Basketball is without a doubt my favorite sport to play, and besides the last three or four years, it's also been my favorite sport to watch. But ever since the "Malice in the Palace" (which was a brawl - instigated by Ben Wallace - featuring the Indiana Pacers going into the crowd, leading to the suspension of our best three players for a large portion of the season) my team, the Indiana Pacers, have pretty much been dead.
Ron Artest officially went crazy, Jermaine O'Neal shifted into hypochondriac mode, Jamaal Tinsley decided that he loved guns, Stephen Jackson decided he loved dribbling out shot clocks and guns, and everyone else decided they would just be bad and/or crazy. To top that all off, my boy Reggie Miller (my favorite athlete of all time) retired, and all I had left were criminals and ball hogs.
I was not pleased.
However, over the same period, Larry Bird has been busy turning the roster over and filling it with good guys, starting with cornerstone Danny Granger. Now with a couple great scoring wings (Granger and Mike Dunleavy), two great point guards in TJ Ford and Jarrett Jack, two incredibly intriguing rookies (Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert), and the triple headed white centerbus (that's right, I just combined a mythical creature and a basketball position to describe Jeff Foster, Troy Murphy, and Rasho Nesterovic), I'm actually excited about the Pacers this year.
Not only are they good guys, but they actually play exciting ball and they play it the way it's supposed to be played. With lots of effort, with defensive pressure, with good spacing, with good shooting. It's like watching a basketball team again, and I love it.
Sure, we're still not perfect. Heck, we're not even over .500 now that Amare Stoudemire dropped 49 on us to carry the Suns tonight (wait - so an incredibly fast post can dominate four incredibly slow posts? You don't say?). But I don't care. I'm excited about our prospects, and I'm excited about basketball for the first time in a long time.
It feels so good to be back.