Players Get Jump On Training Camp..
(some of this is old news, some tidbits are new)
By Conrad Brunner | Sept. 30, 2005
Technically speaking, training camp begins Tuesday.
That hardly will be the first day of workouts for most of the Pacers players, who've been gathering in Conseco Fieldhouse for the past two weeks. The voluntary workouts were the idea of Jermaine O'Neal, who contacted all of his teammates and urged them to report early and was met with near-unanimous response.
"Jermaine's been the impetus for it," said Coach Rick Carlisle. "He's the one that organized people. My experience over 20 years has been the teams that do this sort of thing have an advantage, so it's a great sign."
The only two players who didn't come in were Jamaal Tinsley and Anthony Johnson. Both have been working out independently.
"I asked guys to come back a couple of weeks early and everybody came in with the exception of Jamaal - but Jamaal looks great right now," said O'Neal. "He's in New York taking care of some personal things, which is fine with us, but we know he's going to come in ready to play and Anthony Johnson's going to come in ready to play. For the most part, we've had 13, 14 guys here playing, doing drills together and just trying to get ready for the season."
The solidarity is a strong sign the Pacers are not only responding to O'Neal's new role as unquestioned team leader after Miller's retirement but demonstrating the seriousness of their championship quest. After last season's derailment, this is a team that appears very much back on track.
"It just shows dedication," said Fred Jones. "Everybody's on the same page, wanting to come out here and have a good season.
"Jermaine has always been in that (leadership) role. This isn't the first time he's been the leader. He's always been that since I've been here. Of course, he made his phone calls. He asked us to come. I don't think too many people weren't willing to do that. Once he suggested it, everybody jumped on it because we all have the same goal."
O'Neal, Jones, Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson also got together in Las Vegas for workouts earlier in the offseason in what amounted to their own minicamp.
"The year before we won the championship in San Antonio, we lost in the playoffs and nine of our primary 10 guys were in the gym working out (during the offseason)," said Jackson, "so it means a lot that guys are dedicating themselves, not taking too much time off in the summer, and getting prepared for next year. It definitely gives us a head-start on other teams."
Volunteers no more, the Pacers will commence the two-a-day grind Tuesday. The first preseason game comes Oct. 11 at New Jersey and the regular season begins Nov. 2 in Orlando. By all accounts, readiness won't be an issue. "I know a lot of guys work out throughout the summer and it's nice to have everybody in and know that they're working," said Jeff Foster. "Guys are working hard. The encouraging thing is a lot of the young guys have been in and to have Jermaine back this early says a lot for where his mindset is, and Ron also. "Obviously, the leaders of this team have the mindset of where we need to go and, hopefully, we'll get there."