Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Larry and Carlisle Remember Red

The NBA lost an icon of excellence in the passing of Red Auerbach. Coming of age on the west coast in the '80s any NBA fan either liked the Lakers or the Celtics. I was firmly entrenched in the Celtics camp and despite losing the the title quantity battle, the quality of the 1986 Celtics title team made it all worthwhile. The enjoyment that one team provided far outweighed anything Lakers' fans could've felt. Yes, I'm biased but the make up of that team, brought together under the guidance of Auerbach will never be equaled. Larry Joe Legend was the centerpiece of those '80s Celtics team and has felt Red's influence since his junior year at Indiana State. Here is an Indy Star story with great quotes from LJL and Rick Carlisle on the passing of their mentor.
Carlisle on Red:
"Whenever he came by my locker and dropped some ashes at my feet and made a couple of criticisms, I always held my breath," Carlisle said. "And when he reminded me of something good I did in the game, you could live on that for a month."
Larry Joe Legend remembers Red as he'd love to be remembered:

Bird saw that side (competitive) of Auerbach first-hand, when they played tennis or raquet ball.

"He always seemed to cheat me," Bird said, laughing. "We used to play all the time. He used to take them timeouts and come back and say, 'OK, I'm up 40-30.' You'd argue a little bit and then keep playing. When he got ahead he'd quit and walk off the court and go on to something else."

Happy Opening Night!

Well, Cornrows has made it through the rookie preseason in far better shape than anticipated, so bring on the regular season. Win or lose, the Pacers always seem to generate plenty of material so I'm ready for the long haul. Heading into my fourth week as proprietor of Cornrows I've been encouraged by the response and traffic. With help from the likes of Deadspin and The Basketball Jones, many more people have reached this site than I ever imagined at this point. I have no idea what is going to happen with the '06-'07 Pacers, but I do know I'll have it covered. Enjoy the start of the NBA season!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Tough Cut Day

The Pacers released John Edwards today, as expected. Surprisingly, they also released 2nd round draft pick, James White.

This was a tough cut but it had to be done. James White doesn't have the game that Rawle Marshall does, plain and simple. Despite White being draft this year, these players are the same age, so while White certainly should develop into a player that sticks in the NBA he's not ready now. I give the Pacers credit for cutting their losses (although the two 2nd round picks they gave up to get White sure sting) and moving on with what is best for the team. I'd be shocked if we didn't hear from James White again, at a minimum as a slam dunk contestant.

The impact of the Pacers' roster deadline moves carry far more weight than normal this year. Gone from last year's team are Peja Stojakovic, Anthony Johnson, Austin Croshere, Fred Jones, Scot Pollard, Eddie Gill, Jonathan Bender. With the exception of Bender and Gill, the other plays saw significant playing time when healthy. Looking at the roster additions, Peja's minutes would go to Al Harrington, AJ's to Darrell Armstrong. But the remaining time is still up for grabs.

From the group of Greene, Marshall, and Powell at least one big time contributor could emerge, the likes of which haven't been seen here since Antonio Davis joined the Pacers and immediately shored up the front court.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Indy Star Preview

Today's Indy Star has a full blown Pacers section anticipating opening night this week. I must say, I'm in lockstep (at least on this issue) with Bob Kravitz's feelings on the upcoming season.

With this, the regular season is officially set to tip off.

Season Preview: Realistic Scenario

After offering my best case and worst case scenarios for this season, it's time to look toward opening night with a realistic look at this Pacers team.

The Pacers have plenty of talent to win NBA regular season games and maybe a few playoff games. But winning a playoff series or advancing deep into the playoffs? Well, this current team will have a hard time making the playoffs let alone going on a run deep into May. While the talent level is there for the Pacers, toughness, poise, and consistency are ingredients separating the wannabes from the contenders. JO and Al do a lot of talking about adding those elements to the team but I remain skeptical until it shows on the court.Keys to the season
JO and Al
The time is now for JO and Al. They have a chance to work together and lead the Pacers to a great season. This is considered JO's team but he can't shoulder the burden himself and should be happy to incorporate his running partner into a leadership role. These two need to lead the way in scoring and rebounding while remaining cool when adversity strikes or the game pressure rises (see Dwayne Wade). We know Al is excitable and JO has been combustible when faced with a bad call or chippy play. Mixing in a little maturity with their games can take this team to a different level.
JO and Tins
Over the past two seasons JO and Tins have missed a 69 and 82 games respectively (and Tinsley missed another 30 in 03-04). If the Pacers don't get 75 games a piece out of these guys you can forget the playoffs. The new emphasis on an uptempo offense requires Tinsley to handle the ball and set up teammates for easy buckets. All indications out of the preseason show a healthy and happy JT ready to roll for the regular season. The Pacers have nice role player depth this year but it is much younger than last year. Losing JT and/or JO for an extended amount of games will crush any hopes for a successful season.
Club Rio Trio
Jack, 'Quis, and Tins received plenty of attention for their off-court activity at the start of training camp, but once the regular season starts the Pacers need to hear about their on court activity. As mentioned above, Tins has to stay healthy and do what he does best with the rock in his hand. Jack need to be a pro, which means shooting the ball and defending without wasting energy arguing with the refs, teammates, or fans. Daniels is a wild card since he's a new face and his role has yet to be clearly defined. One thing that is known is he can play the 1, 2, or 3 as the situation dictates. If he can play this role productively he really gives the Pacers some flexibility in matching up with the opposition.
The new faces and youth will make consistency a hard obstacle to get past early in the season. It is already apparent that turnovers will be a good indicator of how the team is playing. They will win most nights if they can keep the TOs under 15. With 13 of the first 19 on the road, a 10-10 record at the quarter pole would actually be a nice start. I'm sure it wouldn't excite the fanbase but it would be a good building block for the rest of the year. After 20 games all of the excuses of adjusting to the new faces will no longer be valid and it will be time to put all of those positive words from JO and Al into action. If they can play with some consistency then finishing the remaining 62 games over .500 should be an attainable goal.

