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ChicagoJ
09-30-2004, 12:30 PM
CAMP COUNTDOWN: POWER FORWARD

Injury Could Prove Blessing
in Disguise for O'Neal, Pacers
By Conrad Brunner | Sept. 30, 2004


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The U.S. Olympic team's loss could be the Pacers' gain.
The hyperextended knee that Jermaine O'Neal suffered during the Eastern Conference Finals kept him from completing his tour of duty with USA Basketball. But after three consecutive summers competing in international events (the 2001 Goodwill Games, the 2002 World Basketball Championship and the 2003 Tournament of the Americas), O'Neal frankly needed the break.

Not only has the time off given him the ability to fully recuperate, it should mean he'll bring fresh legs to camp for the first time since 2000.

"On the one hand, we were all disappointed for the U.S. team that Jermaine was unable to play because of injury," said Coach Rick Carlisle. "Yet, on the other hand, all of us with the Pacers franchise knew that Jermaine needed a summer where he could allow his body to recover from really what has been three straight grinding years of international play.

"Weíre all, in a way, thankful he was able to do that this summer. And we felt it was essential, in order for him to be able to perform at his highest level. You canít do what heís done over the last three years and expect to bring the same kind of energy on the first of November every year and play at the level heís grown accustomed to playing at. Itís just very, very difficult. "

As consistently productive as he has become -- O'Neal has averaged 20.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.39 blocked shots in the past three seasons combined -- it is intriguing to consider the possibility that his game could climb to an even higher level. Fresher legs and improved depth at center could prove the catalysts.

The primary issue at the position entering camp is the backup rotation. Jonathan Bender, now 7-1 and 240 pounds, appears physically capable of spending some time in the post. Austin Croshere, 6-10 and 242 pounds, is a veteran who has proven an effective scorer at the four, although he struggles, defensively, against power players.

"Thatís why you have training camp, so the players can decide those things," Carlisle said. "Iím really even more steadfast in the belief that the coach doesnít determine the minutes, the players do. Iím eager to let those guys fight it out and see whoís the best and who deserves it.

"Weíve got some guys that are proven players. Croshere is a guy that has been very consistent over the years playing the backup four, going back to the 2000 NBA Finals. I know Bender is going to be effective. And when we find out how David Harrison can play at center, thereís the possibility we could play very big and keep Jermaine at the four spot."

Harrison, a 7-foot, 280-pound first-round pick, could strengthen the entire front-line rotation if he proves capable of contributing at center.

http://www.nba.com/pacers/news/countdown_2004_power_forward.html

ChicagoJ
09-30-2004, 12:34 PM
Here's what I'd like to see happen:

I'd like to see that Bender, now that he's alledgedly up to 240 lbs, playing well enough that he replaces Jeff as the starting PF.

(I know some of you think Jeff is a C, :laugh: ).

A starting lineup of JT/ RM/ RA/ JB/ JO with primary backups of SJ/ JF/ AJ - that's a pretty good eight-man rotation for the playoffs. Croshere or Harrison could be the ninth man, if JO can't play all 48 minutes.

If there's one thing Jon needs, its a clearly defined role - none of this multi-position, versatility crap. He just gets lost. The staff needs to pick a position for him, and then everyone needs to have enough discipline to stick with it.

PF has always been his 'most natural position', but he hasn't had the bulk to play many minutes there against professional-sized PFs. He just looks lost, defensively, on the perimeter. He's too long, and since he is known to fall for pump fakes, at his length that makes him even easier to attack out there. So if he's seeing any time at SF its a big-time strategic mistake, IMO.

Fixing the run-on sentence from Hell.

sweabs
09-30-2004, 01:13 PM
I completely agree, Jay.

Bender needs some direction - he needs to be told "This is where you are going to play" so he can focus on that position - and that alone.

I don't know if I can watch another season of Bender falling for every little pump fake on the perimeter...:mad:

Put him at the 4 :scream:

Arcadian
09-30-2004, 01:31 PM
If Al, Ron and JO weren't effective playing together while will Bender, Ron and JO work?

I am not asking this to refute the primise I want to talk about what Bender needs to do to fit in in the line up. The concensus answer for Jeff starting is that he plays as a role player. Can a player as talanted as Bender is be a role player?

Fool
09-30-2004, 02:06 PM
Rasheed Wallace

Kegboy
09-30-2004, 02:44 PM
If Al, Ron and JO weren't effective playing together while will Bender, Ron and JO work?

I am not asking this to refute the primise I want to talk about what Bender needs to do to fit in in the line up. The concensus answer for Jeff starting is that he plays as a role player. Can a player as talanted as Bender is be a role player?

They were effective playing together, when Al would come in and replace Jeff. The problem, as you alluded to, was Al looked for his shot too much to be a starter.

