And we’re back here again. Last week, when I decided to use the indefinite Sonics-less gap in my NBA fanhood to back the Grizzlies, I didn’t count on a few things. Like the feedback I’d get from actual Memphis fans wrapping themselves in the FedEx Forum lease, annoyed/pissed that I was blatantly rooting for their team to eventually ditch them. Or that by going with the Grizzlies under the guise that they’d hopefully replace the Sonics someday, I’d always be pulling for them to fail. Sorry, but that spot’s reserved for Duke. All things considered, it’s already no fun pulling for a bad team, and it’s really no fun when 99% of your fellow fans of said team don’t like you; I’d be like Peter Vecsey with the Knicks. After a couple of days it had become obvious: I needed another team.
Enter the Indiana Pacers.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Pacers. During the Reggie Miller era I pulled for them to come out of the East and get Reggie a ring. After Reggie retired in 2005, I hadn’t paid any more attention to Indy than any of the other 29 non-Seattle teams, but I can get behind what they’re doing now.
I like a few guys on the current squad: T.J. Ford was the subject of one of my first Dime features and the kind of tenacious career underdog you have a hard time not liking; I’ve gotten to know Danny Granger as a good guy and an underrated ballplayer, and can say the same about Brandon Rush; Roy Hibbert has the Georgetown connection; and Marquis Daniels … well, we all have that crazy cousin who’s lovable, if not kinda frightening. The Pacers aren’t going anywhere, and I don’t need them to go anywhere; I can root for them to be good without a secondary agenda.
(And besides, if any team is in danger of becoming the “new Sonics,” it’s the Bucks. They’re on a year-to-year lease with the Bradley Center, their fans have gone beyond apathy, they’re not making any money, and their 73-year-old owner should be looking to sell soon. Memphis as a team has more upside, but I can get with the Bucks if it comes to that. Maybe Seattle won’t get Gay, but we could get Richard Jefferson.)
So no more back-and-forth: I’m rolling with the Pacers. I’m already a few games into an 82-game season with them on NBA 2K9 (I’ve never seen someone consistently air-ball shots on a video game until I started playing with T.J. Ford), I’ve got Wednesday’s season opener at Detroit marked on the calendar, and I’ll debut the #55 Hibbert jersey soon. And I think I still have my yellow pin-striped Reggie jersey somewhere, waiting to get some run.
What does this mean for you, the reader? Be prepared to read about Granger’s contract year, T.J.’s gunnerism, the Jamaal Tinsley saga, me stumping for Rush and Roy to get on the All-Rookie Team, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Troy Murphy fighting the losing battle of trying to live up to their contracts, and Larry Bird trying to avoid becoming the White Isiah Thomas.
I’ll keep an eye on the situation if a Seattle-based ownership group buys a team in the next few years, but truth be told, no one knows which franchise that could be. Imagine telling a Sonics fan back in ’05 — when we were coming off a playoff run and put a mild scare into the NBA champion Spurs — that the team would be gone three years later. No one would have believed it. So whether it’s the Grizzlies or the Bucks or the Bobcats or the Kings or another team, there’s no point guessing now until there’s an ownership change. Then I’d be totally fine rooting for somebody to fail.