The Pacers were stuck in mediocrity. After a 121-169 record under Jim O'Brien and failing to make the playoffs in three straight seasons, Team President Larry Bird had seen enough.
At 17-27 halfway through this season, it was obvious the Pacers were sliding out of the playoff race once again. The team started off at a respectable 9-7 and appeared to be poised for a trip to the playoffs. But they are 8-20 since December 1, losing seven of their last eight.
Of course, the Pacers were not expected to keep pace with Miami, Boston, Chicago, Orlando, and Atlanta but they have enough talent to beat out the weaker teams in the East. The offseason acquisition of point guard Darren Collison combined with the development of center Roy Hibbert and all star play of Danny Granger should be worth more than a 17-27 record.
Offensively, the Pacers are terrible. They rank 24th offensively and their go-to play is to hoist up a three. Most of the offensive struggle began when O'Brien chose to criticize his young center through the media. Hibbert's lack of confidence was visible on the court as he tossed up careless hook shots. His field goal percentage has fell considerably and he has even discussed seeing a sports psychologist.
The Pacers were amongst the top five in the league in defensive efficiency much of the season but have slipped to eighth as O'Brien sat the team's only shot blocking threat, Hibbert, for long stretches of time. The awkward rotations were what did the coach in.
He failed to use Tyler Hansbrough, Paul George, and Lance Stephenson, instead opting to let shoot-first players like Brandon Rush get most of the minutes. In a recent game against Chicago he played big man Jeff Foster in the fourth quarter over the hot-shooting Josh McRoberts. He watched as a small Bulls lineup pulled away for a win.
Now that O'Brien is gone, it is Larry Bird's time to shine. He has not made the best personnel choices but he does find his team with significant cap space going into the offseason. For the first time without Donnie Walsh in his ear, Bird will have a chance to make a big splash.