A huge week ahead: Pacers close out the regular season, celebrating Slick and Tamika Catchings enters the Hall of Fame
There's something every night this week for basketball fans.
This unusual, roller coaster of a season is out of the final corner and headed down the main straightaway. There’s just one week left in the Pacers’ regular season, beginning Monday night in Cleveland.
There against the Cavs, they begin a final stretch of five games in seven days, including two pairs of back-to-backs. The final two games in their 72-game schedule are expected to be afternoon starts, Saturday against the Lakers and Sunday in Tampa, against the Raptors.
Three of the games are against contending teams so it’s unclear those teams will choose to close out the season — whether they value rest and take it easy or continue to play for seeding. At 47-21, the 76ers have the best record in the East and a three game lead in Brooklyn.
With a loss Saturday to the Wizards, who swept the season series, the Pacers (31-36) dropped to 10th in the conference standings — which is the final spot for the play-in tournament.
The Pacers’ vibe and positive energy has improved in the last two games, but this week of games could help shape what they look like next season. At least a few significant changes are likely — and that begins with a full evaluation of Nate Bjorkgren and the coaching staff.
And how about this for an interesting twist: Bjorkgren and the Pacers can eliminate his old boss, Nick Nurse and the Raptors, from play-in consideration with a win. The teams will square off in the final game of the regular season on May 16.
There’s something every night this week for fans of the Pacers and the organization, including the Hall of Fame enshrinement and celebrating the legend Slick Leonard. I’ve detailed all of that below.
Monday: at Cleveland, 7:30 p.m. ET
Tuesday: Philadelphia, 8:00 p.m. ET
Thursday: Milwaukee, 7:00 p.m. ET
Sunday: at Raptors (in Tampa)
One last party for Slick
It’s only right that there be a party to celebrate the life of Slick Leonard. He passed away in his sleep on April 13 and the family held a private ceremony and funeral in late April. Still, the Hall of Fame player, coach, broadcaster and seemingly friend to all will be remembered Wednesday evening at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
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It’s just too bad that attendance is being limited to 1,500. Just imagine filling up the place — more than 18,000 — to hear stories about his 88 years on Earth.
Slick, easily the franchise’s all-time winningest coach, used to require players stop by the bar at the coliseum or in the hotel lobby at road games before going on their own. You didn’t have to drink alcohol, but you had to be there. He valued relationships and time around others.
It’s why, no matter who you are or what you did, Slick made you feel welcome and like a friend.
The Pacers have been wearing his name on their jerseys for the final month of the season.
Mark Boyle, his radio partner and close friend, will serve as the Master of Ceremonies and you can expect plenty of tales to be shared, some in person and others pre-recorded. If you cannot make it, it will be streamed live.
Catchings enters the hall with a historic class
By mid-week, Tamika Catchings will head to Uncasville, Connecticut for enshrinement weekend as she enters the Naismith Memoriall Basketball Hall of Fame. The celebration and awards gala will held on Friday and the enshrinement ceremony is the following day at Mohegan Sun — where the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun play.
Due to COVID-19, it was postponed once and now will have a different feel. For instance, there will be no media present. But it will be available to watch live on TV and online.
Catchings retired following the 2016 season and her number, 24, was retired by the franchise. She will be presented by Alonzo Mourning and Dawn Staley.
This is one of the best Hall of Famer classes ever — featuring players you know by one name: Tamika, Kobe, Duncan, KG. Here’s the full list of the honorees.
Fever begin a new season
Just as the Pacers’ 2020-21 season nears completion, the Fever are just getting started. Their season tips off Friday against the Liberty at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It can be seen on NBA TV.
They beat the Chicago Sky Sunday by 17 points in their first preseason game and have one more, in Chicago on Tuesday.
Four of their first six games are at home, all at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Fever then play out the rest of their home schedule over at Indiana Farmers Coliseum while phase 2 of renovations continue at The Fieldhouse, focused on the main concourse and club level.
They have not reached the playoffs since Catchings retired in 2016.
One more thing: For readers in Indianapolis (or nearby), baseball is back as well. Opening night at Victory for Field for the Indians is on Tuesday After not having a season last year due to the pandemic, they play at home the next six days.