Do I believe half the stuff I just wrote? I'm trying. I know one thing, this team is fragile and will need to see some growth in the games of several players to be a factor in the Central Division. I'm an optimist so I believe they can do it, but I'm also a realist and I don't see any way to avoid inconsistency over the long haul with this group. I'd consider 43-39 and a 5 seed in the East a solid season from this team with a chance to win a playoff series and build on the foundation for next year.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Season Preview Roundup

NBA.com has a nice preview of the Pacers. No predictions except to say if the Pacers play well no one will want to see them in the playoffs.

ESPN.com previews the Pacers has a panel preview of "Team Turmoil" in the Daily Dime. Consensus amongst the panel is 4th in the division and a 7 seed for the playoffs. Includes J.E. Skeets from The Basketball Jones almost begging for a Pacers tat.

Steve Kerr with Yahoo! Sports picks the Pacers 4th in the division.

Here's Five Tiny Tidbits on the Pacers from Deadspin. Always entertaining.

Not much hope from The Heckler.

The Indy Star's Mark Montieth previews the Pacers for Sporting News.

Why play the season? Seems like everyone likes the Pacers to be .500 give or take a couple of games, finish 4th in the Central, and get bounced early as a 6-8 seed in the playoffs.

Preseason Game 8 vs. Utah Jazz

The preseason ended last night for the Pacers with a 122-96 loss to Utah. Actually the preseason ended in the first quarter when the Jazz threw 40 on the board. The scary part is that Carlisle played what will be the regular season rotation for a majority of the game. Not quite ready for prime time. Oh, well, at least they have a few days to prepare for the real games to begin.

I hate to keep harping on turnovers but another 30 TOs last night can't slide by without mention. Jasikevicius led the way with 8 to go along with zero assists and 7 points. His erratic to poor play must be mental on some level right now. Can't see him playing much if this carries over to the regular season.

On the plus side, Al and Jack had nice shooting nights tossing in 24 and 19 points, respectively. Nice effort, Jack. Keep quietly working your way back into the good graces of Pacer fans.

Mike Wells has a nice little wrap up on the preseason here. According to Coach Carlisle, "There's a lot that's still a mystery." Hopefully that mystery is solved before Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Unlikely MVP for Pacers

Everyone is overlooking a key player for the Pacers this year. He never misses a shot, turns the ball over, or demands touches. He does no harm to the salary cap and in fact doesn't even need to be on the 15 man roster. Ladies and Gentlemen, your Indiana Pacers 2006-07 MVP: Raymel Mattox!!!

Let's face it, love 'em or hate 'em, Stephen Jackson, Jamaal Tinsley, and Marquis Daniels (aka the Club Rio Trio) need to make big contributions to this Pacers team if they plan on making the playoffs this year. Jack took a lot of heat for his role in the melee, but Raymel stepped up and absorbed the blame for setting off the fight and owning a baggie of weed in Tinsley's car. Remember, the prosecutor was ready to order DNA tests to determine who to charge for the pot. As if he was taking a charge from Shaq on the break, Raymel stepped up and said "It's mine." Mattox, one of Tinsley's boys from Brooklyn, was back in town to surrender to authorities and face misdemeanor charges of battery, disorderly conduct and possession of marijuana. Thanks, Ray Ray!

Also noted in this report, after meeting with the Club Rio Trio, David Stern recommends NBA players leave their guns at home. Good luck with that one, Commish.

Blue and Gold Makes Greene (Part of the Team)

Orien Greene is safe from release after being placed on the inactive list while his broken finger heals. With John Edwards earmarked for release or trade, the final spot on the 15 man roster will probably go to Josh Powell. Rawle Marshall's minutes have diminished in the past couple of preseason games, so it looks like the Pacers were giving him plenty of minutes in the first few games to drum up some trade value or at least give him a chance to showcase his ability for other teams. If the Pacers don't find a way to keep Marshall, he'll be an interesting player to follow because he will get a chance in the league soon.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Preseason Game 7 vs. Charlotte Bobcats

The Pacers dropped one to Bob's Cats last night in Columbia, SC, 101-89. Look no further than the 30 turnovers by the blue and gold to find what triggered this loss. The alarming number of turnovers continues to be a glaring issue with only one more preseason game to straighten things out. Hard to blame it on scrambled line ups and new guys not meshing when the starters accounted for 19 of the TOs. Yeesh!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Club Rio Trio go to New York

Here is the rest of the story on Jack, Tins, and Daniels taking a detour through the league office on their way down to Columbia, SC. From the story:
"They just wanted to talk to us about the situation," said Jackson, who faces felony charges as a result of the events that occurred outside Club Rio at 3 a.m.
"They talked to us about guns and what we can do with them. We had our license, so there wasn't too much they could say to us."

