Pacers’ Hill not happy with lack of fan support in game versus the Lakers

41 Comments

In every sport, there are teams that are so popular they have fans all over the country. The Pittsburgh Steelers are like that in the NFL. In major league baseball it’s the Yankees and Redsox. And in the NBA, the Lakers definitely fit that description.

So, when the Lakers visited the Indiana Pacers on Friday night, it wasn’t a surprise that they had a large contingent of fans in the arena. It’s like that for almost every road game they play.

With that many opposing fans in the arena, you get a situation where the crowd support for the home team isn’t as strong as normal. And, in this game, you could hear the cheers when Antawn Jamison hit a big three pointer down the stretch and when Dwight Howard got one of his several dunks.

But with fans in the Pacers’ building loudly cheering the road team, some Pacers players clearly weren’t happy about the fan support (or lack thereof) after the game. Especially George Hill, who sounded off to the Indy Star’s Mike Wells:

“It sucks. It was 70 (percent Lakers fans) – 30 (percent Pacers fans) out there. These are the same people that wants autographs after the game. We’re out there in the community. We’re doing our job, doing what we’re supposed to do on and off the court. Something has to change. I tip my hat to this team. We’ve been trouble free. Been out in the community shaking hands, we’re winning. It shouldn’t feel like an away game, especially with an important like this. Tonight, that’s what it felt like.”

I can’t speak to how accurate Hill’s estimation of 70% of the fans cheering for the Lakers is, but the fact that it seemed that way makes his frustration easy to understand. Especially in relation to Hill’s next point about needing the crowd to give you a boost when you’re playing at home:

“They always say your fans are your sixth man and you feed off that energy. Energy is down and we turn the ball over and we’re hearing cheers. We’re missing shots and we’re hearing cheers. That kind of brings your head down cause you know you’re at home. It shouldn’t be like that. Now we see how it is. We have to move forward, don’t worry about. Stay focus on what’s in this locker room and don’t worry about the rest.”

We’ve all seen how a great crowd can turn the momentum of a game. And against a Laker team that was fighting hard for a needed win after only getting 12 minutes of game action out of a hobbled Kobe Bryant, the Pacers could have used some extra support from the crowd rather than hearing them root on the visiting team.

That said, Hill’s statements cut deeper than your typical complaint about a popular team being well represented on the road. As Hill notes later, the Pacers are one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, look like they’ll win their division, and are one of the only real threats to knock off the Miami Heat in the playoffs.

Furthermore, the Pacers play a hard nosed, blue collar brand of basketball and possess a roster full of high character players who are far removed from those Pacers teams of old that had run-ins with the law and participated in one of the worst brawls in sports history.

So, at this point, support from the fans does not seem like too much to ask considering their place in the league and and their prospects for winning each night. But the Pacers rank 26th in average attendance for their home games and seem to have an influx of visiting team’s fans whenever they play a marquee opponent.

Against the Lakers that was certainly the case and Hill voiced his frustration. Frustration, it should be noted, that is easy to understand even when considering how often this happens when the Lakers play a road game.

Only high schoolers who would’ve been consensus draft candidates to receive $125,000 minor-league offer

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NBA’s minor league’s plan to offer players $125,000 salaries straight out of high school sparked two major questions:

  • Who will receive that offer?
  • Who will take it?

Former NBA player Rod Strickland and former WNBA player Allison Feaster will run the program, and they’re answering the first question.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The NBA is limiting eligibility for the professional path program to prep players who would be considered consensus candidates for the draft if there were no early entry rule to prohibit them. Feaster will work with a group that includes Strickland and the NBA’s basketball operations and player development staffs to evaluate the potential players.

“It will be elite prospects with a readiness for a professional league,” Feaster told ESPN. “We want to target players who would not be going to a university if it weren’t for the NBA eligibility rule. That’s more or less what’s going to dictate this.”

Feaster expects a “handful” of players to be part of the initial group in the professional path. Feaster and Strickland emphasized that the program will be judicious in choosing those eligible for the pro path opportunity.

