Interesting Bird comment at the end, sounds as tho they've had some team "discussions".
IndyStar.com Sports Pacers
January 27, 2006
Artest watch is over, but Pacers hit midpoint in disarray
By Mike Wells
The Indiana Pacers started coming together weeks before training camp at the urging of their outspoken leader, Jermaine O'Neal.
Ron Artest was a guest on Fox Sports' "Best Damn Sports Show Period" on Wednesday night. Here are some of the things he had to say:
"I feel blessed to be a King right now."
Asked whether trading for him is a gamble:
"I think given the circumstances I've been under, the things I have been through, everything I've been a part of -- yeah, that's a fair statement. I just want to prove everybody wrong and do the right thing by the Sacramento Kings. . . . It's a gamble, but at the same time, I'm going to try to prove everybody wrong, that it was a good choice. . . . At first I didn't want to prove (the media was) wrong, but it's time by now that I start proving everybody wrong."
"I got a lot of love for Indiana still, but it's going to feel good to go to Sacramento."
"I'm going to try to make people see a different Ron Artest. One that's less controversial, but at the same time, I'm going to be myself and have fun."
Asked whether Kobe Bryant could score 81 points against him:
"Why are you trying to insult me? I'll leave that for the other weak defenders in the NBA."
• Who: Cavaliers (23-17) at Pacers (21-20).
• When: 7 p.m.
• TV: ESPN, FSN Midwest.
• Radio: WIBC-1070 AM.
They laughed, slapped hands, cracked jokes and talked about overtaking the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference.
Half a season later, poor team chemistry, injuries and the Ron Artest sideshow have led to a 21-20 record and derailed all talk of the Pacers winning a championship.
The Pacers solved one problem Wednesday by trading Artest, but the outlook was gloomy again Thursday after they learned O'Neal could miss the rest of the regular season with a torn left groin. The Pacers are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference; eight teams from each conference reach the playoffs.
"I think as far as season goals go still, I can't answer that question," forward Austin Croshere said. "Right now we're at such a low point that it's a matter of getting back to the basic elements of the game, which is playing as hard as you can, scrapping for loose balls. A lot of times when you kind of hit bottom like that, you just have to fight, scrap and claw your way out of things.
"You really pay lip service to the idea of taking it one game at a time at a lot of points during the season when that's not always the case. But this is really one game at a time with the way we've been playing and how bad it's been. It's a matter of getting back to the basics."
The Pacers have lost six of their past eight games, including four straight. It's the way they're losing that has team president Larry Bird wondering what's going on with the team that he and CEO Donnie Walsh thought could compete with San Antonio and Detroit for a title.
"I never dreamed that it would be like this," Bird said. "We're very disappointed in the fact that we had the guys here to do it and to get off to the start we did is very frustrating. We've gone downhill since then. But hopefully we're back on the right track and we can move forward."
Bird believes that the acquisition of Peja Stojakovic and the team's depth should allow them to remain in playoff contention without O'Neal. The Pacers play Cleveland tonight, but the 28-year-old Stojakovic likely won't make his debut until Tuesday night in Washington.
"Our goal has to be that we make sure we make the playoffs and be ready to push even further when Jermaine gets back," Bird said. "His injury isn't the best thing to happen, but we have to get through it. It's good we got Peja. It's going to take him a little bit of time to get used to things, but he'll definitely be able to help out."
The Pacers were in a similar position last season when O'Neal missed 22 games late in the season with a shoulder injury. The Pacers went 15-7 in that span, going to a more up-tempo style to offset the lack of an inside presence. They plan to resort to that style again. Stephen Jackson and Fred Jones likely will be the team's top two scoring options until Stojakovic finds his niche.
"With the talent level we have right now, our margin of error is small," said Croshere, who will start in O'Neal's absence. "We can't get away with the same things we could have when our talent level was that much higher. We need to execute things better to make up for the talent we don't have." The Pacers have several issues that go beyond replacing O'Neal and Artest.
Cohesiveness has been a problem. Bird has told players the effort and attitude have to improve. Coach Rick Carlisle has referred to the team as "selfish" after games on several occasions.
"There's going to be some changes in the way they play," Bird said. "It's like they're just going through the motions out there at times. We've talked to them and expressed our frustrations, and if it continues to happen, we'll probably have to look in another direction, because one thing we're going to do is put a competitive team out on the court."