INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Pacers got back to basketball Wednesday.
Two days after their second-to-last regular season game had been canceled because of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, the Pacers returned home to face Philadelphia in their regular season finale.
It wasn’t business as usual.
Some drivers pulling into the underground lot beneath Bankers Life Fieldhouse were instructed to open their trunks. Others were forced to wait as security guards checked underneath the vehicles with a mirror and flashlight.
Inside the Pacers’ home arena, bags were checked more closely than usual and there were more security guards positioned around the arena. Even elevator operators were told to check identification tags and credentials more closely.
“There have been no threats, but what we wanted to do was upgrade the security to make sure our fans felt safe,” Pacers spokesman Greg Schenkel said.
The Pacers went so far as to bring in more bomb-sniffing dogs and replaced their outdoor trash cans with what Schenkel described as “explosive-resistant” receptacles.
But clearly, the bombing was still on the minds of Pacers players.
They were in Boston on Monday and went to the Red Sox game as a group. Afterward, some players went over to watch the Boston Marathon, but all had returned to the team hotel well before the two explosions near the finish line.
“It’s unfortunate, sad, you know, obviously, you’re a little shaken up being up there, you don’t know what’s going on, what’s next maybe, but you can’t let that consume you and that feel overtake you,” forward David West said before Wednesday’s game.
“Obviously, people that do things like that, that’s what they want — people to walk around scared and fearful and change how they live and you’ve just got go about your daily life. Like I said, there’s more good folks than there are bad people in this world.”
Players and coaches insisted they still felt safe, too.
But the impact in Indianapolis wasn’t just being felt by Pacers players.
At the Colts complex, the tragedy hit just as hard.
Former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri shook his head, still in disbelief at what happened and angry that children were victims, too.
“It just blows me away that there are people out there willing to do that,” he said.
New backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, a Boston College alum who also played high school ball up there, explained he went through a range of emotions, knowing friends and former teammates who attended or participated in the marathon.
One of those former teammates, ex-NFL offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi, was photographed carrying an injured woman.
Hasselbeck tried to focus on the positive, pointing out the heroic efforts made by first responders and citizens who gave up their clothing so they could be used as tourniquets.
“I was getting goose bumps when I heard what the Yankees did because growing up in that area, you get a little brainwashed thinking the Yankees are the enemy,” Hasselbeck said. “It was just touching even though it was a horribly tragic, evil act. So it’s hard not to get emotional about the good that came out of it.”
But after reporting to the Colts complex Monday, along with his teammates for the start of offseason workouts, Hasselbeck has spent most of his free time following the news.
“Unfortunately, it’s been completely on my mind. I’ve got some things to do this week, look for a house, look at schools, and I’ve just been glued to the TV and listening to the different stories coming out,” Hasselbeck said. “You know, I probably need to step away from it to be honest with you, but I don’t know if I can do that.”
Back at the arena, the site of new trash cans and more bomb-sniffing dogs didn’t keep many fans away. It also did not slow their arrival into the arena, which was aided by the 8 p.m. tip-off. Pacers games usually start at 7 p.m.
Instead, the changes only reassured the fans that they would be safe.
“I think maybe the security was heightened a bit, and I think maybe it will be everywhere,” said 43-year-old Randy Graham of Westfield, Ind.
“Unfortunately, any time something like this happens, there has to be heightened security, you kind of feel like the terrorist-type person wins. You know every time you take your shoes off at the airport, I always feel like a little bit is taken away from you.”
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