When banging out my most recent Sports Notes post, I overlooked one very important local story. Which may have been a good thing because there was another very important local story that broke yesterday. Looks like I better bust out an Indy edition Sports Notes post!
Pacers Make a Big Trade
Anyone who follows the NBA knew a James Harden trade was close last week, it was just a question of where he would end up: Brooklyn or Philadelphia. I was pulling for Brooklyn mostly to see Harden and Kyrie Irving try to coexist, but also to keep Harden the hell away from Joel Embiid.
I think I was as surprised as the rest of the world when the trade finally went down and the Indiana Pacers were involved.
After nearly two years of stress that never quite became full public drama or acrimony, the Pacers sent Victor Oladipo to Houston and in return received Caris LeVert and a second round pick from Brooklyn. Other than the Malice in the Palace, this might be the next biggest Pacers bomb to drop in my years here. After an offseason when there were reports that Oladipo desperately wanted out of Indy, it looked like he and the team had achieved an uneasy peace and they would be together until at least the All Star break.
Guess not. I will be fascinated to learn more about the mechanics of the trade, whether it was Kevin Pritchard inserting the Pacers into the deal or the Rockets looking for a replacement for Harden and reaching out to Indy knowing that Vic was unhappy.
At first glance it was a pretty brilliant move. LeVert has never played at Oladipo’s peak. But it also seemed doubtful that Vic would ever play at that level consistently again following his ruptured quad injury of two years ago. He was off to a decent start this year, but still lacked the explosion he had before the injury. It didn’t seem like Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon were great fits, either. LeVert is young, under team control for three years, seems to lack the ego issues of Oladipo, and looks poised to blossom into a really very good player. Likely not an All-NBA player, but a really solid cog on a team that has many other good parts.
News of the trade broke last Wednesday, but the NBA league kept putting off confirming the deal. Finally, Saturday, word came that the four-team deal was official (Cleveland was part of it as well). Moments later the Pacers announced that the deal had been delayed because a routine physical that is a part of every trade revealed that LeVert has a “mass” on one of his kidneys, and that he would be unavailable indefinitely.
That seems less than ideal.
There hasn’t been much clarification since Saturday. LeVert is with the team and has met the press, but did not share if the mass has been better identified or what the next steps are.
Obviously in a situation like this your first thoughts are with the player. You have to hope that this isn’t something life-threatening and it won’t affect his quality of life. If he plays again, that’s just a bonus. In his first press release LeVert noted that getting traded could have saved his life, which is a crazy footnote to one of the most consequential trades in recent NBA history.
So I guess the jury will remain out on the trade for awhile. Indy is one of the most difficult markets to build a team in. Kevin Pritchard was far from my favorite KU player. But seems like he’s been bold and creative in trying to keep the Pacers successful since he took over from Larry Bird.
It’s a shame that Victor was not happy here. As an Indiana alum and someone who blossomed from draft bust to All Star and All-NBA here in 2018, he seemed like the perfect guy to build around after Paul George whined his way out of town. But he had other ideas.
My phone kept dinging Wednesday morning with breaking news since it was Inauguration Day and there were a lot of things happening. But when the news that Philip Rivers was retiring came across while I was at the grocery store, I honestly think I let out a gasp.
Not that I wanted him to stay. My dislike for Rivers is well documented. I was like most people, though, who completely expected Rivers to return for the 2021 season.
Colts GM Chris Ballard told Rivers to take a month to make his decision. It took about a week. I wonder if that means the foot injury he fought all season was going to take more serious surgery and rehab than initially thought. Or maybe he was just ready.
I won’t give him much props for anything, but I do admire the athletes who can quit a year too soon rather than a year too late. Maybe he saw Drew Brees break 157 ribs this year and thought, “No thanks, that’s not for me.”
That leaves the Colts in a very interesting position. They have a young, talented, cheap roster. They can be aggressive in making a move.
There just aren’t that many blockbuster deals in the NFL for quarterbacks who don’t have deep flaws, though. Lots of names have been thrown about in the last 24 hours, and none of them wow me. Yet the Colts can also probably trot out any random, replacement level QB next fall and win enough games where they can’t slip into a top draft pick in the 2022 draft like they did when Peyton Manning got hurt and they were able to draft Andrew Luck.
And in the NFL, you can’t really press pause for a year. Windows open and close quickly. Let’s say someone like Trevor Lawrence was out there for the 2022 draft. And let’s say everything goes poorly enough next year that the Colts were in position to draft that player. You have to figure that guy needs at least a year to be ready to win in the NFL, more likely two. So you’re looking at a roster that is ready to win today being three years older, having faced three more years of injury chances, and being three years more expensive. That shit won’t work.
Seems like Ballard either has to do something huge to win now, or sacrifice some success in the short term to get a long term QB. Nothing about either option seems very appealing.
The dream scenario would be to somehow get Deshaun Watson. But Houston isn’t trading him within the AFC South, and multi-team trades don’t work in the NFL.
I see almost zero chance that Dak Prescott does not re-sign with the Cowboys.
That likely leaves convincing Detroit to part with Matthew Stafford as the best path if Ballard chases an established QB.
Ballard seems like kind of a high-strung guy. I imagine he’s not going to sleep very well for however long it takes to get the Colts a new quarterback. Hell, he may continue to sleep like shit after the position is filled, knowing the guy he gets isn’t the guy he needs.