Uh, "No comment" seems like a better answer to me, Jack.

Pacer News of the Day

Mark Montieth joins me in anticipating a Pippen-esque breakout from Granger. I'll assume Montieth sent this article to the editors before I posted my best case scenrio.

Also, intersting tidbit in the Injury Update section.
Stephen Jackson, Jamaal Tinsley and Marquis Daniels were excused from practice for personal reasons. All three were expected to meet the team in South Carolina later Monday.
Daniels, Jack and Tins missing practice for personal reasons. Hmmm, the Club Rio trio all have a personal reason causing them to miss practice yesterday and travel separately from the team. Coincidence?

Speaking of Tins, the daily digest tells us Jamaal has been all smiles this preseason. His offseason conditioning has him ready for the 82 game grind (haven't I heard this story before, a couple of times?) and he's happy to control the ball for the new uptempo offense.

JO is working toward at least a little PT tonight since he'll be home in Columbia, SC with lots of family and friends in the stands. Bruno also thinks Marquis Daniels will make his preseason debut tonight against Bob's Cats.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Season Preview: Best Case Scenario

Larry Bird locks Jamaal Tinsely in the film room forcing him to watch Braveheart, Hoosiers, Miracle, and Rudy on a continuous loop for 24 hours. Tins emerges with fire in his eyes and ends up playing 82 games without any complaints about nagging injuries. He leads the league in assists, running the show as JO and Al mesh in the front court driving opposing teams crazy with their inside/outside game.

Danny Granger's game evolves into a reincarnation of a mid-90s Scottie Pippen. He shuts down other team's number one option, whether that be a guard or power forward, then runs the floor and pours in points as they fall to him in the flow of the game.

David Harrison show signs of maturity and confidence while beginning to dominate other big men in the East that don't play in Miami. His play allows Carlisle to mix and match player rotations to counter anything opposing teams throw at him.

Sarunas Jasikevicius has Maccabi Tel Aviv flashbacks while running the second unit with his old teammate Maceo Baston. His assist to turnover ration jumps to 3 to 1 while draining 48 percent of his shot from behind the arc. He becomes an indispensable role player and late game shooting threat.

Stephen Jackson is T-boned while driving to the Fieldhouse for the last practice prior to the regular season causing him to miss the start of practice. It will be his last transgression of team rules for the rest of the year. The man who drove into Jack turns out to be a local minister who convinces Jack that the wreck was no accident, but that God brought them together for a reason. After surviving another brush with death unscathed, Jack is overwhelmed by the preacher's words and begins bi-weekly bible study sessions. A God-fearing Jack has no trepidations about taking it to the rack, so instead of settling for outside shots his scoring increases with easy buckets and trips to the charity stripe. Fitting in nicely with Al and JO, Jack wins over fans game after game with his scoring and defensive effort.

After surprising every media expert by winning the Central with a 62-20 record, the #2 seeded Pacers beat the Heat in 6 to earn a birth in the NBA Finals. Since this is the best case scenario, you know the Pacers go on to pound the Phoenix Suns in 5 games to capture their first NBA championship.

It could happen...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Season Preview: Worst Case Scenario

With the season a little over a week away I thought I'd preview my expecations for the season. The Pacers past couple of season have been so crazy it is hard to consider previewing this team without accounting for possible external forces playing a part. So, in that spirit I will offer my worst and best case scenarios for this season before offering a realistic scenario.

So, here is the worst case scenario for 2006-07:

Jermaine O'Neal's Achilles heel flares up and never fully heals not allowing him to play more than two games in a row. His minutes are down as is his production. The irony of the situation is that the Pacers' Achilles heel is a lack of production from JO.

Al Harrington's back continues to bother him causing a handful of missed games prior to New Years Day. Suddenly the terms "disc" and "degenerative" begin showing up in reports on Al. Meanwhile he's playing but only producing sporadically. Around the All-Star Break Al goes in for some work on his back and ends up modeling a stellar collection of suits on the bench for the remainder of the year.

Jamaal Tinsley goes through the first two months of the year on the bench in street clothes. His injury is hard to decipher, but he has either a leg or an arm bruise. The source of the bruise is not revealed but he reportedly is not comfortable playing with the bruise. He tries to play in January but just can't get back to 100% so he shuts it down for the season.

Finally, after Stephen Jackson skates through the legal system in January with no jail time, Fingers is not satisfied with the legal results from the Club Rio incident. Embarrassed that continual reports of the incident involve him getting beat down in the parking lot, Fingers has Aunt Valerie drive him and a few of his recently sprung former cell mates over to Conseco. As the players are exiting the practice facility, Fingers aims to maim Jack's shooting arm but instead catches his left shoulder. With stray bullets ricocheting off the walls, Danny Granger absorbs a shot to the knee. Jack pulls his 9mm out of his practice shorts and fires a few rounds through the roof sending Fingers and posse running to Aunt Valerie's car. No one else is hurt but Jack and Granger are done for the year.

With half of the year remaining and the starting five no longer available, the remaining young Pacers show lots of promise but not many wins. The Pacers miss the playoffs with a 35-46 record which is a pretty impressive number of wins considering the circumstances of the season. Of course, this leaves the team with a minimal chance to win the draft lottery and with it the rights to draft Greg Oden.

