Source...Q. It seems the Pacers have been playing worse since the return of (Jamaal) Tinsley and (Jermaine) O'Neal, especially when considering their recent schedule. I'm sure you'll find some reasons to dismiss this thought (game conditioning is my best guess), but I don't think they play with as much heart when Tinsley plays, and I think they play less of a team oriented game with O'Neal playing. When considering the Pacers' need for a strong push to remain in the playoff picture, wouldn't the Pacers be better off to play (Sarunas) Jasikevicius and his team-oriented style of play (despite his recent poor individual statistics) and (Anthony) Johnson at the point, and not focus the offense around O'Neal? (From Joel in Algona, Iowa)
A. Whenever one key player returns from a lengthy absence, it's normal for a team to go through some bumps during an initial adjustment period. When two key players return at roughly the same time, the adjustments become exponentially more difficult. That doesn't excuse the Pacers for their lackluster performances of late. Though Tinsley plays an entirely different style of point guard than Johnson and O'Neal's presence on the floor changes the flow of the offense, the team should've been able to re-adjust fairly quickly to their returns. If the Pacers have picked up anything from the past two years, it's the ability to deal with radical changes on the fly.
Instead, the Pacers have gone the other way. They're 5-11 since Tinsley returned and 1-4 in his starts. They're 2-5 since O'Neal returned. There hasn't been a consistent pattern to their losses. They've had good and bad days both offensively and defensively. They have, however, continued to struggle in close games because they don't appear to know yet how they're going to score in crunch-time situations.
While I believe a change at the point could be beneficial, I'm not sure putting Jasikevicius into the spotlight would be the right move under these circumstances. Though he has been a pressure player throughout his career, it would be unfair to expect a guy who's been at the end of the bench for a few weeks to step in and save the season. I do believe, however, he should play regularly because he brings fire and energy to the game, qualities the Pacers dearly need. Johnson was very good as a starter but has struggled off the bench, so if a change is to be made, he would be the prime candidate to move back into the lineup.
As for O'Neal's role within the offense, he has been making an honest effort to fit in and not dominate the ball. He's been a much more willing and productive passer (13 assists in his last three games) and has led the team in field goal attempts just once in the six games he's played since returning from the groin injury -- and that was in Milwaukee Saturday night, when you could argue he should've taken many more than 16 shots. If O'Neal continues to play as he did against the Bucks, consistently making strong moves toward the basket rather than settling for fadeaways or mid-range jumpers, he can have a profound impact on the offense. Then, it will be up to his teammates to take advantage of the opportunities he can present. There has been no shortage of quality shots for Peja Stojakovic, Stephen Jackson, and others. So far, however, the Pacers haven't figured out a way to get all of their weapons firing in synch.
Do Conrad say smoething TPTB are tinking about?