To Boo or Not to Boo
Why all the fuss about Peja's return? An AP story that ran on Yahoo! Sports, ESPN.com and other like-minded outlets, ponder what kind of reaction Peja's return will elicit from Pacer fans. Peja left in a sign and trade deal after just 40 games with the Pacers. He is a great scorer but with the Pacers attempt to use athletic, interchangeable players in an uptempo game, spending 13mil/yr on a shooter wouldn't have been smart. I will lament the lack of outside shooting from this team all year, but that doesn't alter my thinking that Peja was not the right player for the Pacers at that price. The additional emotional issue with Peja was that he was traded for the infamously loved or hated Ron Artest (I loved). So now there is nothing to show for Ron Ron's departure. That isn't Peja's fault and really, it is time to bury the ties to Ronnie. The salary room helped bring in several promising young players who won't be instant superstars but could likely grow into very productive players in the team concept. So save the boos, the end result may actually be something to cheer about.
Speaking of boos, some fans may save them for the home team, especially Stephen Jackson. The Indy Star has two stories today about the Pacers working to clean up their image and Jack's ability to win back fans. Just the kind of fluff pieces you love if you're the Pacers on opening night. They even track down a disgruntled, former season ticket holder, Jake Scott:
"I talk to a lot of people who are fans, and the majority, by far, aren't supporting (Jackson)," Scott said. "Even if they won, I'd have an empty feeling. I hope things turn around, but I don't envision it with those two guys (Tinsley and Jackson) on the roster."Sorry, Mr. Scott, but if the Pacers win, you'll be back. I know it, you know it and the supposed legion of fans you talked to who agree with you know it. Time and wins heal all wounds in professional sports. In fact, a guy like Jack can become a cult hero through redemption simply by playing well on the court and not being heard from off it. I mean really, Jack has only had two bad nights. Two! Granted, on the scale of bad night severity, both went well past "no one would believe it if there weren't witnesses" on the meter. The whole caveat in Jack's quest for on court redemption is the in court avoidance of jail time. Those two little nights I mentioned will force him to make a few in-season court appearances with jail time hanging in the balance, especially in Michigan. If he gets jail time, any accrued good will is destroyed and we're back to ground zero with the Pacers being left in a bad position. If he avoids jail time, full redemption is left up to Jack.
So, who gets the boos tonight? I wouldn't muster the energy to boo either, but my ticket for tonight's game in Row 1, Seat Lay-Z-Boy, Section Family Room so it will be hard to determine the actual fan response on TV. If anyone who goes to the game can report on their perception of the crowd response, I'd appreciate it.