The Pacers are reportedly open to rebuilding.
Pacers owner Herb Simon, via Bob Kravitz of The Athletic:
“I don’t want to see (a rebuild). If I don’t want to see it, the fans don’t want to see it. Why would we want to go through a rebuild when we can build on the go? That’s the talent. Donnie did it all the time. Larry did it. Kevin will do it. We can do it.”
“We’re not a franchise that’s going to dump (games) to get a better (draft) pick. We’re going to try to win every game. Sometimes, we’ll develop rookies who may cost us a game, but we’ll never go into a game to lose while I’m an owner. I don’t believe in that. Some teams do, but I don’t believe in that.
“If you remember, going back to Donnie (Walsh), we always built without tearing down. We built on the go, and we can do the same thing again. We can have a good team, and (the goal is to) get better rather than break it up. … As a fan, I don’t want to do that, and I don’t believe our fans deserve to see a team that’s purposely losing. … I don’t ever want to be accused of that.”
Simon will ultimately set the direction of the franchise. But this could be gamesmanship. Pacers president Kevin Pritchard can tell another team, “I really want to make this trade, but our owner is opposed to rebuilding. We have to really knock his socks off to get approval. Can you add a little more?”
Or Simon could mean exactly what he says.
Perhaps, word spread about Indiana shopping Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner and Caris LeVert and people incorrectly assumed that was a prelude to a full rebuild. But the Pacers could just intend to tinker on the fly. The current group might be untenable long-term.
Simon is right: Former Indiana executives Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird and even Pritchard have turned over rosters while keeping the team mostly competitive. The Pacers won with Reggie Miller then Jermaine O’Neale then Danny Granger then Paul George then Victor Oladipo then Domantas Sabonis as top player. None of those players was acquired with a draft pick higher than No. 10. Indiana not totally bottoming out is a feat.
But it’s difficult to pull off. Miss just slightly on a couple transactions, and the Pacers could stink – without the benefit of getting a jumpstart on a rebuild. Sabonis, Turner and LeVert could be traded for valuable draft picks now.
Indiana has really leaned into its mildly competitive identity the last several years, at least until the bottom fell out last season. Even then, the Pacers won a postseason game. They’re just 13-18 this season, but they’ve outscored their opposition. They could reasonably go any direction.
Simon sure sounds like he has chosen a path, though.