20130429-135523.jpgWell, crap.

Not exactly Faulkner, but at least it’s honest. I always preferred Vonnegut, anyway.

Even though this season lasted so much longer than it should have, the suddenness of its end left me feeling like a bird that flew into a window.

Clearly, it was there, but for some reason I didn’t want to see it coming.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we know these Indiana Pacers had no business pushing the Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Truth be told, their very presence in this series was a major surprise – and quite possibly an affront — to LeBron, D-Wade, Melo, KG and company. No-names, after all, aren’t supposed to beat one-names.

Yet there they were, all heart, muscle and bravado, staring down the Heat in Game 7.

They blinked.

So what?

The best player in the world was the best player on the floor in Game 7. LeBron James scored 32 points so easily, everybody thought Dwyane Wade was the star of the game. Wade tightened up his knee brace and had his biggest scoring game since April. The Heat blew it open against the reserves (believe me, we’ll be talking about that in more detail later) in the second quarter and cruised home to a 99-76 win that made everybody forget just how close the Big Three were to extinction.

Too many turnovers. Too few rebounds. Not nearly enough offense. No depth (again, I’ll be addressing this topic in full feather later in the week).

Of course, we are disappointed at the opportunity lost. Who didn’t want to see Roy Hibbert against Tim Duncan, or George Hill against Tony Parker in a couple of student-master matchups? Who didn’t want to see Lance Stephenson match elbows with Manu Ginobili? Who didn’t want to see two former ABA teams, finally, compete for the NBA championship?

Other than ABC, I mean.

But here’s the thing: this wasn’t a funeral, it was a birth.

These Pacers aren’t going anywhere but up, and they’re already in pretty thin air.

They have some things to do in the offseason, namely:

>> Re-sign David West;

>> Blow up the bench (not literally, although …) ;

>> Figure out if, and how, Danny Granger figures into the future plans;

>> Make sure Paul George and Roy Hibbert realize what they just did, and what they must continue to do.

As to the first point, the following postgame quote from West should be reassuring:

“That’s something I’ll sit down and discuss but this is my group,” he said. “These are my guys. I can’t see myself going anywhere else. We’re the second-best team in the Eastern Conference, one of the top four teams in the league in my estimation based on this year. This group is a solid group, gives me as an individual the best chance to accomplish the goals I have left in terms of my future, and that’s competing at this stage of the game every single year from here on out.”

So he’s now going anywhere, which is nice.

About the bench, well, that is tied into the Granger situation. Let us take the optimistic view and assume the surgery took and he will be back to something close to his old self next year.

Look, I love the progress Lance Stephenson made as much as the next person, but 85 percent of Danny Granger belongs in the starting lineup, and 100 percent of Stephenson is a big boost for the bench. In and of itself, the problem is not solved, but a big step is taken.

As for George and Hibbert, no worries there.

The beauty of those guys is they know.

Here’s what PG told Brooke Olzendam (who, by the way, conducts one hell of a postgame interview), when she asked about his offseason plans:

“A lot of conditioning, working on my body and preparing to be the No. 1 guy — being a floor general, making sure my teammates can depend on me, being clutch. And really being a confident player.”

As for Roy, well, The Big Monocle did a nice job summarizing why we should all feel much, much more good than bad:

“We’ve gone through a lot. With Danny being out, David, Paul and George really stepped up and we won a lot of games. People grew, they matured, and we finished strong towards the end of the season and we had one heck of a run. It’s unfortunate we lost but I couldn’t be more proud of this team. We pushed each other in practice each day, we tried to get better with every possession in the games. The future’s bright.”

I’m already squinting.


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