'Old-fashioned' Carlisle keeps control of offense
Pacers are scoring fewer points since Artest left team, but those who like faster pace can't argue with results
By Mark Montieth
Ron Artest considered the Indiana Pacers' offense "boring" since Rick Carlisle became their coach two seasons ago.
WHAT HE WANTS: Pacers coach Rick Carlisle says he prefers an offense with more freedom but doesn't think this team is suited to play that style. Indiana is 5-2 since Ron Artest was placed on the inactive list. - MATT KRYGER / The Star
He probably likes it better now, even though he's not playing in it.
That's the irony for the Pacers' All-Star forward since being placed on the team's inactive list because of a wrist injury and subsequent trade request. Without him, the Pacers are playing more the way he had wanted to play.
They're 5-2 since Artest's exit heading into tonight's game at Dallas, with both losses coming on the road.
They aren't necessarily a better team, however. They're scoring 2.3 fewer points per game and their victories have either come against poor teams or good teams that shot poorly.
But they're having more fun and are more fun to watch. The offense has more movement, more passing and more freedom, which has led to greater cohesion.
"We're not running much stuff," Sarunas Jasikevicius said after last weekend's victory at New York. "We're being simple about what we do. I think it's the way to go and we're getting results."
Carlisle's offense has been a source of varying degrees of contention among the players since he became coach. He has favored a highly structured, matchup-based, half-court style, calling out plays from the sideline more often than not and slowing the pace to a walk.
Most of the players have accepted it because the results have generally been favorable. The Pacers won a franchise-record 61 games two seasons ago, when Artest and Jermaine O'Neal made the All-Star team, and were regarded as an overachieving team last season despite an onslaught of injuries and suspensions.
"Rick's kind of old-fashioned," Stephen Jackson said. "But it's hard to go away from what he's been doing because it's been working for him for so long.
"We've got guys who want to play a funner style, but at the same time, it's about winning. Sometimes we get frustrated with it, I won't lie. But at the end of the day, that's what's going to get us wins."
In calmer moments, Artest agrees. After losses, though, he sometimes was unable to contain his emotions.
His first outburst over Carlisle's offense came in a game at Minnesota on Dec. 20, 2004, in which the Pacers trailed by as many as 36 points on their way to a 22-point loss. During the first half, as the game spiraled out of reach, Artest vented his frustration by shouting at the coaching staff to get him the ball in the low post -- while the game was in progress.
Afterward, he applied the "boring" label to the offense, adding, "it's not real fun playing this style of basketball."
Artest repeated that opinion on occasion after losses, although at other times he'd acknowledge Carlisle's successful history and talk of the need to adjust to the system.
He did both after the Pacers' loss to Philadelphia in their home opener this season. Asked afterward if the loss had resulted from a lack of effort, Artest shifted the conversation.
"I just think it was the offense," he said. "We were just thinking too much, playing like robots. It was hard to play in coach's offense today.
"His offense was . . ."
Then he caught himself.
"We're still winning," he said. "I just have to get adjusted to it."
Artest made similar remarks after the Pacers' home loss to Dallas on Dec. 6 -- his most recent, and probably last, game as a Pacer. He was clearly frustrated afterward, barely managing to hold his tongue long enough to avoid controversy. Four days later, after sitting out two games with a bruised right wrist -- both Indiana victories -- he aired his trade request.
Along with a desire to escape the baggage of his controversies, he cited frustration with the offense as his motivation for wanting out.
Carlisle has defenses beyond his record. He says he prefers a more flowing, faster-paced offense with freedom for the players to react instinctively, and points out the Pacers played that way when he was in charge of the offense during Larry Bird's three seasons as coach.
He doesn't believe this team is as well-suited to play that style, especially if Artest is playing.
"One of the reasons we played slower with Ron was to get the ball in his hands," Carlisle said. "That's something I'm not sure he quite had a handle on."
Players to watch
Pacers -- Jeff Foster played only 10 minutes in his second start of the season at Cleveland on Friday. Coach Rick Carlisle decided to go with forward Austin Croshere for most of the second half for matchup purposes. It's unknown if Foster will start tonight, but he said one of the reasons he was put back in the starting lineup was to defend players like Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki and San Antonio's Tim Duncan, whom the Pacers face Tuesday. Foster is averaging 18.3 minutes since making his season debut Dec. 2.
Mavericks -- Jason Terry missed the first meeting with the Pacers on Dec. 6. Terry has taken over the role formerly occupied by Michael Finley, who is now with the Spurs, as the Mavericks' second scoring option. Terry scored 12 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter to help the Mavericks come from behind to beat Seattle on Friday. He is making nearly 48 percent of his 3-pointers in the past 13 games and has scored at least 20 points in 10 games this season.
The Pacers' three-game trip continues tonight in Dallas. The short-handed Mavericks beat the Pacers 84-75 earlier this month at Conseco Fieldhouse. The teams have split their past six meetings. Nowitzki is averaging 32 points and shooting 52 percent from the field in the past three games against the Pacers. Carlisle gave his team the weekend off for the holidays.