Time to blow up both teams, start over

By Steve Hammer

There comes a time in relationships where both parties reluctantly agree that it's time to part, that staying together is much more detrimental to each other's health then breaking up.

This, I fear, is what has happened in the past few months with our two main sports franchises, the Indiana Pacers and the Indianapolis Colts. Both teams have had their moments in the spotlight, and their share of victories, but even the most partisan fan must now realize the time has come to start over.

With the Colts, it's something we could see coming. The team's most valuable player, Edgerrin James, the man who made Peyton Manning a Pro Bowl quarterback, has given up and moved to Arizona, where he'll provide the aging Kurt Warner with another option on offense.

The Colts, for some inexplicable reason, did not do what it would have taken to keep him. Other players are defecting in large numbers: Mike VanderJagt and David Thornton, among others.

Something needs to be done, but it shouldn't stop there. The Colts have a history almost unmatched in sports of folding under pressure, of winning all the meaningless games and then losing the big game.

Let's start at the top. Team guru Bill Polian needs to go, and go immediately. For every success he's had, three or four problems have arisen. He has a bad temper and his winning record is suspect. Can him.

Let's move next to the quarterback position. Manning has shown an ability to win the easy games and an inability to win the hard ones. He has an arm of gold, but this team needs to move on. Trade him for a No. 1 draft pick and get a quarterback who has more speed than a snail on downers.

With a new quarterback and a new running back, the Colts can move to more of a run and gun offense. A Michael Vick playing for the Colts could lead the team to the Super Bowl. With Manning, we're going to get nothing but heartbreak for the next 10-12 years.

There is ample precedent for such drastic moves. Other teams have dumped their expensive stars and started from scratch. The Colts would not be alone in their rebuilding plans. But anything other than drastic moves, like firing Polian and trading Manning, will just be a temporary fix.

Let's turn our attention next to the Pacers, who made the NBA Finals in 2000 and haven't been especially close to returning since. After the 2000 season, the Pacers' Donnie Walsh made drastic moves. Longtime fixture Dale Davis was traded to Portland for Jermaine O'Neal. Jalen Rose was traded for Brad Miller and Ron Artest. Within a year, the Pacers were an excitingly different basketball team.

It's time to redo the Pacers. The trade value of O'Neal has never been higher, and never will be, than it is right now. Ship him off to Minnesota for Kevin Garnett and Ricky Davis.

Or they could pull the trigger on the biggest trade of all and send O'Neal to the Kings in exchange for Brad Miller and Ron Artest, bringing the story full circle.

Then, take Austin Croshere. Please. Thank you for your long service to the Pacers, Austin, but please have your locker cleaned out by the end of the day. You are taking up valuable bench and salary cap space.

Stephen Jackson, you threw some great punches during the 2004 brawl, but those are really the last shots you hit. You will be happier in Toronto or Memphis or any other sucker team that will take you.

Jamaal Tinsley, it's a good thing your job gives you health insurance, otherwise you'd be bankrupt. Please go be injured on another team. I'm sure you are great during pickup games at Rucker Park, but you suck in the NBA. Even a slight breeze sprains or tears muscles in your body.

Anthony Johnson, you've played well, but you still look like Beetlejuice from the Howard Stern show. You are in the way and must go. Golden State, the Lakers, maybe even the Suns would like you on their team. Please choose one.

Get rid of all of those players and, not even considering what the team would get in return, the Pacers would be vastly improved.

In this scenario, the Pacers have a starting lineup of Sarunas Jasikevicius, Peja Stojakovic, Danny Granger, Jeff Foster and David Harrison. When the Pacers have been forced into this lineup, they've played like champions. More importantly, this could be the nucleus of a team that could be a title contender for six to 10 years.

Lastly, the position of head coach needs to be filled. Rick Carlisle was a good assistant coach. He helped rebuild the Pistons. But his tenure with the Pacers has been troubled from the start. He ran Ron Artest out of town and has destroyed the Pacers with his bizarre micromanagement of gameplay.

The exits of Artest and James compel the Pacers and Colts to look to the future. Neither team will be able to advance in any meaningful way until the teams are exploded and rebuilt.

Indiana fans will continue to suffer until that time.

Steve Hammer's Blog

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