The Indiana Pacers have been my favorite NBA franchise since I was a little kid.  Back in the 1980’s, they were one of the most gut-wrenching teams to watch in the entire league despite their perennial lottery draft picks year after year.  Coaches of high caliber would come and go, but the same players seemed to remain on the roster year after year.  Granted, most of the names did change, but the type of player was always the same.  Chuck Persons was a bright spot for a couple of years, but his overall work-ethic and volatile personality pretty much relegated him as a type of player who would never make his team any better than they already were.  He scored points…”he got his”…but his team would always come up short when it was all said and done. 

Then the Pacers organization did something that would later affect their franchise for almost two full decades.  They drafted a scrawny marksman from UCLA who went by the name of “Reggie Miller“.  By the end of his career, Reggie would not only own the hearts of every Hoosier in the “basketball state” of Indiana, but he would also own a lot of NBA records that will probably be safe for years to come.  No one can shoot the ball quite like Reggie could because the type of player that the NBA is producing these days is more concerned with appearing on the next showing of ESPN and what their clever buddies sitting behind the booths would say about them and their “wicked” abilities.  Stewart Scott is one of the worst at this.  He never holds any of his hood-rat, thug-buddies accountable, but instead thinks of clever things to say about them when they jump sixteen feet in the air and dunk the ball.  The fundamentals of the game have weakened in the past decade and players like Reggie Miller are now few and far between.  They just don’t make ’em like they used to and to the more astute basketball fan today there is less and less of an attractive product placed on the courts of NBA franchises.  The days of watching Stockton and Malone run the pick and roll to perfection; Magic Johnson playing all five positions on the court with amazing success; Michael Jordan freezing us in our seats as he performed some of the most amazing feats all while he involved his entire team; Larry Bird stepping back and effortlessly sinking a thirty-foot shot; and so on…those days are gone.  Now, we’re stuck with the disgusting thuggery of Allen Iverson, Carmella Anthony, Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, and Kobe Bryant (a never-ending soap opera).  These individuals are all brilliant with the ball, but their leadership abilities and overall team management philosophy is non-existent. 

It’s darn-right miserable trying to be a fan of the NBA these days, but if I had complete control of my favorite team (the Indiana Pacers) and the sky was the limit then these are things I would focus on with the purpose of turning the team’s future around AND putting a product on the court that the good people of Indiana could rally behind:

1.  I would get on my knees and beg Rick Carlisle to come back.  I would offer him a contract of his desire and wouldn’t hesitate to give him seven to ten years…guaranteed.  Carlisle was the lone bright-spot for the Pacers during these very troubling years of late.  The fact that he DIDN’T receive the Coach of the Year honors in 2005 for holding that team together after the infamous “Brawl in Detroit” while still getting the team into the playoffs is a baffling mystery to me and a complete black-eye for the NBA.  Rick Carlisle has proved that he possesses the tools to be a top-tier NBA coach and by losing him we have lost a lot of hope in the future.

2.  I would send Jermaine O’Neal, Jamaal Tinsley, and Marquis Daniels to the Utah Jazz for Andrei Kirilenko, Derrek Fisher, and Paul Millsap…OR…I’d send them to Minnesota for Kevin Garnett (let’s be honest…he’s not going to re-sign with the Timberwolves anyways so regardless of what Timberwolves management says, he’s on the trading block) and Mike James.  Either way…the Pacers absolutely MUST sever ties with O’Neal and (definitely) Tinsley.  Jermaine has blossomed as a Pacer, but he’s demanding way too much of the offense to go through him.  He simply IS NOT the “go-to-guy” who he thinks he is and he’s NEVER done anything of note in his seven years as a Pacer.  Jermaine needs a stable center to play alongside with because he’s not the dominating front-court presence that he thinks he is.  He’s an all-star talent that many teams would love to have, but he’s definitely peaked here in Indiana.  Jamaal Tinsley is a different story, however.  He wore out his welcome several years ago when he stopped progressing and started regressing.  His lack of desire to stay in shape and propensity to land on the “injured list” year after year has really rubbed Pacers’ fans the wrong way.  Tinsley is another all-star caliber player with tremendous point guard abilities, but he’s just not doing anything here in Indiana.  We absolutely have to let him go and we need to get something for him.  Marquis Daniels is a great “sixth man” to have on any team, but his involvement in some shady actions this past year have rendered him unreliable and unlovable here in Indiana.

