PACERS GETTING THE POINT
January 20, 2004 -- BACK-TO-BACK victories over the Spurs in Indy and the Nets in New Jersey - as well as yesterday's road kill in Atlanta - leave little doubt the 32-11 Pacers are the team to beat in the East and to seriously challenge the deified West.
Especially in light of Jonathan Bender surfacing from the injured list with his surround-sound game and Jamaal Tinsley's emergence from uncalled-for confinement.
"Jamaal has changed our world," gushed Rick Carlisle, rattling off a multitude of reasons, each related to uninhibited running and unrestrained stunning. "Our scoring has gone up about ten a game since he took over the point. The other night in Dallas we piled up 25 fast break points to five by the Mavericks. All because Jamaal was pushing the ball and attacking the defense."
Saturday night, after a dreadful first half (0-5 FG; he was up 'till 7 a.m. with his infant son who lives in New York), in which the Nets dared Tinsley to beat them from outside, he changed up and attacked defensively. In the guts of the game.
In the first three quarters, Jason Kidd accumulated 21 points. In the final dozen minutes, Tinsley (and Anthony Johnson) held him scoreless and pressured him into his lone three turnovers. When other Nets are forced to set up themselves or think on their own the team becomes mighty vulnerable.
"My job was not to let him get the ball by denying him or make him give it up [by blocking a layup] when he got it," Tinsley explained. "A.J. kept telling me to keep the ball out of his hands and we'd be all right."
Tinsley also busted Byron Scott's strategy by draining three trifectas after intermission and buried three critical free throws in four tries at crunch time.
"What I love about Jamaal is that he stayed in shape and kept working on his jumper when he wasn't getting any time," Carlisle praised. "I went with Kenny [Anderson] at the start and when he got hurt Jamaal was ready. That's impressive."
That pretty much sums up the Pacers, too.
Asked what the Pacers need, if anything, Reggie Miller noted: "Well, if Jamaal is going to continue to play like he's been playing we don't need help at the point, that's for sure. I guess we could always use some more size.
"What we really need, though, is for David Stern to make more minutes. We've got too many good players and not enough minutes to keep everyone happy."
* The Hawks and Blazers don't appear any closer to firming up a swap of Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Chris Crawford for Rashweed Wallace. My feeling is, Portland is delaying things a tinge in hopes the Mavericks come across with Antoine Walker (and more) vs. Antawn Jamison, Tony Delk and Eduardo Najera.
At any rate, sources say agent Bill Strickland is trying to involve the Knicks or Cavaliers in a three-way deal with the Blazers/Hawks. Supposedly those are the only two teams Wallace will commit to long-term; he loves the idea of playing in New York or with LeBron James.
Certainly that should get the Cavs' attention. I've been alerted all along they'd be interested if they knew positively Wallace would re-sign with them. Clearly, the Knicks don't have sufficient resources to compensate the Blazers and/or the Hawks, while the Cavs boast Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Of course, the Hawks already have a center, Theo Ratliff. At the same time, the game plan of the new owners is to dump salary not exchange it for the same amount and number of years. In other words, simply switching Shareef for Rasheed makes much more sense.
Pacer management has received several distress signals over the last few weeks from Al Harrington. Sources say the Jersey-born-and-bred forward wants to play somewhere (preferably the Knicks) where he can be a leading man, not an understudy. But there's no way Indy will trade him short of getting a rising superstar.
Sources say Jerry West greatly covets HarRington, who may not be as good as he thinks he is, but, from my pulpit, is better than anything the Grizzlies have to offer.
Knicks, indeed, have offered to take either Jerome Williams or Eddie Robinson off the Bulls' cap along with Jamal Crawford for Shandon Anderson and Frank Williams . . . Knicks and Raptors have also discussed an Anderson-Lamond Murray switch . . . While fielding bids for Wallace, the Blazers notified the league Dale Davis is available . . . Spurs continue to shop Ron Mercer . . . 76ers continue to shop Derrick Coleman and sources say they're now prepared to include Eric Snow if the price is right.