View Full Version : Charlotte Observer: Bobcats, Brezec Gain From Pacers' Loyalty

11-26-2004, 12:53 PM
http://www.charlotte.com/mld/charlotte/sports/basketball/nba/charlotte_bobcats/10274188.htm?1c (http://www.charlotte.com/mld/charlotte/sports/basketball/nba/charlotte_bobcats/10274188.htm?1c)

Bobcats, Brezec gain from Pacers' loyalty

Indiana chose Miller over center, who is thriving in Charlotte
Staff Writer

FORT MILL - Indiana Pacers president Donnie Walsh says the decision was quite simple: Reggie Miller's past trumps Primoz Brezec's future any day.

So in a time when loyalty seems an antiquated concept in professional sports, the Pacers protected Miller, the greatest player in franchise history. That meant exposing Brezec, a 7-foot-1 center, to the Charlotte Bobcats, and Brezec might end up the best catch in expansion-draft history.

"I would never put Reggie out on an expansion list," said Walsh, whose team hosts the Bobcats tonight at Conseco Fieldhouse. "He's meant too much to us and he means too much to us."

A 6-foot-7 shooting guard, Miller is the Pacers' all-time scorer with 24,305 points. He collaborated effectively with every Pacer from Chuck Person to Jalen Rose to Jermaine O'Neal.

No one knows that better than Brezec, by the way.

"I mean, come on, that's a franchise guy with 17 years in the league. A big-time player and a great guy," Brezec said of Miller, who is on the injured list.

"He did everything right for the franchise. So you're going to protect me instead of him? Gamble on (losing) him? Come on."

Less than a month into the regular season, Brezec has risen from an afterthought to a revelation. He's averaging 13.4 points and 7.0 rebounds. The Boston Globe and New York Times have written about him, and Sports Illustrated had a reporter traveling with the team to do a profile.

So how is it that Pacers coach Rick Carlisle found all of 72 minutes for him last season at a position that is the NBA's hardest to fill?

"We had about four reasons why he didn't play: Jermaine O'Neal, Jeff Foster, Austin Croshere and Scot Pollard," Carlisle said during the preseason.

Of those four Pacers big men, only O'Neal clearly has more potential than Brezec. But all four had the experience Brezec lacked, and that was key for a Pacers team chasing a spot in the NBA Finals last season.

"Many times we didn't even play a (true) center," Walsh said last week of the Pacers' approach. "We were a team trying to win every game and we won 61. The coaches felt we had to go with experience."

Little as Brezec played in Indiana (343 minutes in three seasons), Walsh knew he had something worth developing. He saw a 7-footer in his early 20s with skills to score both inside and out.

Just as importantly, Walsh saw a player disciplined enough to work through his weaknesses. That's a function of Brezec's Slovenian development.

"He's used to very demanding coaches. Over there, they'd work on one defensive set all day long," Walsh said. "It was a place where there was no arguing; you did what you were told."

Walsh thinks Brezec's situation is ideal -- a finesse scorer, paired with a rugged power forward in rookie Emeka Okafor.

Brezec would play a lot right now as a Pacer, since injuries and suspensions have devastated that roster. But Walsh seems genuinely happy for how this played out.

"I felt it was time. It didn't really bother me (that the Bobcats chose him) because he needs to play now," Walsh said.

"He would have gotten frustrated here. It's tough to hold on to a guy like that indefinitely, because they'll stop improving if you can't get them on the floor."

11-26-2004, 01:33 PM
What if the Bobcats had taken James Jones?