Team Analyzes Needs For ’06-07
By Conrad Brunner | May 5, 2006
With his epic 40-point performance Thursday night, Anthony Johnson earned the platform to voice his opinion about what is needed to ensure a more successful, less controversial, 2006-07 season for the Pacers. But he was far from the only member of the team to make his feelings know.
With the conclusion of the 2005-06 season, in fact, there was much less talk about the reasons the Pacers lost their first-round series to the Nets than of the future of the roster. The franchise leaders that will make those decisions are CEO and President Donnie Walsh and President of Basketball Larry Bird, and we will hear from them soon.
After the 96-90 loss to the Nets in Conseco Fieldhouse, there were a variety of opinions offered from within the team about the possibility for offseason change.
By way of background, Eddie Gill and Scot Pollard both will become free agents July 1. Fred Jones could also become a free agent if the Pacers choose not to make a qualifying offer. Even if they do, he will be a restricted free agent, with the Pacers holding the right of first refusal. Peja Stojakovic has said he will opt out of the final season of his contract to become a free agent.
We will let the participants tell the rest of this story in their own words. All are listed in alphabetical order.
Coach Rick Carlisle
"There's always talk of change every summer with every NBA franchise and every franchise is scrutinized very closely at the end of the year. … If you look at the situation and the fact we had over 200 man-games missed, if you count the period in December and January where Ron Artest was out of the lineup and we really didn't have a player, there's some real hope, if we can get healthy. I think that's something our fans have got to look at. I don't know how much change there's going to be. I really don't. There could be significant change and then again it could be very moderate. It's hard to predict but there have been a lot of good things that happened this year in the midst of a lot of trying times, as well. …
"If you look at the number of games missed due to injury and other things and the fact we've got some young guys that got a lot of experience this year, this situation may not be as far from getting really back in the right place as it may appear. I think there will be changes. To what extent it's very hard to say right now. Those decisions will be made by Larry and Donnie."
Power Forward Austin Croshere
"Obviously, we underachieved this year and guys are disappointed with the way we played for extended periods during the year. We did turn things around at the end of the year and showed that maybe we’re not as far off from where we want to be as things were during stretches of the year. I don’t think anybody will be surprised if there’s changes. How many and how big those changes are, nobody really knows. …
"We have as fun-loving of a group of guys as I’ve ever been around. Do we have chemistry problems? Yeah. Do we have them all the time? No. It’s a frustrating thing because there’s times where we showed that we had great chemistry, guys played really well out there, they’re happy for each other, they’re cheering. We turned things around with six games left in the regular season. We played well in the playoffs. But you can’t do things one way for extended periods of time in this league and hope that you’re just going to turn it around. …
"We definitely underachieved and we didn’t play to our potential. It’s disappointing but I think this team has a lot of talent. I don’t know how easy it is to get rid of talent for equal talent, chemistry-wise. It’s a difficult question to answer. "
Small Forward Danny Granger
"It was a big whirlwind. More like a tornado. With the trade that happened and various injuries, it seemed like we were never full strength throughout the season. I’ve been told this isn’t a typical NBA season with all the adversity that we went through. But we made the playoffs. We made a small push. We’ve got to prepare for next year now. …
"I don’t think he (Carlisle) necessarily lost this team. We had so many issues that messed with the cohesiveness of the team. We couldn’t get it together. At one point, this person was out, that person was out, key players. We started so many different lineups because of the injury situations that it would have been hard for any coach to coach the team. "
Shooting Guard Stephen Jackson
"Everybody needs to be healthy. There’s a lot of things we need. I don’t know man, it’s been rough. It’s been rough the two years I’ve been here. There’s been a lot. Obviously, I had to take the blame for a lot of stuff since I’ve been here. That’s part of my job. I love it. I love everybody that I play with here. I love the coaches. I love everybody. If I’m not here next year, I don’t have any bad blood. …
"I think it was so much negativity going around that it got kind of contagious. Sometimes people were talking about one another. The team wasn’t always together all the time. It was an up-and-down rocky year. When the team’s not together it’s going to show out there on the court."
Point Guard Anthony Johnson
"I think the culture has to change. Sometimes there's a lack of professionalism and there's a lack of understanding that we need to give more effort to the team situation and not think about individual success and individual wants and needs. That being said, that culture's going to have to change.
"We've had a tough two years here with the brawl and all that last year and this year, just always being involved in some kind of controversy, we make things difficult on ourselves. You can deal with injuries but when the culture's not good it makes things a lot more difficult and it makes the season difficult."
Shooting Guard Fred Jones
"At this point, you really can’t speculate. You have to just let everything die down. Then you go back and look at it. Then you make decisions. You can’t make decisions on the spur of the moment right now for a franchise. …
"Every team has chemistry issues. We’re not the only team that goes through that. That happens on the 82-game season. Different things are going to change regardless. We’ve just got to fight through it and deal with it."
Power Forward Jermaine O'Neal
"First of all, get another big guy. We've got to get a big guy that can block some shots and kind of relieve me. The toughest part for me is to have to go box to box, fight one guy, fight another guy, spin, try to get the rebound, try to block the shot, try to score. Over a period of time, that takes a lot out of your body.
"Obviously, I'm not the biggest, strongest guy in the world, so my body would be better off if we get a center that can absorb some of that pounding and let me move around a little bit more. Personally, that would be the first thing I hope this team addresses."
Small Forward Peja Stojakovic
"It’s the first time I’ve been a free agent in my career. I liked the organization from the first time I got here. I was really accepted well. Unfortunately, we had some ups-and-downs. We didn’t finish the season the way we would like. But I would consider Indiana my number one option. …
"This team has talent. As long as we stay together and have an ultimate goal, and, of course, if the health isn’t such an issue, we’ll have a chance."