The Indiana Pacers are a confusing mess of a team right now. At 16-14, they're hovering ever-so-slightly above .500. That's pretty good I guess, but what does it really mean in the mediocre Eastern Conference? They haven't won more than two games in a row all year...but the Indianapolis press is quick to point out that they haven't lost more than three in a row either. That's called a "moral victory," which, it's important to note, isn't the same thing as an "actual victory."
In the off-season, coach Rick Carlisle was supposed to institute a high-octane, up-tempo offense that emphasized an efficient transition game and quick series of high-percentage shots (think the Phoenix Suns, only without Steve Nash, or Shawn Marion, or Amare Stoudemire, or Raja Bell...). This has resulted in a whopping 94.8 PPG average (including a season-low 71 points in a recent home loss to the lowly Timberwolves). Good job, Rick. Misery accomplished.
As bad as that sounds, it gets worse. This year's average isn't even a full point better than the team's average during last year's injury-ravaged season (93.9 PPG), and only 1.8 points better than the year before that when half the team was suspended (93 PPG). Meanwhile, their opponents are averaging 96.3 points. This is up over four points from last season (92.0). So at least Carlisle improved somebody's offense...the opposition's.
Oh, and the team's top three scorers -- Jermaine O'Neal, Al Harrington, and Stephen Jackson -- are all averaging two to three points fewer than they did last year. This has to be especially upsetting for O'Neal and Harrington, who both predicted they would have "breakout" years. As for Jackson, well, he's just happy he isn't in jail.
How fucked up are the Pacers? Well, if all the crap I just said doesn't answer that question, then this picture should. It sure looks to me like Danny Granger is blocking Jeff Foster's dunk attempt. Maybe they're just scrambling for the rebound or something, but no...no. Granger's stuffing his own teammate. And that's crazy. Even for the Pacers.
"Not me, you idiot!"
So despite the preseason focus on becoming a fast break team, the Pacers are shuffling and stumbling their way to what will probably be a 42-40 finish, which now that I think of it could end up being the best record in the East. That's how bad things are over here.
But amid all the empty hopes and shattered dreams, some light must shine. And that light is Al Harrington's mowhawk. Even after the latest soul-crushing loss, chances are you'll find a picture of Al and his awesome hair in some Yahoo image gallery. Here are some of my personal favorites. I'll be adding to it as the season progresses. One for every win, I think. That way I'll only have to do it every other game or so.
Statbuster's $.02: Let's not forget WWE's failed attempt to introduce "Road Warrior Al" as the third member of the Legion of Doom...
...or as Mr. T's replacement during the actor's strike? Coy and Vance must have been spoken for.