Despite tepid fan response to draft, Pacers hope to sell ‘team’

The NBA is a star-driven league these days.

Guys like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant sell tickets and push jerseys out of the pro shops.

Unfortunately, the Indiana Pacers don’t have a star of that caliber to sell. What it does have is a club that plays team ball.

Donnie Walsh, the Pacers new president of basketball operations, smartly pointed that out at his introductory press conference Wednesday.

You have to admire that about Walsh. Not five minutes on the job and he’s already in selling mode. I’m sure Pacers owner Herb Simon appreciates that about the business-minded Walsh.

“My biggest excitement is over the team,” Walsh said at Wednesday’s press conference. “What you have here now is a true team…all five guys working together. To me, that’s the best basketball you can put out there. I can say with confidence people in Indiana appreciate that. [This team] is really worth coming to see play.”

Local media members covering the press conference zoomed in on the moment. Job done for Walsh. At least for now.

There’s one problem with an NBA franchise that stresses team ball. When they draft a piece of the puzzle, it doesn’t always look pretty when you consider it apart from the team. So when the Pacers drafted Duke’s Miles Plumlee with the No. 26 pick, there wasn’t exactly overwhelming joy among the fans of the blue and gold.

Pacers fans could argue all day how well Plumlee fits in with the current Pacers team. But remember, Larry Bird, as his last act as Pacers basketball operations chief, was guiding the team’s front office during Thursday night’s draft. Given the job he's done in putting together last year’s team, Bird certainly has earned the benefit of the doubt.

Now Walsh has to hope Pacers Coach Frank Vogel can plug Plumlee into the team the way Bird thinks he can.

And the Pacers ticket sales staff has to hold fast to the hope that Pacers fans agree with Walsh that this “team” is “the best basketball you can put out there.”

Walsh said "with confidence" that people in Indiana will appreciate the type of team the Pacers are fielding.

Next season, we'll see if Pacers fans reward Walsh for his confidence in them.

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