Preseason Game 6 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Shawne Williams had his best rooking outing, making plays down the stretch to help the Pacers put away the T'Wolves, 98-91. Stephen Jackson and Danny Granger had great shooting nights giving a boost to the offense.

Positive stat: Pacers won the battle of the boards 46-33, with only 7 of Minnesotas rebounds giving them a second chance on the offensive end.
Negative stat: 21 turnovers wiped out the 21 assists. Backup point guard Saras had four turnovers to match his point total. Also, JO still nursing his hamstring, did not play.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Snap and Lampley are the First Two Released

No surprise here. Assuming John Edwards is next, all of the intrigue revolves around the final spot. I've been schooled in the D-league assignment rules and learned that Shawne Williams would still need to be one of the 15 active or inactive players to go down. So now we're down to one tough cut. If they really want to keep Orien Greene they have to make some kind of deal with a veteran like Jeff Foster or Saras. Should be interesting.

JO Handed a W in Detroit

A federal jury in Detroit ruled against Chucky Haddad's cash grab, ending the Palace Brawl legal saga for JO. I guess what happens in Vegas didn't stay in Vegas for Chucky.
The jury also heard testimony that Haddad had gone on gambling trips to Las Vegas in the months he took off work to supposedly deal with the migraines, depression and aversion to bright light and noise.
Bright lights and noise...in Vegas? Nah. Even more reason why the judge should've listened to my suggestion.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Preseason Game 5 vs. Charlotte Bobcats

The Pacers had their best outing of the preseason tonight beating Bob's Cats, 109-96. Al led the way, scoring 25 with a nice array of interior moves. The team had a 3-1 assist/turnover ratio which is an incredible improvement. That improvement was due to a solid outing by Jamaal Tinsley. JO and Granger sat out tending to their injuries but the newcomers filled in nicely.

In fact, the big story from this game is the play of Rawle Marshall and Josh Powell. These guys must be on this roster. John Edwards, Snap Hunter, and Sean Lampley are earmarked for release but that leaves one more. With underperforming players like Saras supposedly protected, the numbers game always points to Powell, Marshall, and Orien Greene. Desparate times may necessitate Shawne Williams going to the D-league until another spot opens up.

Bleg for MySpace Knowledge

MySpace.com stories always leave me scratching my head. Why anyone would want to expose their private life to others with a legit myspace site is beyond me. Especially young athletes who know everything they do and say may be held up for scrutiny. Now putting up a faux myspace site to bust on friends and foes alike, I completely understand. After seeing this line in the Pacers Notebook I need some help:
Stephon Marbury, Mike Bibby and Baron Davis called. Former teammate Ron Artest tried to call and later left a message on Jackson's MySpace Web site page. Cleveland coach Mike Brown, who worked with Jackson in San Antonio and Indianapolis, also sent regards, as did the Spurs organization.

I need to see Jack's MySpace page and Ronnie's message. Are there security levels? I found one supposedly set up for Rams RB Steven Jackson. It seemed far too lame to be a joke site, but again why? Can anyone help me locate Jack's MySpace page?

Preseason Game 4 vs. Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets (or No-guts, as my Colorado friend refers to them) pulled away from the Pacers in the 4th quarter for a 114-102 win. For more on the game played in Cincy, check out Mark Montieth's version of events since he actually saw the game. Highlights from the story and box score:

  • JO (hamstring) and Danny Granger (fell on hip) both left the game with injuries though neither is considered severe. JT sat out recovering from the shot to the mouth he took during Monday's game. He should return before Christmas.
  • Marshall and Powell continued to make strong claims for a roster spot. There still may only be room for one of them.
  • Saras was 2-4 from 3-ball territory. Keep firing Runi! That stroke has to come back sooner or later.
  • Good stat: Rebounds favor Pacers (Ind 45, Den 39)
  • Bad stat: Turnovers by Pacers = 27

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Zeke Speaks Up

Looks like former Pacers coach Isiah Thomas is fighting for some cover time on the New York Post and Daily News tomorrow with comments in this story by Marty Burns. He destroys Greg Anthony for his criticism on draft night after Zeke took Renaldo Balkman with the 20th pick in the first round. Balkman has made a good first impression with the skeptical MSG crowd and Zeke apparently has a few barrels full of 'how ya like me now?' stored up so he poured out a little today while talking about the Knicks game last night.

Of course, Anthony was one of a chorus of thousands panning the pick of Balkman. Looking back on the draft, though, it may not have been such a reach after all. Of the next nine picks after Balkman was taken, eight were guards and one was a center in a power forward's body (Josh Boone). The Knicks have plenty of guards, none of whom care much for sharing PT (or the rock for that matter). Continuing down the board there really aren't any compelling picks, considering you're not in the market for a guard, that make you wonder how the Knicks could've taken Balkman when they did.

Zeke has been taking shots from all over each of the five burroughs for a couple of years, so it is no surprise to see this visceral reaction at the first glimmer of hope. If Balkman becomes a high energy, role player and the Knicks start winning out of the gate, get ready for a whole lotta Zeke. At least on the topic of Balkman, he may be right.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Preseason Game 3 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Pacers dropped this one to the T'Wolves, 103-87. No TV coverage of the game so I can only make assumptions based on following the box score. The minutes were spread out among all of the healthy bodies. Rawle Marshall had a nice shooting night going for 17 pts on 4-5FGs and 9-10FTs. The Pacers brought down their turnovers with 19 against 17 assists. Certainly a tolerable ratio for when 14 players see the floor.