3.  Under no circumstance would I deal Jermaine O’Neal to the Los Angeles Lakers.  I am specific with identifying the Lakers because there has been a lot of discussion about the Los Angeles Lakers being extremely interested in the services of Jermaine O’Neal (but didn’t they have the most dominating “Big Man” in modern NBA history just recently; didn’t Kobe “soap opera” Bryant run him out of town because Hollywood/LA apparently wasn’t big enough for the two of them…regardless of how many NBA Championships they would certainly win?  All I can do is shake my head in disbelief and be grateful that I am not a fan of the Lakers…AT ALL!!!).  Looking at their roster (the Lakers), they have absolutely NO ONE of equal value to offer the Pacers.  Any type of trade involving O’Neal to the Lakers would be completely lopsided with the advantage clearly going to the Lakers.  I have no respect for Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, or the Laker’s Organization and would absolutely be AGAINST the idea of improving their team without dramatically improving ours.  Some would say that Lamar Odom is a great talent, but he is cut from the same mold as Jamaal Tinsley and has proven that he just doesn’t want to put in any extra effort in order for his team to get better and make advancements.  He’s also a notorious drug user and is habitual with his lack of efforts on (and off) the court.  Odom is a pouting, self-loathing, undisciplined player who is all-too-typical of today’s NBA player.

These are the first items of business that I would focus on for the 2007-2008 season.  Obviously, the first two items listed above are more important than the third and I would actually place the importance of getting Rick Carlisle back at a higher level than getting rid of O’Neal and Tinsley.  If we are unable to lure Carlisle back to Indiana (at least make him an offer to keep him the front office with Larry Bird and Donnie Walsh) then the most urgent matter of business would undoubtedly be the unloading of O’Neal and Tinsley.  I would expect some growing pains in the first year (especially if we weren’t able to get Kirlenko/Fisher or Garnett/James), but by rebuilding now with a healthy, young and athletic nucleus we would be advancing towards our ultimate goals sooner rather than later.

Here is a breakdown of the current (and proposed) situation that we would be looking at for the 2007-2008 NBA season:

[CENTER] – We currently have a very solid center (as well as an EXCELLENT and highly underated back up in Jeff Foster) with Troy Murphy.  He has the ability to stretch the defense due to his outside shooting abilities that go very nicely with his decent inside game.

[POWER-FORWARD] – The power-forward position would be the most looming question mark at this point in time.  If we had either Kevin Garnett (arguably the league’s best all-around talent and most dominating power-forward) or Andrei Kirilenko (arguably one of the league’s best low-post/front-court defenders and underrated offensive player; completely under-utilized in Utah right now; known as an EXCELLENT team player) then we would be well on our way of establishing one of the best front-courts in the entire league.

[SMALL-FORWARD] – The small-forward position is one of the more exciting situations we have going for us here in Indiana.  Danny Granger is slowly, yet progressively becoming a force to be reckoned with.  His outside shooting abilities, rebounding, and team defense is improving at an impressive rate, but he still needs to work on his personal defensive abilities in order to become a more complete player that we would need at that position.  Danny Granger is a fun player to watch and he has an incredible attitude, which is something of very high importance to Indiana basketball fans.  I think we were all a bit disheartened when the Pacers traded away “the Hurricane“, Al Harrington.  He was certainly the “fan favorite” and is suddenly considered one of the better small-forwards in the league today!  I would love to still have “the Hurricane” on our roster, but the upside of shipping him off to Golden State was that we were able to get rid of Stephen Jackoffson.  We all miss Al, however.

[SHOOTING GUARD] – The shooting guard position is another spot where there is a lot of recent excitement.  Mike Dunleavy is a young player with a great physical build to play this position in the NBA.  He’s tall, strong, athletic, and possesses above average game-management abilities.  He certainly possesses the abilities to average a double-double (points and rebounds), which is actually something that I personally expect from him in the coming years.  Above all, he’s a very intelligent player and has seemingly good and instinctive leadership abilities that have yet to be tapped.  His shooting is still relatively streaky, but if the defense was stretched out by Murphy and Kirilenko/Garnett then his scoring opportunities would flourish.  Dunleavy needs to become more defensive-minded, but already possesses above average rebounding prowess.  Dunleavy, however, is not untouchable and if he was required to be a part of a trade package in order to get the types of players we absolutely need then I would not hesitate in pulling the trigger.  If I could keep him…great.  If I need to deal him for the betterment of the team…no problem.  Troy Murphy is more “untouchable” at this point due to his overall value to the core dynamics of the team we would be attempting to put together.

