July 11, 2005
Pacers eager to return to work
Top draft pick Granger, 3 familiar faces taking part in team's summer activities.
By Mike Wells
Some are hoping to catch the eye of an NBA team. Some are preparing for their first taste of the NBA. Others are fine-tuning their game after missing most or part of last season for the Indiana Pacers.
The Pacers went through their first of five days of rookie/free agent camp Sunday evening at Conseco Fieldhouse.
"We put in kind of a framework of what we're trying to do offensively and it's not a whole lot different from what we did during the season; it's to give them freedom out there and the ability to play together," said Pacers assistant coach Dan Burke, who is coaching the team with Chuck Person. "If a guy is coming in as a rebounder, he better come in and rebound and not come in and try to score. We want to make sure to give the guys a fair chance to get a fair look so that they can try to fulfill their dream."
The Pacers will practice in Indianapolis through Thursday then play five games in a Minnesota summer league in Minneapolis starting Friday.
"I'm really anxious; I probably haven't played competitively other than the workouts, and that's like 2-on-2," Pacers first-round pick Danny Granger said. "It will be the first time I've played competitively in awhile, so I'm really looking forward to it."
The Pacers are unlikely to spend big in free agency, but they feel good about their roster because they added Granger and Ron Artest, David Harrison and Jonathan Bender are returning after missing much of last season.
Artest, who has been an All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year, will play with the summer league team.
Friday will mark the first time he's played in a game for the Pacers since Nov. 19 against Detroit. That night, he charged into the stands after a fan threw a beverage cup on him. He was suspended for the rest of the season.
Artest is scheduled to address the local media today for the first time since the brawl.
"We want him to come out and play in a team setting; it's not about him getting 30 points, which everybody knows he can do if he wants to," Burke said. "It's more about playing in the team framework and working on his game, improving his game and not getting hurt."
Bender, who has played just 28 games over the past two seasons, again will try to prove he's healthy. He's expected to meet the team in Minneapolis. Bender will likely only play in two or three summer-league games.
Harrison, the Pacers' first-round draft pick last summer, hurt his left knee in late February, then underwent season-ending arthroscopic surgery in early April.
Harrison, who averaged 6.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in 43 games, recently was cleared for full contact.
"I pretty much haven't played since February," he said. "I have to pretty much learn how to use my knee again after the surgery. I'm not timid; it's just that I'm not used to the movements yet."