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With the Indiana Pacers on the slate tonight, we sat down with Indy Cornrows, the one stop shop for all things Pacers, to discuss the similarities and differences between these two young squads. You can see our answers to their questions right here.

3 Shades of Blue:
It is curious that both teams are currently 12th in their respective conferences but Memphis has no chance for the playoffs while Indy is only 4 games out. Do you believe the Pacers want to make the playoffs this season or would they prefer to stay in the lottery?


Indy Cornrows: The Pacers have given every indication that they want to make the playoffs and it’s almost impossible to give up on the playoff quest because in the East a simple two-game winning streak throws the team back in the mix. I’d love to hear Larry Bird‘s privatethoughts on the topicunder the influence of a little truth serum, or a few Miller Lite’s, but publicly he’s discussed the benefits of making the playoffs this year for all the young players currently on the roster.

As for Jim O’Brien, the guy is simply wired to win the next game on the schedule regardless of the circumstances. Bird could send him five guys from the local YMCA and he’d grind like mad trying to win with them. So JOB definitely wants to make the playoffs this year.

Plus, the team is losing money, so even one or two playoff games would produce a little extra cash, so from a pure business perspective the team’s owners would love to sneak into the playoffs. Personally, it’s taken about four tries but I’ve finally put the playoffs out of my mind after so many bad losses have kept the Pacers treading water and with four or five teams to jump the mountain is too steep. If the team can string together a six or seven game win streak, I’m sure I’ll change my tune but considering they haven’t won more than two games in a row so far, I’m not expecting the trend to change without Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy in the mix.

3SoB: Marquis Daniels is going to be an unrestricted FA this summer. It didnt look like he was going to be resigned earlier in the season but his play in Grangers absence may have changed that perception. What do the fans think of Daniels and would they want the team to sign him to a long-term deal?

Indy: Marquis Daniels has been huge for the Pacers this year, stepping up in the absence of Mike Dunleavy early in the year and now with Granger out he’s playing an even bigger role. Quisy has drawn the praise and changed the minds of many fans this year. I think Quisy would be welcomed back as a valuable utility man off the bench with the ability to spot start when necessary. The problem is, the Pacers don’t have room to sign him. With the salary cap projected to shrink, Daniels would have to sign well under the current $6.8 million he’s making.

There are two factors working against Quisy, though. First, the market for any free agent this summer will likely be tight thanks to the financial issues hampering most teams. That was apparent at the trade deadline when team’s were shying away from taking on salaries. Second, Quisy has struggled with a back injury and has a history of missing games, so that will factor into his overall value on the free agent market. But in the end, rarely does a player take a pay cut to stay with the same team, unless that team is ready to contend for a title. So all of this points to Quisy playing elsewhere next year and I for one, will miss his wonderfully unorthodox game.

3SoB: The Pacers used to be one of the best supported teams in the league but that changed with the teams recent demise. Do you feel a winning program will draw the fans back immediately or have they created a disconnect that will take more time to recover the fans?

Indy: In my mind, the Pacers have moved past the disconnect (perfect term for the situation) with fans and thanks to an entertaining product, improved fan experience at games and deeply discounted tickets, the attendance for home games has improved this year. Not only that, but the general image of the team has made dramatic, positive strides. They have seven new faces on the roster, everyone plays hard and the whole organization has immersed the team in public events, allowing fans to make a connection with the players off the court.

Fans who have shown up at games have witnessed upset wins over the Celtics, Lakers, Cavs and Magic, along with heartbreaking losses determined on the last possession. Win or lose, despite the poor record, there has been a lot of excitement at the Fieldhouse this year. Whether it’s casual comments I hear around town or callers to radio shows, the team is seen in a positive light again, which is a far cry from the chronic bashing they’ve received over the past few years. In fact, every once in awhile I’ll hear a negative comment about the Pacers being a bunch of criminals playing boring basketball and it’s pretty easy to expose a person who doesn’t actually follow the team.

3SoB: David Lee and Troy Murphy are putting up nearly identical numbers as starters but Murphy gets his points in a variety of ways including three point shots while Lee gets a majority of points as put backs off missed shots. Do you feel that Murphy gets a bad rap for the production he gives a team?

Indy: Murph has put up incredible numbers this year with 34 double-doubles so far. The numbers are consistent and delivered in an efficient manner, but Murph still has his detractors. I think the reputation Murph carried out of Golden State of being soft, when in reality he was in a horrible situation with Don Nelson, has forced him to completely re-establish his game in the league.

Murph still struggles defensively and while he is able to gobble up rebounds he really doesn’t play the game of a traditional power forward. In fact, the biggest need the Pacers have is for a more traditional power forward who can rebound but also defend and score in the post. Murph does a lot of damage from around the arc, but you’ll never see the Pacers run a play for him in the post.

So it’s easy to get hung up on what Murph doesn’t do instead of what he does. But with the numbers he’s been putting up lately, it’s impossible to ignore the value he’s brought to the Pacers this year.

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