Figured this would make the rounds here eventually..
Stick a fork in the Pacers
They've quit on Carlisle, and O'Neal is not a leader
Chris McCosky / The Detroit News
Clarence Tabb Jr./The Detroit News
Jermaine O'Neal, who will be well paid through 2010, has All-Star talent but isn't a franchise player. go See full image
Fake leaders and fake tough guys. Not-ready-to-win players. That's what I see with the Pacers.
They have quit on Rick Carlisle. That seems obvious given their performances the last two weeks, especially their awful showing at The Palace on Sunday.
Oh, they may rally and keep their hold on the seventh spot in the East. They have six games left, all against lottery teams. But that doesn't change the reality. Their window has closed. They are no longer a legitimate contender and probably never will be with the cast of characters.
And they can stop blaming Ron Artest and the injuries. It goes deeper.
Jermaine O'Neal, the man the Pacers will pay $82.1 million next season through 2010, is an All-Star talent. But he's not equipped to be a franchise player. He lacks something -- mental toughness, maybe -- to be a true leader.
It was ironic after Sunday's loss he said, "There are talkers, and there are doers. All we are is a talking team."
The Pacers take their cue from him. To me, O'Neal is one of the great talkers in history. But where is he at crunch time when the Pacers need a big play? Even when the Pacers were contenders, he seemed to get real quiet when the biggest games were on the line.
He was at his best when he was surrounded by Artest (a true tough guy), Reggie Miller (a true franchise player) and a veteran big man like Dale Davis or Brad Miller, who could do all the dirty work for him.
Then there is Stephen Jackson (owed $27.5 million through 2010) and Jamaal Tinsley ($33.6 million through 2011). Jackson showed his true colors Sunday when he basically said, "Don't talk to me, I am doing my job."
Jackson is a guy who, if surrounded by strong-minded veterans, would be an asset -- like he was when he won a title with the Spurs. Without that, he's just too unstable, and he winds up chipping away at the team's chemistry.
Same for Tinsley, who can't seem to step away from his own petulance. Pacers insiders chuckled that he came down with his latest injury (right ankle sprain) the same day Carlisle announced Anthony Johnson was replacing him in the starting lineup.
Artest, as it turns out, was only a small part of the problem.
What, now, will Larry Bird and Donnie Walsh do?
The easiest thing would be to fire Carlisle, but I think Bird is smart enough to know that won't solve the problem.
The Knicks are going to come calling about O'Neal. The best they will be able to offer are a bunch of expiring contracts. It won't be an easy sell to the people of Indiana, but it may be wise to unload O'Neal (and Jackson and Tinsley), sacrifice next season and build a sturdier foundation.