[POINT GUARD: Most important position] – Point guard is where we have struggled for the past three to four seasons above anything else.  Ever since we lost the services of Mark Jackson at the point guard position we have not been able to find any consistency.  Tinsley just has NOT gotten the job done and the sole purpose of a point guard is NOT to score, but rather to set up his teammates to score.  Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups, and Tony Parker are not regarded as the league’s best point guards because they can score a lot of points.  They are regarded as the league’s best point guards because of how well they involve their entire team.  It’s no coincidence that their teams are in the playoffs (and in contention for NBA Championships) year after year.  They put up points when they need to, but find the open man when it’s critical and that is what makes them so valuable.  If we were able to get Derrek Fisher from the Jazz or Luke Ridnour (someone I have really wanted in a Pacer’s uniform since he came out of college a few years ago) from the Supersonics then we would be well on our way of establishing the exact type of team that could be in contention on a yearly basis.  We need to continually focus on defense, but without a point guard to run the show then it really won’t matter what the ancillary necessities of the Pacer’s franchise are or will be.  There are other suitable candidates for this position out there (such as Kirk Hinrich or Ben Gordon from the Bulls; Mike Bibby from the Kings; Jay Williams from free-agency, but only if he can physically prove that he can perform at his collegiate level prior to his motorcycle accident; T.J. Ford from the Raptors who is the prototypical point guard that any team would love to have…including myself…I would love to have T.J. Ford as our “floor general”; and/or Jason Kidd from the Nets…Kidd was apparently on the trading block this season and if we could grab him then we would be sitting pretty for at least another three to four years; Kidd is still one of the top three point guards in the entire league) so it would be absolutely imperative that the Pacers focus on finding their point guard of the futureThis is the most important position on the floor for any successful team and aside from making sure that we receive adequate compensation for the services of Jermaine O’Neal (and possibly even Marquis Daniels), the sole focus of the Pacers’ organization should be on finding our perfect point guard.  If none can be found for the upcoming season or if we can’t get our hands on the exact point guard that we want then it would be absolutely fatal to extend a large contract to a second-rate replacement or fill-in.  The Pacers cannot afford to “settle” on a point guard if they are unable to get who they want.  Without a great point guard to run the show here in Indiana then we can pretty much anticipate a “hit or miss” team from season to season regardless of whom we get to replace O’Neal.

Bottom line, the Indiana Pacers absolutely have to sever ties with Jermaine O’Neal and Jamaal Tinsley.  If the both of them are still wearing Pacers’ uniforms next year then the organization will have failed Pacers’ fans across the globe.  If it comes down to only being able to get rid of one of the above mentioned players then I think I speak for the majority of Pacer fans when I imply that seeing Jamaal Tinsley leave the state and set up shop somewhere else would make us all very, very happy.  I would much rather keep Jermaine O’Neal instead of putting up with Jamaal Tinsley for one more minute!  In fact, I would actually be in favor of keeping O’Neal for the rest of his contract if (and only if) he would completely restructure his deal to allow a lot more money to be used for the search of a good small-forward and/or a great point guard.  O’Neal is NOT the type of player a team can build around and he has proven that his isn’t a “go-to-guy” that can take a ball-club on his back and forge ahead like we were used to seeing from Reggie Miller.  If he were selfless enough to relegate himself to a more secondary (but still vital) role on offense then I would LOVE to see him stick around.  Something tells me, however, that such a request would fall on deaf ears if presented to O’Neal or his agent.  Tinsley, on the other hand, absolutely and positively MUST go!   