I don't think JB has Al's shoot first mentality. If we put him in the blocks, where he won't have the chance to stand around, like he does on the perimeter, he'll be forced to keep in the game.

Jay's right on it being the perfect scenario. However, I'm still leery. I need to actually see this 240 pounds. Not that I don't believe Conrad, I just can't picture it in my minds eye. But it sure would be nice to have JO paired with a shooter again down low, someone who can keep the double teams off him.

ChicagoJ
09-30-2004, 02:58 PM
I agree with what Kegboy said, but I think there is more than one right answer, so I'm going to give another one.

Al's two favorite spots on the court were (1) in the post, where JO played, and (2) baseline/wing, where Ron played.

Al did not like to play/ look comfortable in the high post.

If JB can get comfortable in the high post, with Ron on the baseline, JO at the low post, and Reggie/Jax and JT up top, the spacing will be much better than the spacing with everything else equal except replacing Al with JB.

Ultimate Frisbee
09-30-2004, 03:16 PM
Bender is also an extremely effective shooter, even more so than Al...

The one problem with giving Bender a "set" position is that most teams in the East will give significant minutes to lineups that deviate from the traditional positions.

ChicagoJ
09-30-2004, 03:39 PM
Bender is also an extremely effective shooter, even more so than Al...

The one problem with giving Bender a "set" position is that most teams in the East will give significant minutes to lineups that deviate from the traditional positions.

True. But most coaches only do that because they are trying to hide a weakness - in the East that weakness is commonly the lack of size/skill in the frontcourt.

So if they are attacking our strength with a gimmick to cover up thier weaknesses - well we overcame Miami's gimmick D pretty easily last spring, so I'm not worried. Or I don't understand your point at all.

The team that worries me is Detroit, because they don't need to use any gimmicks up front. They can just line 'em up and let 'em play.

Ultimate Frisbee
09-30-2004, 03:44 PM
Bender is also an extremely effective shooter, even more so than Al...

The one problem with giving Bender a "set" position is that most teams in the East will give significant minutes to lineups that deviate from the traditional positions.

True. But most coaches only do that because they are trying to hide a weakness - in the East that weakness is commonly the lack of size/skill in the frontcourt.

So if they are attacking our strength with a gimmick to cover up thier weaknesses - well we overcame Miami's gimmick D pretty easily last spring, so I'm not worried. Or I don't understand your point at all.

The team that worries me is Detroit, because they don't need to use any gimmicks up front. They can just line 'em up and let 'em play.

I'm not worried either... I guess my point was that it'll just be harder for Bender to get practice at a set traditional position (more on defense then offense)when the other teams start SFs at PF and PFs at C

Arcadian
09-30-2004, 03:53 PM
I agree that the facts that Bender can shoot from outside and that Al liked playing in the same spots as JO and Ron do make it a different situation.

I guess my bigger concer is does Bender need to score to be in the game. If he does I don't think it is going to work.

ChicagoJ
09-30-2004, 04:09 PM
I think it can still work even if Bender *needs* to score (and I'm not sure that's true, anyway).

Truthfully, I think our starting lineup is hurt more because Foster *can't* score than if Bender *needs* to score.

If this doesn't work, then shouldn't JO and Ron get a fair share of the blame? It was easy to see that Al was getting in everyone's way on the court. If JB isn't messing up the general spacing, then JO and Ron should be happy to work him into the offense - it will be easier for all three players to score without the obvious double-teams coming at them.

Arcadian
09-30-2004, 04:29 PM
I don't mean "needs to score" to imply Bender is selfish. I think he is one of those players at this point in his career who looks to score for confidence.

Both Ron and JO want touches so I guess my question is can Jon, who (when health) can score at will, not take away from the touches Ron and JO need.

I feel sorry for Tinsley tring to keep everyone happy in a line up of Jackson, JO, Ron and Bender. If they can work together great if not? Some times teams need players like Jeff who out of necessity step back in the offense.

ChicagoJ
09-30-2004, 04:36 PM
I've always thought - feel free to disagree - that Bender played with more confidence if the first thing he did upon checking into the game was get a rebound or block a shot.

If the first thing he did was shoot the ball, he was frequently ineffective for that game.

SoupIsGood
09-30-2004, 04:44 PM
If JB can get comfortable in the high post, with Ron on the baseline, JO at the low post, and Reggie/Jax and JT up top, the spacing will be much better than the spacing with everything else equal except replacing Al with JB.

God I wish the season would start, that lineup would be great.

Arcadian
09-30-2004, 04:59 PM
No, I agree. I guess what I am getting at is I haven't seen Jon play a memorable game where he wasn't scoring. I don't see him as a player who does the little things like Rasheed does (the example Fool gave as a talanted player who plays a role).

I will say though I completely agree that Jon has to play at the 4 this season. I just see him better suited playing the role Al did rather than starting. I look forward seeing how the minutes shake out this season.

