team that takes the court against Detroit on Friday will be the same one that danced off the court following the win over the Knicks.

Nobody should complain about that.

Deadline Deals

A look at the trades the Pacers have made at or near the NBA trading deadline, and their record at the time of the deal, during Donnie Walsh's tenure as general manager/president.

  • 1989 (11-38): Traded Wayman Tisdale and second-round draft pick to Sacramento for LaSalle Thompson and Randy Wittman.
  • 1989 (11-38): Traded Herb Williams to Dallas for Detlef Schrempf and a second-round pick.
  • 1997 (24-27): Traded Jerome Allen to Denver for Darvin Ham. Traded Vincent Askew, Eddie Johnson and two second-round draft picks to Denver for Mark Jackson and LaSalle Thompson.
  • 2002 (26-27): Traded Jalen Rose, Travis Best and Norm Richardson and a second-round pick to Chicago for Ron Artest, Ron Mercer, Brad Miller and Kevin Ollie.

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