NBA Team Profiles: Indiana Pacers

The NBA plays host to some of basketball’s greatest players, competing in some of the most talented professional teams in the sporting world. This makes it one of the most exciting sports out there for fans all over the world.

But no team record quite compares to that of the Indiana Pacers who have seen their fair share of tumultuous seasons during their time in the NBA.

The team was established in February 1967 as a member of the American Basketball Association (ABA). However, they moved to become a member of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1976 due to the ABA–NBA merger.

The Pacers currently compete in the NBA as part of the league’s Eastern Conference Central Division. You can check out NBA odds to stay up to date with their progress.

If you want to learn more about the team’s origins and how they’re currently fairing in the NBA, feel free to read on!

A Brief History

1967-1976: ABA

In early 1967, six investors including Indianapolis Star sports writer Bob Collins and sports agent Chuck Barnes combined efforts to purchase a franchise in the then-proposed ABA.

The team received its name from the state history of the state — specifically, the harness racing industry and Indianapolis 500’s pace cars — and had a moderately successful start.

Yet it was the introduction of standout player Bob Leonard during the second season that shook things up! The Pacers were quickly considered to be a dynasty after winning three titles in four years.

For their first seven years, the team played fairly well in their then-home stadium of the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum. However, in 1974, the Pacers moved to the Market Square Arena located in downtown Indianapolis. They remained here for over 25 years. 

They currently play all of their home games at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, located in downtown Indianapolis. 

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1976–1987: Initial NBA Struggles

The Pacers were one of only four teams from the ABA to join the NBA during the 1976 ABA–NBA merger. Unfortunately, they had a pretty rough start to the league after being slapped with a $3.2 million entry fee which set them back financially. 

Regardless, the Pacers completed their inaugural NBA season with a 36–46 record. Two key players, Don Buse and Billy Knight, also went on to represent the Pacers in the NBA All-Star game this season. 

Unfortunately, this was one of only a few prime points in the Pacers’ first decade in the NBA. During the remainder of this time, they only had two non-losing seasons and two appearances in the playoffs.

The 1980s

In 1980, the Pacers had the short end of the stick with one of the NBA’s most one-sided trades of all time. Here, they traded Alex English to the Denver Nuggets to bring George McGinnis back into the fold. This player contributed little to nothing during his two-year team return. 

This put the team into a very bad position and they went on to win their all-time worst record of 20–62 during the ‘82-83 season. 

After winning 22 games in 1984–85 and 26 in 1985–86, newly appointed head coach Jack Ramsay stepped in to turn things on their head. In the 1986-86 season, he immediately led the Pacers to their second NBA playoff appearance, and also secured a 41–41 record.

The 1990s – 2013

The 1990s

In the 1997–98 NBA season, former Boston Celtics legend and Indiana native Larry Bird was hired as head coach. He immediately led the team to a 19-game improvement compared to previous seasons, finishing with a score of 58–24 and with the 1970–71 ABA Pacers for a franchise record. 

In the lockout-shortened 1998–99 season, the Pacers were victorious in the Central Division with a 33–17 record. They defeated the Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks before they fell to the Knicks during a six-game Eastern Conference Finals.

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The Early 2000s

Despite injuries and the loss of Reggie Miller, the Pacers made the 2006 playoffs for the 14th time in just 15 years. However, the team would finish the 2006–07 season as one of the worst seasons in team history. 

They also started the 2010s off pretty shaky as they finished the 2010-11 season barely making it to the playoffs. 

Since then, the Pacers have had a pretty tumultuous performance with many head coaches and impressive players.

Rivalries

The NBA is well-known for having many inter-league rivalries. But there are a couple that stands out from the rest, whether because of their intensity or longevity. 

The Indiana Pacers have a couple of major rivalries that are both intense and long-lasting, spanning at least two decades in some circumstances. For example, the Indiana Pacers are known for their rivalries with the New York Knicks (the 1990s) and the Detroit Pistons (early 2000s).

A rivalry formed during the 2012 playoffs against Miami Heat which has continued to heat up ever since. 

How Are They Currently Performing?

Looking at recent stats (from the 2020-21 season specifically), it’s safe to say that the Indiana Pacers have been one of the league’s biggest underachievers. 

Under the guidance of then-head coach Nate Bjorkgren, the Pacers missed out on the 2021 playoffs for a second consecutive season, the first time this had occurred since 2007–10.

The team’s luck seemed to change for the better when Rick Carlisle was re-hired for a second stint with the Pacers for the 2021 season.

The Pacers ended the 2021-22 campaign with the fifth-worst record in the league. However, they managed to secure three new and extremely talented prospects during the 2022 draft which brings some hope to the flailing team.

With a strong coaching team and a great offense, the 2022-23 Pacers team look set to begin a new era.

Summary

Despite having a historically inconsistent performance, the Indiana Pacers should not be underestimated! The current roster of talent highlights many opportunities for the team to reclaim its reputation and begin to scale the league. With the help of head coach Carlisle, there is hope for more success in future seasons.

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