According to some idiot at the Indianapolis Star, the Pacers are going to miss Austin Croshere's leadership. Even though its premise is completely insane, the article didn't come as any great shock to me. This is the kind of witless story that gets vomited up every time a team trades away a moderately productive veteran. It's basically a polite way of saying, "[Insert Name Here] didn't bring enough to the table to justify keeping him, but he accepted his role on the team and, as far as we know, he didn't rape or kill anybody."Sure, he sucked ass, but he's wasn't a criminal. You go Austin!To prove Croshere was a vital cog in the Pacers Machine, the writer basically went on a rant about how dysfunctional the rest of the team is. I really can't argue with that. Stephon Jackson is a thug who'd probably be robbing a 7-11 right now if he wasn't an NBA millionaire. David Harrison was bordine psychotic, until he finally crossed the border. And most of the other players are either perpetually injured or constantly sulking about their role on the team.But not Austin. He hit the lottery when he signed that long-term contract after the 2000 NBA Finals, and he knew it. Plus, since he'd fallen so far below expectations, nobody expected anything from him anymore. A huge contract and absolutely no responsibility -- hell, he was just happy to be there. And as it turned out, he was the only guy happy to be there. I guess that made him relevant somehow, but I'm still trying to figure out how exactly.
"He showed, though, that a guy doesn't have to put up major numbers or stick around 18 years to leave footprints. Croshere always was, and still is, one of the good guys. He wasn't the player the Pacers or the city hoped he would be, but he was always a pro's pro and a solid teammate, two of the elements today's team is sorely missing."And that's the sole defense of Austin and his 7-million-a-year contract: He was "one of the good guys." Give me a break. It's not like Austin was helping little old ladies across the street or rescuing kittens from burning buildings. He was gobbling up valuable cap room and providing precious little in actual basketball talent. To put this into perspective, last year Croshere made $4 million more than NBA Finals MVP Dwayne Wade, and only $2 million less than regular season MVP Steve Nash. But hey, you can't put a price on character, can you?But forget all of that. Fine. Austin was a cool guy. And sure, they really do need more people with his attitude on this "me-first" version of the Pacers. But do you know what else they need? How about some actual talent. The Pacers' roster looks like it would have trouble competing in the NBA Developmental League. The team is slow, undersized, and lacking in athleticism. The bench is thinner than Lindsey Lohan, and only two of the starters are proven scorers. Right now, on paper, they look like one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference.I'm not saying Croshere was the problem, but keeping him wasn't part of the answer. While he wasn't a locker room cancer, I think the "leadership" this writer was referring to was either non-existant or unrecognized. Nobody on that team was using Croshere as a model for how to play and behave. Do you think Jackson thinks to himself, "What would Austin do?" right before he punches a hooker? I highly doubt it. Austin is part of the Pacers' past, and it's a better past: 50 and 60-win seasons, major playoff runs, a trip to the NBA Finals. But that's all it is: the past. It's time for the team to move on and try to mold this crap into a bigger, better pile of feces. And, from that perspective, I'm glad to see him go.