Whats Wrong With the Pacers?

What the hell is wrong with the Indiana Pacers? Midway through the season analysts and fans were ready to crown them the Eastern Conference champs. Paul George was being placed in MVP talks with the likes of Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Frank Vogel was the front runner for coach of the year and all was right in in Indiana. Then everything went sour after the all-star break which has caused a seismic breakdown rarely seen by a top seeded playoff team. Fast-forward to today and the Pacers find themselves in a dogfight of a series with the lowly Hawks. These are the same Hawks who limped into the eight seed with a losing record. So where did the Pacers go wrong?

For starters they simply cannot score on a consistent basis. Their offense has become a stagnate one on one stylistic mess. Center Roy Hibbert has completely fallen off the map. After averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds in his previous playoff stints, this season Hibbert is averaging a lowly 6 points and 4 rebounds on 28% shooting. He plays with noticeable frustration with his “selfish” teammates, and has been regulated to the bench in the most crucial stretches of games.  The lack of point guard play has significantly impeded Indian’s ability to string to together coherent possessions.

The severe amount of pressure is clearly weighing the team and its coach down. As the legendary Uncle Ben once said “with great power comes great responsibility,” and the Pacers are failing to live up to their one seed. It has been said that 2 year head coach Frank Vogel is coaching for his job and a first round exit would certainly mean a coaching change. This has forced Vogel to make rash decisions i.e. benching Hibbert in the fourth, trying to ensure they don’t become the sixth 1 seed to fall to an 8 seed. Even if the Pacers manage to escape the Hawks (the series is tied 2-2), I don’t see them contending for a title. The fall from grace has been too great for them to rebound and challenge the two time defending Miami Heat.

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The Disgraceful Donald Sterling

Will we ever truly escape Racism? Even in modern melting pot America, an episode occurs that is so illogical and mind boggling that it reminds us that race is still a pressing topic in this nation. Today’s bigot is Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Sterling made headlines Sunday when a conversation between him and his girlfriend was made public by TMZ. In the recording Sterling makes several racist remarks regarding African Americans and their existence in modern society. Sterling berates his half black half Latina girlfriend, a woman identified as V. Stivia, for broadcasting herself in the presence of African Americans. Sterling specifically identifies a post from Stivia’s Instagram in which she is pictured with Hall of famer Magic Johnson. Sterling also asks that she not bring African Americans to Clippers games.

These comments are appalling, especially from someone who owns a franchise in a league in which 80% are African American players. It’s not surprising to learn that Sterling has a history of racism that predates his ownership of the Clippers. Sterling, a real estate mogul with a net worth of almost two billion, has refused to rent out apartments to African American and Latino tenants. More curiously, Sterling was set to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP.

Sterling has proven himself unworthy of NBA ownership, but what can the league do to discipline him? The league cannot forcibly remove him from the team and will most likely deal out a substantial fine and push him to sell the team. Sterling’s remarks put the Los Angeles Clippers in a compromising position. How could a team, mostly comprised of black athletes, compete for a championship under the regime of a man who is a racist. Sterling is the latest racist ingrate to surface and he surely won’t be the last. The NBA must take a stand and ensure its players, coaches and fans that it will not tolerate racism on any level. 

Wizards Must Move On Without Nene For 4-6 Weeks

In a season of resurgence, the Wizards have just been dealt a potentially devastating blow. After receiving a MRI Monday, Big man Nene has been ruled out for four to six weeks with a left knee sprain. When Nene, an 11th year vet, struggles with injuries the Wizards usually follow suit. Since acquiring Nene in 2012, the Wizards are 60-61 when Nene plays and 9-34 when he doesn’t. That is a monstrous disparity and could spell trouble for the Wizards going forward. Nene’s contributions this season have been invaluable, averaging 14.4 points and 5.8 rebounds in 30.3 minutes per game this season. In addition to his scoring and rebounding, Nene gives the Wizards much needed height and leadership alongside center Marcin Gortat.

In response to Nene’s injury, the Wizards have signed veteran forward Drew Gooden to a ten day contract giving them some much needed front court depth. Coach Randy Wittman will have to rely heavily on third year forwards Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin to shoulder the load in Nene’s absence. While Seraphin and Booker are suitable backups, neither can emulate Nene’s savvy basketball IQ or his low post presence. Seraphin is a decent scorer, but is a defensive liability and Booker is an all hustle player with limited potential to improve his skill set. Luckily, veteran forward Al Harrington has recently returned to the lineup after a knee injury sidelined him nearly three months. Harrington is still working him back into playing shape, but should be able to dispel Booker and Seraphin, allowing the Wizards to space the floor with his outside shot.

Even if Booker and Seraphin admirably step into Nene’s role, the Wizards will only go as far as John Wall and Bradley Beal will take them. With just 25 games remaining in the season, the Wizards are deeply rooted within the playoff race currently holding the fifth seed. Nene’s injury couldn’t have come at worse time for the Wizards, but there is optimism that he will be available and healthy for the playoffs should the Wizards hold onto their spot. For now the Wizards must continue to make do with what they have and hope to get contributions across the board.