Pacers Happy But Not Satisfied
April 7, 2011
Having achieved a goal five years in the making by securing their first playoff berth since 2006, the Pacers certainly can, and should, be happy.
What they cannot afford to be is satisfied.
As challenging as it was for this franchise to get back into the postseason, all involved must understand it only gets harder from here.
As the eighth seed in the East, the Pacers very likely will face the Chicago Bulls in the best-of-seven first-round series that begins next weekend (Saturday or Sunday). Until then, three regular season games remain -- all against playoff teams. Depending upon when the series begins, there could be five or six practices, valuable time for interim coach Frank Vogel and his staff.
The next week is not about celebration. It is about preparation.
"It was a long-time coming," said Roy Hibbert. "We worked for this. When you think about all the time during the summer when you're working out by yourself, in the gym lifting weights, and it culminates in this moment right here, we're going to make some noise.
"We're not going to settle. We're going to win these last couple of games, get some momentum going into the playoffs, make a push. We're not going to lay down for anybody."
With a 36-43 record, the Pacers can't reach .500 but with one more win they can produce their best record since their last playoff year (2006). With four wins in five games (and nine in 14), they would certainly like to continue to build momentum heading into the postseason. Then again, they also have the opportunity to heal bumps and bruises and reload their legs.
Which is more important: going after these last three games or recharging their batteries?
"I do know that I want to make sure everybody I may need stays sharp so I will make sure guys are going to play," said interim coach Frank Vogel. "I really haven’t thought that much about it, but I will make sure that guys who have nagging injuries, I’ll make sure they’re healed. But I’m not looking to sit guys just to sit guys.
"I think we need to play. We’re such a young basketball team. We play a good game then we have a slippage. So we need to continue to build steam and build momentum going into our playoff series."
The players themselves aren't completely sure which approach they'd prefer.
"You know what? That's a tough question," said Danny Granger. "For some guys that's really been playing through it, you've got to give them time off but you never want to lose momentum when you're winning games. You want to go in on a stride with a little swagger so you still want to win games going into the playoffs."
It's pretty clear this is a new, and welcome, issue for the staff and players to confront. There is no assurance either direction is the best.
Life on the next level will prove to be a voyage of discovery for this young team and its vibrant coach. And it promises to be an enjoyable ride.