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By Lorenzo Tanos
As one of four ABA teams that eventually made it to the NBA after the former league's dissolution, the Indiana Pacers have had nine years to add to their legacy, nine mostly productive and successful years as one of the renegade league's better teams. Taking into account their combined 46 seasons in the NBA and ABA, we shall move on to the Indiana Pacers in this week's NBA Trivia, and some interesting facts on the team in both leagues.
1. True or False - Bob "Slick" Leonard was the Pacers' first coach ever.
False. Before Slick Leonard took over in the 1968-69 season, the Pacers were coached by former NBA journeyman power forward Larry Staverman. Staverman also served as the Kansas City Kings' coach in the 1977-78 season, and was the last player from Thomas More College (then Villa Madonna College) to play in the NBA before Rick Hughes had a brief stint with the Dallas Mavericks in the 1999-2000 season.Staverman's record in one ABA season (and seven games in the next) was 40-47.
2. In an era when professional athletes were still mostly clean-cut, short-haired and relatively "normal" in an increasingly liberal society, this Pacer earned comparisons to the NFL's Joe Namath in terms of his lifestyle off the court.
Bob Netolicky was a 6'9" power forward who spent most of his pro career with the Pacers, peaking in 1969-70 with averages of 20.6 ppg and 10.7 rpg. "Neto" was one of the better-shooting big men in the ABA during his time, and off the court he was known for his propensity for partying and living the "mod" lifestyle. Unfortunately, his career was all but done when the Pacers joined the NBA in 1976-77.
3. What was the Pacers' record in their first NBA season, and how did they compare to the three other ABA teams absorbed by the league?
36-46, and third behind the Denver Nuggets (50-32) and San Antonio Spurs (44-38). Only the New York Nets (22-60) had a worse record than the Pacers among ex-NBA teams joining the NBA in 1976-77. The '76-'77 Pacers were led by small forward Billy Knight (26.6 ppg), off-guard John Williamson (20.7 ppg in 30 games), Don Buse (8.0 ppg, 8.5 apg, 3.5 spg) and the most offensive-minded of the Jones brothers from Albany State, Wilbert Jones (13.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg).
4. Which Portland center did the Pacers acquire in 1981, thereby costing them the second overall pick in the iconic 1984 NBA Draft?
In hindsight, it seemed like a good idea at the time to trade for Tom Owens in 1981; despite a down season in 1980-81, Owens was just a few seasons removed from a productive run with the Blazers where he was one of the better-passing centers in the league and capable of scoring 20-plus points on most given nights. Unfortunately, Owens wasn't worth a future first-rounder, averaging just 10.5 ppg and 5.0 rpg as a part-time starter in 1981-82. He played his final NBA season in 1982-83, averaging 4.2 ppg and 3.8 rpg for the Detroit Pistons.
5. True or False – Reggie Miller was the Pacers' starting shooting guard in his rookie year of 1987-88.
False. "Miller Time" wasn't a huge draw for the Pacers in 1987-88, as many were expecting Indiana to go with the hometown boy, Steve Alford, as that season's top draft pick. Despite Miller averaging just a shade over 10 ppg as a rookie, he more than justified the Pacers' decision to select him, playing 18 seasons for the team in a Hall of Fame career.
6. Who did the Pacers upset in the 1994 Playoffs en route to their surprising run to the Eastern Conference Finals?
The fourth-seeded Orlando Magic, with Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway leading the way, were upset by the Pacers and swept in three games in the first round of the 1994 NBA Playoffs. The Pacers, who finished with a then-NBA record 47 wins, then upset the Atlanta Hawks in the conference semis, before losing to the New York Knicks in an exciting, yet low-scoring Eastern Conference Finals series.
7. What season did the Pacers break their NBA record for most wins in a year?
The 2003-04 season saw the Pacers win a franchise record 61 games, behind the play of Jermaine O'Neal, a 38-year-old Reggie Miller, and the player to be known in the 2010s as Metta World Peace. Per usual, defense was the key to the Pacers' record-breaking season, as the team allowed just 85.6 ppg (third in the league), more than good enough to make up for their measly 91.4 ppg.
8. What milestone did the Pacers achieve on November 9, 2010?
Thanks to coaches like Larry Brown and Rick Carlisle, the Pacers' forte in recent years was defense. Still, the team scored a franchise-best 54 points (on 20/21 field goal shooting) in the third quarter of a game against the Denver Nuggets on November 9, 2010; the final score was 144-113 in favor of the Pacers.
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