On the negative side of the ledger, the T'Wolves out rebounded the Pacers 46-37. Al Harrington sat out with a sore back but I'm not sure that would've made a big difference. The most glaring negative is the continued lack of any outside shooting whatsoever. I've been pretty hard on Saras but I'll give him a pass for this game. Not because he actually hit a 3-ball but because he only played 13 minutes. 2-6 from the floor (1-3 from three) aren't the numbers of a dead-eye shooter, but again, I'll save the venom for another time.

I noticed Vin Baker logged a DNP-CD tonight for the T'Wolves. Vinny, it is over. The guy is making a Mutombo-esque cash grab by still trying to secure an NBA roster spot.

Preseason Box Score Nuggets

After many years managing NBA fantasy teams, I always love perusing the preseason box scores to see how rookies and players who have swapped teams are playing. This info isn't a strong indicator of regular season production, especially for rookies, since more preseason minutes are given to new players to help them adjust. But, consistent good numbers and minutes can alert you to a strong late round pick for your fantasy roster.

Plus, odd things happen in the preseason which can skew the numbers. The Sonics and Bulls played at Phog Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, KS to a sold out crowd who came to pay homage to former Jayhawk stars, Kirk Heinrich and Nick Collison. I looked at the NBA page on Yahoo! Sports at lunch today and saw a Bobcats-Wizards box score in progress. What? Yes, the Bobcats hosted a full house of school children and to accommodate the schools the game tipped off at 10:00AM. Needless to say, Gilbert Arenas didn't play. Those all night online poker games don't fit well with a 10AM tip.

OK, on to the nuggets from the past few days.
  • Charlie Villanueva and TJ Ford have swapped teams and seem to be fitting in nicely. The Raptors sure gave up on Villanueva in a hurry. His rookie production was solid and they went ahead and drafted a guy at his position and moved him to Milwaukee. I wonder if there were any other issues that made this move occur. Ford is a solid PG for any fantasy team, although he lacks 3-ball production.
  • Rookie Marcus Williams followed up a nice opener against the Pacers with a 16pt, 4reb, 9asst game against the Raptors. He'll probably get minutes since he can play with Kidd or without meaning less wear and tear on Kidd in the regular season. Nice backup plan guy. If only the Pacers could get a "do over" for the draft.
  • Ronny Turiaf is a nice story, getting decent minutes and filling the stat sheet for the Lakers. He'll interject energy and hustle coming off the bench. Not a fantasy guy, but a good story after recovering from heart surgery last year.
  • Rudy Gay is the early favorite for most productive rookie. He had first overall talent coming out of college but was somewhat of an enigma at UConn. Heart and effort questions hurt his draft status, but maybe the college game just wasn't right for his game. Looks like the NBA is a better fit.
  • Artest opened the preseason by playing 30 minutes. Classic Ron-Ron. I'm sure no one wanted to tell him to come out of the game so he subbed himself when he was tired.
  • Golden State has only played one game but after putting up 121 points in that game, let me formally welcome Nellie back to the sidelines of the Warriors. Historically a very fantasy friendly coach, in fact he was the king prior to Mike D'Antoni.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Steve Kerr Preview

Steve Kerr previews the NBA Central on Yahoo! Sports. Strange to see the Bulls picked atop the Central again. Hopefully, they'll be the Miami Dolphins of the NBA this year.

Kerr's take on the Pacers: "If the Pacers can stop embarrassing themselves and the league with their various off-court transgressions, they could potentially have a good team. But it's tough to imagine a squad with this many problems advancing very far in the postseason."

Well, duh! Actually, all this article did was make me wonder why the Pacers can't even get Steve Kerr-type production out of Saras.

Preseason Game 2 vs. Utah Jazz

I was unable to watch any of the Pacers-Jazz preseason game on Saturday. After reviewing the box score and hearing the post-game analysis from Mark Boyle, I’m glad I missed this one. A review of the box score reveals a few items of interest (and disgust).

  • Pacers had 23 turnovers to only 13 assists. Utah wasn’t any better with 28 turnovers. Again, I’m glad I missed this one.
  • Al and JO led the team in scoring. Al made 14-18 from the charity stripe improving on his 1-6 from the line in game 1. Now, hit the boards Al!
  • At 38, Darrell Armstrong is showing he still has some spark left to add to this team. He seems to energize the play on the floor instantly.
  • Sarunas Jasikevicius again has no impact and doesn’t make a field goal. Saras is now 1-9 from the floor in the preseason. For a guy paid to make shots he’s gotta pick it up or there’s no reason to hang on to him.
  • Maceo Baston missed the game with a sore foot. Naturally, a guy comes out of nowhere and appears to be ready to make a strong contribution to the Pacers playing rotation and he quickly gets injured. Please, please, please, let me not hear the combination of “chronic sore foot” and “Maceo Baston” in the same sentence during the regular season.
  • I almost forgot. Stephen Jackson made his preseason debut, weathering a few outbursts of boos. With a crowd about 5,000 short of a sell out, it was about as good as Jack could've hoped for.
  • Another note on Jack, he showed up for the game with his hair shaved down. Something about a clean start. Please, enough with the symbolism, just show me!
  • Next game, tomorrow night (Monday) against the Timberwolves.

