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Time for Indiana to relax, fix team’s flaws


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The final nail has been hammered on the Indiana Pacers’ weirdly unforgettable 2013-14 season.

I’m guessing it’s bent.

For the 38th time in 38 NBA seasons, the franchise fell short of the ultimate, the championship Indiana finally thought it had acquired the talent, veteran savvy and bench to obtain.

Miami is king of the Eastern Conference and, in other news, the sun will be rising in the east tomorrow.

In certain respects this season was a healthy stride backward, and not just because the Pacers squeezed six games from the conference finals and not the full seven like in 2013.

Roy Hibbert, steps back. George Hill, steps back. Larry Bird and Frank Vogel ... you know the drill.

This team flunked chemistry in a big way, the answer likely nothing more than a few whispers inside the Pacers locker room.

This guy doesn’t like that player, who thinks this other person passes too little and shoots the basketball way too much.

Whatever is wrong, pictures of Hibbert, Hill and Paul George posted on some social media site aren’t going to fix it.

“Big Roy caught a few bass? I’m really starting to feel better about this team.”

“Oh, look, the Georges are on a boat. And smiling. This means winning streak, baby.”

Indiana at this moment doesn’t have a first-round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft on June 26, the selection gone bye-bye thanks to the July trade that brought Luis Scola here from Phoenix.

No problem. Whoever might have been available with the 27th pick wasn’t going to provide the kind of front-court depth or experience Scola gives the Pacers.

This leaves Indiana with the 27th pick of Round 2 — or No. 57 overall. Based on that, they might as well just reactivate Vern Fleming. And he’s 52.

Next month’s Pacers Draft Party could be hosted by a downtown White Castle unless Bird finds himself in a position to do some wheeling and dealing.

Talented guard/forward Lance Stephenson headlines Indiana’s current crop of free agents, and I truly hope he’s back.

Stephenson and veteran forward David West — offspring of one of college basketball’s fiercest rivalries in Cincinnati-Xavier, respectively — bring the blue-collar to the saying so often silk-screened on those familiar gold T-shirts.

Indiana badly needs both Stephenson’s talent and fearlessness as it moves forward. Bird loves Stephenson’s grit, so it would be borderline stunning to see the two part ways.

Business being business, one never knows.

Meanwhile, Hibbert has become the world’s tallest question mark. He’s a two-time NBA All-Star who even at 7-foot-2 has concocted a disappearing act capable of stumping David Copperfield.

Bird has 29 opportunities to unload Hibbert in the weeks ahead. Surely there’s an NBA president or general manager willing to do business in order to get the big man.

The fact Indiana played no games in June this season stinks worse than the floor of George’s fishing boat.

In reality, though, the games are just beginning.

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the (Franklin) Daily Journal, a sister paper to The Tribune. Send comments to ddavis@tribtown.com.

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