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ESPN disses Pacers; 4th worst team in NBA

I found this a little hard to believe, and even harder to swallow.  ESPN Insider ranked all 30 teams in the NBA following a crazy offseason.  Given the praises critics have sung about the drafting of Paul George, Magnum Rolle and Lance Stephenson (before his most recent troubles) and the acquisitions of Darren Collison and James Posey for Troy Murphy, I expected the Pacers to be a team on the rise.

But instead, the Pacers were ranked 27th.  Twenty-seventh!

The only teams worse?  The Timberwolves, the Pistons and the Raptors.  Even the Nets, who finished with the worst record in the league last season, were ranked ahead.

This is what they had to say:

The more things change: The Pacers added a potential star in Darren Collison, who put up big numbers while filling in for Chris Paul last season in New Orleans. James Posey also came along in the trade that cost Indiana Troy Murphy, and he brings championship pedigree and leadership. For all their struggles on the court, the Pacers are beginning to manage their cap well and could be players in free agency next summer.

The more they stay the same: Second-round pick Lance Stephenson’s recent altercation with the mother of his child, in which he allegedly pushed her down a flight of stairs and slammed her head against a step, brings back despicable memories of the havoc wreaked by Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jamaal Tinsley a few years ago. Indiana, in an effort to win back its fan base, has brought in nothing but “good guys” the past few years, but diverted from that strategy in drafting Stephenson, whose troubled past is well-documented. They got burned for it.

So despite the great moves the Pacers made during the offseason, despite the fact that they finished 20th in the league last season, they have somehow slipped 7 places.  For what?  For Lance Stephenson, a guy who has not even played a single game in the NBA?  That simply doesn’t make sense to me.

In some ways, that could be a good thing.  The Pacers have been talking up their chances every year, only to disappoint.  If they start off with no expectations, then they can only impress.