Friday, October 13, 2006

JO Squashes Ugly Police Report

Pot was found in a Tahoe registered to Jermaine O'Neal. Fortunately JO wasn't found in the Tahoe with the weed. Doesn't appear to be a big deal at all (well, for Michael Williams yes, for JO no), but in light of the last week's events this will get blown way out of proportion.

UPDATE: WTHR has an update with comments from JO. He was able to jump out in front of this issue to squash any controversy.

From story: O'Neal says this has nothing to do with him and that he will "take the SUV back and give it to someone who really needs it."

UPDATE II: The car was a bought by O'Neal for a friend and a friend of the friend was pinched in the Tahoe. JO: Not my car.

Fantasy Pacers Roster

If all 19 players currently on the roster were judged soley on their talent and what they can offer the team, I imagine the final roster cuts would be different than they will be in a couple of weeks. Earlier I listed the players I thought would make the 15 player roster based on how I thought the organization would act, taking into account current contracts and perceived value. In that scenario I had Rawle Marshall, Sean Lampley, Orien Greene, and Snap Hunter being released.

Personally, I'd rather keep Rawle Marshall and Orien Greene and release Sarunas and Stephen Jackson. Let's face it Sarunas is slow and he looked like a carbon copy of last year in the first preseason game. If he's not going to be a dead-eye shooter there really is no reason to keep him over Marshall and Greene. Those two can impact the game with defense and rebounding unlike Sarunas and they may have an equal impact on the offensive end, albeit in a different manner. In reality, Sarunas is going nowhere with his contract and ties to the front office so hopefully he finds that automatic shot he left in Israel last year.

Jackson has too much money tied up to be let go but in an absolute even situation you would just let him walk with all of the distractions he's caused the team. He CAN be a good player at times but he certainly isn't consistent and there would be enough talent to fill in for his absence. John Edwards could easily make the cut list too, especially if his back continues to show signs of a chronic problem.

Jack Takes All The Heat

Jermaine O'Neal is worried about the public perception of the team and wants everyone to know that Stephen Jackson is only one player on the roster and, while he's definitely not shining a positive light on the team, the rest of the players are working hard to develop a team to make Indy proud. My advice to JO is to keep quiet. Enjoy the lack of pub and hype surrounding the rest of the team. While Jack takes all the media heat, a team implementing a new style of play with several new faces can grind away in near anonymity. There isn't enough room in the papers or on the local newscasts to cover the Jack story and follow the ups and downs of preseason progress. It things are going so well with the rest of the team, let's just keep that our little secret until the season starts.

Daily Jack News

The daily Stephen Jackson update has a Michigan prosecutor focusing on jail time for Jack after hearing about his Indy felony charge while on probation in his jurisdiction. Meanwhile, a ball players gotta ball, so Jack is back with the team and preparing to play in Saturday night's preseason home game. JMV on local radio has been arguing that the crowd will be booing so much that the Pacers should just keep Jack out for a while longer. But, unless he goes to jail, Jack will be on this team and have to face the public at some time. Why not get the initial abuse out of the way during the preseason with 6,000 empty seats? Of course, there's a whole day before game time so a lot can happen between now and then.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mike Brown Left Some Baggage

Former Pacers assistant coach Mike Brown forgot some baggage when he left town for the head job in Cleveland last year. That baggage, which is tagged with the name Stephen Jackson, should be Fed Exed to Brown since he's apparently the only one who knows what to do with him. Brown was instrumental in bringing Jackson to the Pacers because he had a strong player/coach relationship with Jack during their championship days with the Spurs. I'm more than willing to take my chances without Jack this year after getting a taste of some of the young, hungry players currently fighting for a spot on the team. Even without Jack there isn't enough room so why not clean the slate and beg Mike Brown to take in his prodigal son and set him straight.

Too bad the salary cap rules for trades make this thought nearly impossible. Plus, Mike Brown is a smart man so I'm sure he's not picking up any calls from the 317.

Roster Options

The Pacers currently have 19 players in the mix and only 15 available roster spots making the competition for the last few spots the toughest in recent memory. There is additional intrigue since 11 of these players were not with the team last year, so the fear of the unknown always lurks behind any flash of brilliance. There is no doubt that Maceo Baston, Josh Powell, Rawle Marshall made a strong impression in the opening preseason game. There's also no doubt these guys will dwell on the active roster bubble throughout camp. Here's how I break down the roster at this point (barring any convictions or additional trips to the hooscow).

Starters: O'Neal, Harrington, Granger, Jackson, Tinsley
Solid reserves: Harrison, Foster, Jasikevicius, White, Armstrong, Williams, Daniels
Bubble reserves: Edwards, Baston, Powell

Tough cuts: Marshall, Lampley, Greene, Hunter

This listing is based on how I think the Pacers front office and coaches break it down. I understand that John Edwards may appear like a cut option to most in order to make room for Rawle Marshall or Orien Greene. But with his size, Edwards can contribute in many ways with spot minutes and six useful fouls against big teams. He also provides a nice look for preparation in practice. With Greene's broken finger he may not have enough time to separate himself from the pack of athletic swing players already on the roster. Marshall simply lacks experience, while it is just a numbers game for Snap Hunter and Lampley.