If none of the other 31 NBA teams don’t want to trade one of their players (or a high to mid first round draft pick)  for Tinsley then I would be completely in favor of simply waiving him from the “active player’s roster” while still being contractually obligated to pay his salary.  The reason I say this is because I think that Tinsley is more valuable to the Pacers if he is no where near Conseco Fieldhouse and also because eventually there would be a team who would be willing to grab him.  Tinsley wouldn’t remain on waivers for very long and let’s be honest…he’s not a terrible point guard with terrible skills, but he’s definitely not a point guard whom we would like to see in an Indiana Pacers uniform again.  He’s worn out his welcome here in “Basketball Country“, but it’s certainly NOT because we didn’t give him a chance.  After Tinsley’s rookie season (as well as his “sophmore” season), Pacer’s fans as a whole were VERY excited about our future with a point guard like Tinsley.  Unfortunately…laziness, being injury prone, being constantly out of shape, getting into trouble with the law, and a huge lack of discipline seemed to infiltrate his mind/body, which rendered him a useless (yet all-too-typical and expected), overpaid NBA player with a major attitude problem.

Kirilenko and Garnett are players that I would even give up a draft pick for alongside the above mentioned players.  It is upon them and their abilities that the Pacers could certainly build around, but without a suitable point guard to run the show then it simply won’t matter.  We’ll be a playoff caliber team who makes an early exit from the first (maybe second) round on a yearly basis.

I love the Pacers, but as long as Jamaal Tinsley and Jermaine O’Neal are still receiving pay checks from the Pacers’ organization then I will have to continue my boycott in all facets.  I simply cannot sit back and support a team that has no desire to improve, win, or make progress.  As a fan, I need to see some hustle and heart out there on the floor.  I need to see some raw emotion and teamwork to get me involved as a fan and supporter.  I wish that Reggie would come back, but I know that is not going to happen.  At least with Reggie still on the team I could support them because I’d know that there was someone on the roster who actually gave a damn. 

REGGIE…REGGIE…REGGIE…!!!

reggie miller

 

AFTERTHOUGHT: recently, it was reported that Jermaine O’Neal told reporters that he would be insisting on a trade to the New York Knicks.  I guess it’s a surprise that there’s actually someone out there who thinks that Isiaah Thomas is a coach that he’d not only like to play for, but insist upon it!  If this is the case and a trade with the Knicks is unavoidable then there are a couple of players whom I would love to get my hands on.  For starters, if Stephon Marbury were able to convince Bird and Walsh that he is finished with his childish antics and selfish play then he is a decent point guard to consider for the replacement of Jamaal Tinsley.  The only thing I fear about Marbury is his track record and reputation as being the type of player who is more concerned with “getting his” and scoring points rather than winning ball games.  He certainly is a special talent, however.  The other two players whom I have my sights set on are (PF) David Lee and (PF) Channing Frye.  If they wanted to throw in Jamaal Crawford as a “sign and trade…due to his currently existing contract of ridiculous proportions” then I would be in favor of that, too.  I don’t like the idea of taking too many of the Knick’s players because most of them are tagged with ridiculous contract sizes, but I don’t mind the idea of bringing in Stephon Marbury, Channing Frye (and David Lee…I really think that David Lee is the EXACT type of player who Pacer fans would completely fall in love with), and Jamaal Crawford in exchange for Jermaine O’Neal and Marquis Daniels.  I would reserve sending Jamaal Tinsley to the Knicks in this deal because it isn’t imperitive that we receive some of those players and I think we could get someone more suitable for the Pacers…like Luke Ridnour or T.J. Ford.  I am very, very interested in a one-two point guard combination of Stephon Marbury and T.J. Ford/Luke Ridnour/Derrek Fisher!  I think that would solve our point guard problems, for sure!  Of course, it would all depend on the attitude of Marbury and if his attitude was at all in question then the deal would simply NOT happen.  I’m not at all looking forward to dealing with more drama and more selfish basketball stemming from the stereotypical NBA player of today.

My dream lineup, right now, for the Indiana Pacers would be the following (and I’m trying to be as realistic and reasonable as possible):

PG – Luke Ridnour/Kirk Hinrich/T.J. Ford

SG – Danny Granger/Josh Smith/Mike Miller

SF – Andrei Kirilenko/David Lee/Shane Battier

PF – Kevin Garnett/Mehmet Okur/Pau Gasol

C – Troy Murphy/Brad Miller/Andrew Bogut

*My core ingredients for selecting these players is discipline, attitude, defense, and ability to play as a team.

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