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QUESTION OF THE DAY
Q. Could you please rehash the mindset at the time of the trade of (Erick) Dampier for Chris Mullin? After seeing his work this past week I'm very impressed and wondering how the Pacers could have let this guy go. What are the chances for a return to Indiana? (From Tony in St. Louis)
A. At the time, the Pacers were coming off a tumultuous 1996-97 campaign, the only season in the past 14 in which they failed to reach the playoffs. And it was followed by the abrupt resignation of coach Larry Brown. With the core of a team that had reached the Eastern Conference Finals twice in the previous three years intact, there was every reason to believe the Pacers could quickly return to elite status. Dampier showed flashes of potential during his rookie season (averaging 5.1 points and 4.1 rebounds) but the Pacers already had Rik Smits, Dale Davis and Antonio Davis up front, and there was a need at small forward. Jalen Rose, acquired midway through the ’96-97 season, wasn’t yet established at any position. And Derrick McKey was coming off a season in which he missed 32 games and experienced a variety of physical problems that cast a cloud of uncertainty over his immediate future. And so Dampier was dealt to the Warriors (along with Duane Ferrell) for Mullin, a favorite of Larry Bird, the newly minted coach.
There’s no question both teams benefited from the trade. Mullin was an integral part (and third-leading scorer at 11.3) of the 1997-98 team that won a club-record 58 games and pushed the Bulls to the seventh game of the conference finals. He averaged 10.1 points the following seasons as the Pacers made another conference finals trip. Though he was a role-player on the team that reached the NBA Finals in 2000, his influence on all three seasons was substantial. Dampier has emerged as a force this season, his eighth in the NBA, but his career has been marked by injury problems and inconsistency. He carried career averages of 8.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.57 blocks into this season. As for a possible return, he has an opt-out that would allow him to become a free agent this summer and it’s assumed he’ll be on the market, but the Pacers likely won’t be in position to get into the bidding.
Email from Jay to Bruno:
I know that you remember that Jalen was not “acquired midway through the ’96-97 season” but rather was acquired in May in a trade that allowed the Pacers to move up to #10 and draft Dampier with Denver’s pick.
Why do the things that we treasure most, slip away in time
Till to the music we grow deaf, to God's beauty blind
Why do the things that connect us slowly pull us apart?
Till we fall away in our own darkness, a stranger to our own hearts
And life itself, rushing over me
Life itself, the wind in black elms,
Life itself in your heart and in your eyes, I can't make it without you