With the pace of the Club Rio incident this may all change in the next day or two but for now this roster would give the Pacers the most flexibility.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Pacers vs. Nets Observations

At the risk of making a Sinkonian statement, this game tonight is the greatest preseason opening game ever. The thirst for anything that is actually basketball related from the Pacers combined with the number of new faces trying out for the blue and gold has made this game quite entertaining. Quick thoughts while watching:
  • The cruelest irony for the front office is Marcus Williams displaying an NBA ready game at the point as Tinsley continues to wear out his welcome with the locals. Williams was available for the Pacers first pick but they passed on him to take Shawne Williams.
  • In Jamal's defense, he looks good and is playing well with Sarunas Jasikevicius. Sarunas is passing up a lot of open looks, though.
  • David Harrison looks borderline svelte and is moving around nicely. A big impact from Harrison could carry this team a long ways.
  • Looks like there is hope to rectify past rebounding problems that have plagued the Pacers. Several athletic front court players look like they can be solid contributors off the bench. Josh Powell, Maceo Baston, and even Shawne Williams are quite active in the paint, working hard to defend and rebound. Baston also had a sweet fast break dunk off an alley oop.
  • Baston and Sarunas played together in Israel and it shows. Chris Denari mentioned that they considered themselves the Stockton and Malone when they played together. Easy fellas.
  • Speaking of Denari, he's a familiar voice but certainly a noticable change from the smooth baritone of Al Albert. On the plus side, there is more of a local feel to the broadcast and we won't have to hear about "the feisty one" anymore when discussing Jeff Foster.
  • The Pacers are putting it to the Nets in the 4th quarter. They certainly are getting out and running more when the opportunity is there. And, again, the activity on the glass is leading to those opportunities along with some second chance buckets on the offensive end. After several horrific days, the play of the Pacers tonight is a positive way to end the day.
  • Oh, yeah, Pacers win 103-89. Box Score

The Other Side of the Story

Surprise! Jack and the boys weren't the innocent victims portrayed by the early reports from the Club Rio incident. It has become so crazy I can hardly keep up and really don't want to. After driving home from work today and listening to Aunt Valerie sticking up for her nephew Fingers, this story zoomed right past ridiculous. The quick version is that Fingers put his nose in Jack's business and then got a beat down from a few guys including Jack. Jack also fired a couple of rounds prior to getting run over by Dino so he's been charged with a felony count of criminal recklessness, and misdemeanor charges of battery and disorderly conduct.

Regarding the mystery marijuana, one of Tinsley's boys jumped on a grenade and fessed up to the pot possession. He was also charged with beating Fingers. With a prosecutor in a heated re-election campaign this story could have serious legs.

Box Score Nuggets

A few items of interest stood out while looking through the NBA preseason box scores from Wednesday night. Among the items that caused a double-take:
  • Dikembe Mutombo is a genius. Despite being five years removed from any sort of productivity he's able to hold a roster spot and $2.2 million salary playing for Houston. At 40 years old, there aren't any better part time gigs than the one Mutombo has lined up.
  • Orlando has a nice, young line up. Darko will get his chance to contribute. Plus, Grant Hill not only broke a sweat but also poured in 16 points. The Magic played Charlotte who took pleasure in watching Adam Morrison toss in 19.
  • Rodney Carney, Indy boy, played well in his Philly debut. Their roster lacks any depth so Carney should get a chance to make an impact.
  • Phoenix is a fantasy stat juggernaut. Diaw, Marion, Nash, Barbosa, and Amare, plus Raja Bell in the late rounds. They are more potent than the Run TMC Warriors of the early '90s.
  • I forgot Tyson Chandler and Peja were in New Orleans. Chris Paul could help Chandler put up some nice numbers and vice versa. Looks like they are still playing games in Oklahoma City this year. Seems strange since the Saints are back full time.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Finally, a Game!!!

Granted this is a preseason game, but any Pacers' news not including Stephen Jackson, Dino, or Club Rio is quite welcomed. The Pacers open up their preseason schedule with the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday. There are a lot of new faces fighting for playing time and roster spots so it should be interesting to see who steps up in game action. JO and Jack are out for sure so those new faces should have plenty of time to shine.

Book 'em, Dino

Finally, Dino and Fingers have surfaced after driving away from Club Rio last Thursday, er, Friday morning. I was beginning to think these guys were pretty well connected in the criminal underground around Indy since the specific descriptions didn't turn them up immediately. Today IPD arrested Dino for driving into Jack, leaving, and doing both without a driver's license. Fingers was brought in and released after an interview with IPD. So, now we'll get to hear Dino's version of events which should provide some entertainment. So far all of the comments from authorities paint our beloved Pacers as victims in the situation and not acting outside the law. Of course, they haven't officially ruled out any charges so stay tuned.

Jack 'n Grill

Jack spoke with the media this afternoon and apologized for being a part of the Club Rio fiasco. That's fine, all part of the process, but actions are what I'm judging these guys on since their words are ringing hollow.

One thing Jack's appearance revealed was that Dino did some serious damage to Jack's mouth. Nearly five days later and his upper lip is still quite swollen. I've heard speculation that Jack must've been wearing his diamond studded grill. This picture certainly backs up that speculation.