For reference, 17 high schoolers were picked in the final two drafts (2004 and 2005) before the NBA implemented its one-and-done rule. So, that suggests about 8-9 players annually will get offered the $125,000 deal.

That still leaves the other question: Who will take it?

Kevin Durant said he wouldn’t have. Shoe companies are still spending the most money, and they’re heavily invested in the visibility of college basketball.

But every prospect’s situation is unique. With Strickland and Feaster in place, we’ll soon see how players receive this new path.

76ers sound caught off guard about Markelle Fultz stepping away

4 Comments

Markelle Fultz has played in all 17 of the 76ers’ games this season, starting until they traded for Jimmy Butler. A couple weeks ago, Fultz called himself generally healthy.

Then, Fultz’s agent, Raymond Brothers, informed the 76ers the guard wouldn’t play or practice until visiting a specialist Monday. Fultz will miss at least three games – against the Pelicans, Cavaliers and Nets.

76ers coach Brett Brown:

It’s kind of the first real sort of red-flag-type news.

This news about his shoulder, it did catch me off guard. But if it’s that real that he needs to go seek further consultation, then we support him. In my eyes, it’s not complicated. If that’s what it is, then we’ll support him.

76ers general manager Elton Brand:

We thought it was the regular bumps and bruises.

There’s nothing that we saw medically that didn’t allow him to play.

This yet another odd turn in a saga that already included plenty of contentiousness, animosity, rumors and cringe-worthy moments. At this point, it’s hard to be shocked by anything with Fultz.

It’s also hard to take the 76ers seriously when they suggest it seemed like business as usual. Fultz’s shot is disturbingly broken. There is clearly a problem. Maybe letting Fultz play without fretting over the issue was the right course, but how surprised can Philadelphia be that he took a more drastic measure?

Hopefully, the specialist helps Fultz identify and fix this issue.

Bulls’ Denzel Valentine likely to miss entire season

Abbie Parr/Getty Images
1 Comment

Bulls wing Denzel Valentine has had a rough go of it.

A lottery pick two years ago, battled ankle injuries during his rookie year and underwent ankle surgery after the season. He stayed mostly healthy last year, but his season still ended early for knee surgery. Then, over the summer, he got torched in the Drew League by Frank “Nitty” Session, who questioned how Valentine was in the NBA:

And now…

Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago:

Denzel Valentine was originally expected to miss one to two weeks after suffering a sprained ankle on the second day of training camp. One setback led to another, and on Monday the Bulls announced that the third year guard will undergo surgical reconstruction on that left ankle. He’ll miss four to six months, the team announced, effectively ending his season.

The long end of that timeline will keep Valentine sidelined the entire season. The short end would allow him to return late in the year, but with Chicago so dismal, there’s little incentive to rush him back.

Valentine is under contract next season, the final year of his rookie-scale deal. He might need to prove himself to make Nitty’s question still relevant.

Report: J.R. Smith and Cavaliers separating as they seek trade

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
6 Comments

DETROIT – Yesterday – yesterday! – J.R. Smith explained why he didn’t leave the Cavaliers when, a few weeks ago, they pulled him from the rotation and gave him the offer to step away.

“I can’t do that to the city and the fans,” Smith said. “A lot of people have been backing me since I’ve been here. I feel like it’s been a new start since I came here. The way the fans embraced me, the way that I’ve embraced the city, my teammates, I can’t do that to them.”

But Smith also said Cleveland is tanking and reaffirmed his desire to be traded. That probably set wheels in motion.

Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

Smith – who’s guaranteed $18.59 million on a contract that will surely end after this season – carries negative trade value. The Cavs shouldn’t attach the sweetener necessary to dump him. They’re better off just paying him for now.

Because just $3.87 million of his $15.68 million salary for next season is guaranteed, Smith’s contract could prove useful in a trade.

If Smith would reduce his guarantee with a buyout, let him go. But Smith probably shouldn’t do that without a new job lined up.

So, the stalemate continues.

If everyone is happier apart, all the better. Smith wasn’t making a difference on the court for a team he correctly identified as tanking.