Whenever my roommate and I play NBA 2K, it’s usually a long process to decide which teams to play with.
We’re competitive people, and we take our gaming against each other very seriously. No one wants to be the one to lay their head on their pillow at night feeling defeat. This is NBA 2K after all.
In the grudge match we had last night, I chose to play with the Indiana Pacers. I was met with a few jeers and jabs from my roommate, and he started looking for a lower-tier team to play with against me. I wasn’t having it.
“Use the Knicks. Be the Knicks," he told me.
The New York Knicks are his favorite team, and the team he usually uses on NBA 2K. I had never played with the Pacers before.
I was beating him, 74-53, when he quit with three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Now, the meaning of this video game victory is not to boast about my abilities to press buttons on a game controller. It’s to note the lack of coverage the Pacers have received. My roommate himself didn’t know how talented the team is, and even Paul George’s All-Star selection wasn’t enough to put the Pacers on the map.
It’s no secret that the NBA is a star-driven league. Stars sell apparel. Stars put people in the seats. Stars make commercials and get movie deals. And where are stars born? In big-market cities.
The big markets have always been the media favorites of the NBA. Even with the success the San Antonio Spurs have had in the last decade, you rarely meet a Spurs fan that isn’t actually from San Antonio or at the least the state of Texas.
But quietly, in the Midwest, there's a very dangerous small-market team to worry about. The Pacers are closing in on the second seed in the Eastern Conference. And these guys are good.
Being unable to draw stars to Indy, the Pacers have had to be shrewd in the draft. They took a chance on Roy Hibbert with the No. 17 pick in 2008 and took largely unknown Paul George with the No. 10 pick in 2010. Tyler Hansbrough, the No. 13 pick of the 2009 draft, is a great energy guy off the bench. Of the current starting lineup for the Pacers, no player was drafted above the 10th pick in the NBA draft.
They acquired David West via free agency (at a time when many believed West was too beaten up, past his prime) and George Hill via a trade for Kawhi Leonard from San Antonio.
And this starting five is excluding All-Star forward Danny Granger (17th pick in 2005), who has been injured for the majority of this season and didn’t see action until two games ago against Detroit.
These aren’t your household superstar names.
These Pacers are leading the NBA in rebounding and defense, but that’s not all they're good for. They’re a talented bunch. They space the floor. They have shooters. They have stars and closers with Danny Granger and Paul George. They’re big down low with David West and Roy Hibbert.
The Pacers' frontline is big enough to cause matchup problems, and their perimeter defenders are long enough to match up with most players in the league. The backcourt is quick enough to match up with most guards in the league as well.
Quietly the Pacers have slipped into the second seed in the Eastern Conference, and after the scare they gave the Miami Heat last season, it’s time to take them seriously.