Pacers in Court Before Playing on the Court

Jack, I'm trying, I'm really trying to give you a chance to straighten up and do right, but you keep forcing me to cringe and shake my head in bewilderment. In a completely unrelated court issue, we now find out Jack has NOT complied with the court ordered terms of his one year probation for the Palace Brawl. This inaction has earned him another year of probation. Be a man, Jack. Take care of your business.

Other in-court news from Michigan includes JO heading up for jury selection in his trial against Charles Haddad. Chucky Haddad is suing JO for embarrassing him on a world wide scale by leveling him with a flying haymaker when the genius (Haddad) thought he'd mix it up on the Palace court as mayhem broke out. The video of JO's punch has been played somewhere around a million times on every channel that carries even a little sports. Not only do I hope this case is dismissed, but I'd like the judge to sentence Haddad to introducing the video before every Pistons game by saying, "Hi, I'm Charles Haddad. That's me getting clocked by Jermaine O'Neal during the Palace Brawl. Man, I am an idiot."

Monday, October 09, 2006

911: Shots Fired at Club Rio

The 911 call from Club Rio paints a lovely scene for your Indiana Pacers.

Nice to See You Again, Al

Al Harrington looks like he did before serving time in Atlanta, but there is a different feel to his game and court presence. I always felt Al would've benefited from playing college ball because he's so intense and emotional that playing in some pressure packed games in loud arenas would've prepared him for the NBA pressure. When he did earn playing time early in his Pacer career his body and mind weren't quite in synch and he'd play a little out of control.

Looking at him now, though, you can tell he's ready for prime time. I think it helps that all of the veterans of the Baby Al era have moved on so there is no one to defer to any longer. He has to step up and his game appears ready to handle the challenge.

Fan Jam

Considering the media blitz of negative publicity, the Pacers Fan Jam was a successful event. The crowd was around 10,000 and judging by the number of Colts jerseys, the Pacers were smart to start the Fan Jam just as a home Colts game was letting out three blocks away. It will take some time to get used to all of the new faces and how they will contribute to winning games. James White sure looks like a good fit filling in for Jack at the two guard. He will provide some highlights for sure and seems like he'll get after it on the defensive end. Keep putting some time into the jump shot, James, and we may have a player fans will fall in love with by playoff time.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Forget Words, Only Actions Will Work

Kravitz is calling for LL to make a public statement regarding the Club Rio fiasco. Other than saying we just released or traded Stephen Jackson and Jamaal Tinsley, what good are any other words from LL on this situation. Does Kravitz think Bird or anyone within the organization doesn't realize this is an ugly PR situation? The public is worn down by words from players and the team promising improvement both on and off the court. They have no impact anymore. Only positive actions and time will build back the trust and enthusiasm of this team. So, no Bob, I'm not waiting for a grand declaration of responsibility from LL. I'm looking for actions not words.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Jokes Write Themselves - My Favorite So Far

The Pacers are finally starting to show some of the dedication and work ethic of their President, Larry Bird. In fact, several of them got together at 3:00AM for a shoot around. (rim shot)

Can Jack Recover?

Reports suggest the Stephen Jackson should have no problems physically recovering from his nightmare trip to Club Rio. Unfortunately the incidents in the W. 38th Street parking lot dusted off Jack's rough image that was obscured days earlier by hugging his coach and vowing to lead his new teammates in a positive manner.

Now, yet another negative snapshot of Jack is seared in eyes of the Pacer faithful. This image slides in next to the wild swinging madman in The Palace at Auburn Hills, the constant complainer begging for calls from the refs, and the look and actions of disinterest observed for long stretches of some games. There is already an cry for the front office to make an Artestian purge of the shooting guard to remove him from the roster. Not an easy task now that his trade value has flatlined.

So, Jack, it is up to you. Start the slow, arduous climb toward rehabbing your image or a flat out release will be the only option. As someone who happily gave Ron Ron three, four, five (actually, I lost count) chances to fly straight and do right by the Pacers, I'm hoping Jack can get it straight and make this one night a distant memory.

It's up to us - uh oh!

The early preseason reports on the Pacers revamped roster and style of play have certainly increased my interest and enthusiasm for the start of the NBA season. The marketing campaign, 'It's up to us!' is a nice, straight forward mea culpa from the team with Larry Legend's finger prints all over it. The message in a nutshell - we haven't played or acted very well and certainly weren't entertaining to watch. We get it and we're committed to change, so it's up to us.

Those positive vibes almost made it through the first week of training camp. But, alas, after four days of practice the starting backcourt, along with a couple of new faces, gets involved in a fracas outside Club Rio at 3:00AM. The fracas escalates into Stephen Jackson getting run down and flipping over the hood of a car. Jack squeezed off 5 rounds from his 9mm to bring an end to the incident as the other party sped off into the morning.

Fortunately, not unlike many nights in Conseco Fieldhouse last year, Jack was 0 for 5 and it appears nothing major will come from the incident. His injuries won't have him on the shelf for long and there don't appear to be any charges forthcoming from IPD. This despite an unclaimed bag of weed in Jamaal Tinsley's car.

And I thought I had a wild Thursday night after watching The Office and a little college football.

Prerequisite Reading

Bruno runs the best official NBA team site in the league. Read the Daily Digest at Pacers.com for the latest inside scoop on the Pacers.

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