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Suaveness
10-21-2005, 03:12 PM
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Five observations from "http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=ind"]Pacers training camp:

1. Not since 1986-87: For the first time in nearly 20 years, Indiana opens a season without "http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=231"]Reggie Miller wearing No. 31, prompting Rick Carlisle to hatch a special strategy to deal with retirement of Mr. Pacer.



"We knew it was coming, so all I can do is just try not to think about it," Carlisle said. "Because, really, what's the point?"

Valid point. Longing for Miller isn't going to bring him back, and the Pacers have too long of a list of challenges to be dwelling on sentimental stuff.

Besides ...

"http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3120"]Jermaine O'Neal has been eager to increase his leadership load and proved it by organizing nearly all of the Pacers for informal workouts and pickup games some three weeks before training camp commenced.

"Reggie did a really good job last year to just keep reiterating that he wasn't going to be here," O'Neal said. "I don't think he let one day pass where he didn't say, 'Hey, I'm not coming back next year.' He got us ready for his departure -- especially me."

2. Filling those shoes: Miller's retirement and Ron Artest's return means "http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3210"]Stephen Jackson will now play the position he expected to play when he joined the Pacers with a sign-and-trade in the summer of 2004.




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Editor's Note: To preview training camp and the 2005-06 season, John Hollinger addresses three key questions concerning the Pacers.

1. Can "http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3339"]Ron Artest be reformed?

Indiana's championship hopes effectively ended once Artest charged into the stands in Detroit. Artest was suspended for the season, and although the Pacers rebounded to make the second round of the playoffs, they never were serious contenders without his ferocious defense and expanding offensive arsenal.



The goal for this season is to try to keep Artest's head straight so he doesn't do crazy, impulsive things like whack "http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3330"]Richard Hamilton in the mask or try to go one-on-20,000 against the Palace.


Also, two things were lost in the shuffle in Artest's brief 2004-05 season.

First, the Pacers were already losing patience with Artest -- he had been suspended just days earlier for asking to take time off. Second, despite his personal issues, Artest was off to the best season of his career. He averaged 24.6 points per game in the seven contests he played and was shooting a career-best 49.6 percent.

This just raises the stakes even more for the Pacers to keep Artest grounded this season. If he behaves, they could have the best small forward this side of "http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3704"]LeBron James. Unfortunately, Artest's track record is discouraging.

pacerlife
10-21-2005, 03:21 PM
Updated: Oct. 21, 2005, 1:30 PM ET
Reggie's gone, but new Pacers in new places sub inBy Marc Stein
ESPN.com
Archive

INDIANAPOLIS -- Five observations from Pacers training camp:

1. Not since 1986-87: For the first time in nearly 20 years, Indiana opens a season without Reggie Miller wearing No. 31, prompting Rick Carlisle to hatch a special strategy to deal with retirement of Mr. Pacer.



Who will fill Reggie's roles of leader and clutch shooter?
"We knew it was coming, so all I can do is just try not to think about it," Carlisle said. "Because, really, what's the point?"

Valid point. Longing for Miller isn't going to bring him back, and the Pacers have too long of a list of challenges to be dwelling on sentimental stuff.

Besides ...

Jermaine O'Neal has been eager to increase his leadership load and proved it by organizing nearly all of the Pacers for informal workouts and pickup games some three weeks before training camp commenced.

"Reggie did a really good job last year to just keep reiterating that he wasn't going to be here," O'Neal said. "I don't think he let one day pass where he didn't say, 'Hey, I'm not coming back next year.' He got us ready for his departure -- especially me."

2. Filling those shoes: Miller's retirement and Ron Artest's return means Stephen Jackson will now play the position he expected to play when he joined the Pacers with a sign-and-trade in the summer of 2004.


Shooting guard.

"I'm back home," Jackson said with a wide grin.

The ex-Spur can't claim to be a marksman in Miller's class, but Jackson has experienced success on the big stage (winning a ring with San Antonio in 2003) and isn't afraid to take big shots.

Of perhaps greater importance, he'll have a size advantage against most two-guards and potentially see a lesser-class of defender when Artest is playing the small forward.

"All the big two guards are in the West," Jackson said, smiling again.

3. Granger Fever: On such a deep team -- the deepest team in the league, according to O'Neal -- Danny Granger probably won't play enough to make a real Rookie of the Year run.

But he's going to play.

The No. 17 overall pick from New Mexico, whose name rarely appears in a story without a reference to his status as "the most NBA-ready rookie" from his draft class, has apparently assured himself of a spot in Carlisle's rotation as a backup at two forward spots.

He was kind enough to show me a glimpse of the talent behind the hype (with 19 points and 15 boards in Tuesday's exhibition win over San Antonio) and has apparently been playing copious amounts of one-on-one with Artest to get ready for the real world.

"We play so much they kick us out of the gym," Artest said.

"Danny has diverse skills, and he's a terrific athlete," Carlisle said. "And he's very mature after playing four years of college. He's going to be involved."

Actually ...

Maybe he will play enough for ROY consideration.

Granger has inherited some extra minutes in the preseason because of a big-man shortage: O'Neal, Jeff Foster, David Harrison and Scot Pollard have all missed time with injuries. Only O'Neal, of the four, is expected to be ready by Opening Night, perhaps setting up Granger with an opportunity to entrench himself further.

4. My favorite Pacer: Who is it, you ask? You don't need too many guesses, do you?

I couldn't quite believe what I was watching Tuesday night when Sarunas Jasikevicius squared off against another former Maccabi Tel-Aviv point guard -- San Antonio's Beno Udrih -- but it was great to see the king of European club basketball in the NBA at last.

The Pacers like what they've seen so far, too.

"Offensively he's a very sophisticated player," said Carlisle, who then downplayed the Lithuanian's oft-cited defensive deficiencies.

"There's no question that our team is built to help guys that need help at the defensive end of the floor," Carlisle said. "I really expect [Jasikevicius] to do well. He has built a career and a reputation on being a guy who's helped teams with good talent get better. His teams in Europe always gelled and got better, and we need him to have that same effect on us here."

Yet it should be noted that the coach has similar expectations for the incumbent point guard, repeatedly raving about Jamaal Tinsley and letting it slip that "we're making a concerted effort to run more this year."

The fast break, of course, is Tinsley's department. Jasikevicius is the pick-and-roll specialist.

5. First transgression: Ron Artest was not required to make a special address to his teammates at the start of camp upon officially rejoining the Pacers following his infamous 73-game suspension.

"We didn't want to make it out to be a situation where he had to win his teammates over," O'Neal said.

However ...

Artest did have to submit an early mea culpa after the Pacers' first exhibition game. Inadvertently reminding us all of his unpredictable nature, Artest marked his first game in uniform since the Nov. 19 brawl in Detroit by telling the New York press about his plans to keep playing "like a wild animal that needs to be caged in."

Carlisle's response?

"The important thing is that comments or actions that take attention off the team have to be discouraged. If you're going to say that team unity is going to be the most important factor in your success, then that's going to have to be a must. And he understands that. He realized he was wrong for saying some things and how he played that night."