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January 28, 2010
On the Beat
Pacers Thinking Playoffs?

by John Perrotto

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Jim Mora was coaching the Indianapolis Colts when he went on his infamous “PLAYOFFS???!!!” rant, the one immortalized on the Coors Light commercials that air during NFL games.

Somehow, you can’t help but think of Mora when you hear another Indianapolis team, the Pacers, talk about their potential post-season hopes this season. The Pacers in the PLAYOFFS???!!!. Well, even though they are 16-30, the Pacers believe they can end their three-year playoff drought.

Of course, the Pacers play in the Eastern Conference, where even the worst teams seem to stay in playoff contention. So, maybe anything is possible.

“We’ll go on a stretch where we lose two or three games then we’ll win two or three games,” forward Danny Granger said. “If we win three games and lose one or maybe two and keep going that way, we’ll build ourselves into the playoffs.”

Perhaps, but keep in mind the Pacers are seven games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and were demolished at home by the defending champion Lakers 118-96 on Wednesday night. Yet the Pacers still believe.

“We’ve got to stay consistent on both ends of the court,” guard Brandon Rush said. “On some nights, we play better on offense. Some nights, we’re better on defense but we have to be more consistent. That’s coming focused with the mindset that we have to play our type of game, getting up and down the floor and defending.”

The Pacers are also 6-18 away from home, not that their 10-12 mark at Conseco Fieldhouse is all that impressive.

“Winning on the road is going to be the key for this team,” guard Earl Watson said. “Our road record has been getting better but it’s not where it needs to be and you have to win on the road to get to the playoffs in addition to taking care of home.”

Rubio, Knicks Continue to Be Linked

There has been plenty of speculation that when Ricky Rubio eventually comes to the NBA from his native Spain he will begin his state-side career with the New York Knicks. The flashy guard reportedly wanted the Knicks to draft him in the first round last year and was so disappointed to drop to the Minnesota Timberwolves' fifth pick that the 19 year old signed a contract to stay in his homeland that will not allow him to come to the U.S. until at least 2011.

Many NBA insiders believe Rubio will force the Timberwolves’ hand after next season and tell them to either trade him to the Knicks or he will remain in Spain. However, Minnesota general manager David Kuhn says he did not draft Rubio with the intention of eventually dealing him and also does not see the Knicks as a potential trading partner.

“I mean no disrespect to the Knicks or (team president) Donnie Walsh but what kind of trade could they propose?” Kahn said. “I full expected Ricky Rubio to start his NBA career in a Minnesota Timberwolves uniform.”

It is starting to seem unlikely forward Amar’e Stoudemire will be wearing a Suns uniform for much longer as he been the subject of numerous trade rumors. The Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat have been linked to Stoudemire and he seems tired of hearing about the reports.

“I’m not discussing any trade talk,” Stoudemire told Phoenix reporters on Tuesday. “I’m keeping that between my agent and the front office. Those guys are good friends and they’ll figure it out.”

The Golden State Warriors are also willing to listen to offers for guard Monta Ellis, looking to sell high while he is having an outstanding season because they already have their long-term point guard in rookie Stephen Curry.

Dallas Masters One-Point Wins

The Dallas Mavericks tied an obscure NBA record Tuesday night with their 109-108 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. It marked their 10th consecutive one-point victory, matching the mark set by the St. Louis Hawks in 1959-60.

The question is: Does it really mean anything or is it just random luck? Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle believes it is a credit to his team.

“It says that we have guys that can keep cool in those situations,” Carlisle said. “You’ve got to be able to execute at both ends to be able to have that kind of a run. My hat’s off to them. I know this streak goes back now a couple of years. It’s unusual, but to have a successful season, you have to be able to win close games and we’ve had a lot of them. We’ve won our share. The fact that we’re experienced and have been here before certainly helps.”

Del Negro's Job Security Improving

Chicago Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro appeared on the verge of being fired at Christmastime. However, he job seems secure, at least for now, as four straight victories, all on the road, and eight wins in their last 10 games have enabled the Bulls to get back to .500 at 22-22.

One of Chicago's road victories came over the Spurs, 98-93 on Tuesday night at the AT&T Center, and was special for Del Negro. It enabled the Bulls to sweep the season series. Del Negro spent most of his playing career with the Spurs and considers coach Greg Popovich one of his mentors.

“We’re always talking, whether it’s on the phone or before or after the game,” Del Negro said. “Whenever you can get around experienced people that like, that have coached you and you believe in and have been so successful, you try to pick their brains as much as you can. I think it’s a smart thing to do and Pop’s been very generous of his time and support.”

John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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Banged Up (01/28)
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