The bottom hasn’t entirely fallen out in terms of the Indiana Pacers’ home attendance this year, but it may only be hanging on by a thread or two.
The season is a long way from over, so there’s plenty of time to right the ship. Of course that means there’s also plenty of time to take more water—lots more.
The Pacers and their fans could be looking at a completely different scenario than what they faced the last two years, and that has some in the team’s front office nervous with anticipation.
Instead of being in the midst of a playoff push the last quarter of this season—which tends to give late season attendance a boost—the Pacers could find themselves plunging toward the cellar of the NBA’s mediocre Eastern Conference. That scenario would certainly have a damaging impact on the Pacers in their fiscally conservative hometown.
Through 13 home games, the Pacers’ average home attendance stands at 15,913. That’s a long way from the talk coming out of the Pacers’ front office after last season, when team owner Herb Simon was pushing his sales team to go for 18,100 plus per game.
And who could blame Simon? Pacers sales boss, Todd Taylor, has proved his worth since coming over from Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers three years ago.
Attendance for the Pacers climbed from a league-worst 13,538 during the 2010-2011 season to 14,168 in 2011-2012, 15,269 in the 2012-2013 campaign, then up to 17,501 last year.
Coming off of last year’s push to the Eastern Conference finals, Taylor didn’t discount the possibility of selling out all or at least most of the Pacers’ 41 home games this season.
There was talk that with the break-up of the big three in Miami, Indiana could be the beast of the East. Of course, that was before starter Lance Stephenson was lost to free agency and star forward Paul George broke his leg.
With the Pacers decimated by injuries and George likely out for the season, Taylor has his biggest challenge in front of him since coming up from the Lone Star State.
After Monday’s victory over the pathetic L.A. Lakers—a victory which snapped an eight-game losing streak—the Pacers stand at 8-17.
Amazingly, they’re in 11th place in the East and only three games out of the eighth and final playoff spot.
But the Pacers’ recent stretch showed just how ugly it can get on the court. One or two more losing streaks like the one the team just endured, and fans could stay away in droves. History has demonstrated that fans here won’t pay to see a perennial loser.
For the Pacers, however, there is hope. Savvy season ticket sales by Taylor and his group while the Pacers were flying high the last two years has helped the team keep its eyeballs above water during this dreadful early season.
Now, some of the injured troops are coming back and it appears the team—even without George—could position itself to make a playoff push during the second half of this season.
That scenario would go a long way to healing some of the attendance wounds suffered so far. It would almost certainly stop the bleeding from getting worse. Because this town loves a scrappy underdog as much as it hates a perennial loser.