Kegboy
09-30-2004, 05:01 PM
Al did not like to play/ look comfortable in the high post.

Boy, you sure got that right. He'll get to play in the low post in ATL, with Predrag up high and Walker WAY out on the perimeter.

Of course, with Walker, he'll probably never get the ball passed to him. Better work on that offensive rebounding.

Hicks
09-30-2004, 05:04 PM
Terry isn't on the Hawks team anymore.

Kegboy
09-30-2004, 05:06 PM
Terry isn't on the Hawks team anymore.

Damn you. I realized that the second I posted it. You beat me to the edit.

:blush:

Eindar
09-30-2004, 07:37 PM
Assuming Bender is a beefed up as advertised, it allows us to do a lot of things we really couldn't do last year. We can do small, putting JO at center, JB at PF, and Ron at SF, or as Carlisle mentioned, we can go HUGE, putting Harrison at C, JO at PF, and Bender at SF. If Harrison develops well enough during the season to be ready by the playoffs (a la Prince), I think we'll see a lot of this lineup, along with Artest or SJax at SG. Also, at that weight, Bender should give Rasheed fits, since sheed doesn't like to bang much, and he'll have a hard time taking Bender outside (assuming they work on the pump fake biting).

Ya, I'm real excited about this coming season :dance::cheers::boomer:

beast23
09-30-2004, 11:14 PM
When Carlisle was talking about playing big, it was when mentioning Harrison. So I think the frontcourt lineup he may have had in mind is
JO 6-11 245
DH 7-0 280
JB 7-1 245
If it's brute strength for short bursts Carlisle wants, he could throw Artest 6-7 245 and Johnson 6-3 190 at the guard positions and have a pretty big and strong lineup.

If JB really is up to 7-1 245 he has certainly taken a step in the right direction to play PF, the position that many of us feel might eventually become his best position.

But size isn't the only thing JB needs to play in the frontcourt. He also needs HEART. At times last season, we saw a willingness on his part to mix it up under the basket. If he's to play PF, we will have to see a whole lot more of that quality.

Jay, you had a thought, maybe a question of whether Bender "needed" to score.

I think that the Bender of the past absolutely had to score, otherwise with his defensive liability on the perimeter, we had no use for him being in the game.

At PF, I think if he's "willing to engage", he would prove to be a much better defensive player at that position. Therefore, perhaps scoring would not be nearly as important.

However, if he's on the floor as a SF, then he would most certainly need to score, for the same reasons as before. He simply can't guard the perimeter against the smaller, quicker players.

Of course Carlisle, just like the rest of us, is hoping for significant improvement from Bender. And he is thinking that after Pollard has a training camp under his belt that he will fit in much better this season.

As a result, Carlise has more players than ever at his disposal, and a heck of a lot of versatility. But what he had been leaning towards seemed to mention this depth chart:
C - Foster, Pollard
PF - O'Neal, Croshere
SF - Artest, Bender
SG - Miller, Jackson
PG - Tinsley, Johnson

Anthem
10-01-2004, 01:39 AM
C - Foster, Pollard
PF - O'Neal, Croshere
SF - Artest, Bender
SG - Miller, Jackson
PG - Tinsley, Johnson

Still too much depth. Bender gets, what, 6 minutes a game in that lineup? I'd give a lot to morph Croshere and Pollard into one player.

We're out of minutes in the frontcourt, and it leaves no time for players like Harrington and Bender to develop. This "they get better by sitting on the bench" thing is crap. Bender's improved more from small amounts of actual playing time than he did with mountains of practice and watching from the sidelines. Same with Freddy. Same with Jermaine, for that matter.

You learn best by doing. All we're teaching our prospects to do is sit on the freaking bench.

beast23
10-01-2004, 03:06 AM
I agree. It's a catch-22.

They don't play major minutes because they aren't "good enough" to gain minutes from a starter.

They aren't good enough to gain minutes from a starter because they haven't played enough.

Hicks
10-01-2004, 08:20 AM
Barring surprises, I expect our lineup to be:

Foster/Cro-Pollard (Like last year, it will depend on the matchup to determine which backs up Jeff)
O'Neal/Bender
Artest/Bender (I think Bender will take on Al's role, some minutes at SF, but most at PF)
Miller/Jackson - Jackson/Miller (It should flip to this later in the year, unless Reggie is noticably better)
Tinsley/Johnson

beast23
10-01-2004, 08:58 AM
Regardless of the depth chart that Carlisle seems to have mentioned, I think the lineup will go more like this:

C - Foster - (JO / Croshere / Pollard)
PF - JO - (Bender / Croshere)
SF - Artest - (Bender / Jackson)
SG - Miller - Jackson
PG - Tinsley - Johnson

Hicks
10-01-2004, 09:00 AM
Yes, I forgot to mention JO will also get backup C time. It's really by committee.