Strong Veteran Leader
Armstrong Brings Positive Energy To Pacers
By Conrad Brunner
July 24, 2006
This being, in all likelihood, the final season of Darrell Armstrong's career, the veteran guard isn't interested in going quietly.
That simply isn't his style.
Acquired from Dallas along with young forwards Josh Powell and Rawle Marshall Monday in exchange for Anthony Johnson, the veteran point guard fully intends to bring the Pacers everything he's brought his other NBA teams, namely energy, enthusiasm and leadership in large quantities.
"I'm going to tell you right now: when I come in, I'm going to be myself," Armstrong said by telephone from Orlando, where he's conducting an annual basketball camp to benefit his foundation.
"I love to bring my energy early in the morning. I know guys are going to get tired of hearing me. I just love to play the game. I love to come to practice. I love to come to work. I'm going to bring my leadership, I'm going to bring my hard work.
"I always try to lead by example first. When it's time to be vocal, I'll say what I have to say and I'll let it go from there. The biggest thing is leading by example. When guys see you playing hard, when they see you picking up 94 feet up the floor pressuring guards and making things happen, they're going to do the same thing.
That's where the leadership has to start. When it's time to be vocal, you've got to know how to talk to guys and know what to say to 'em. You can't always yell at guys because sometimes it's going to turn them off."
Armstrong, 38, averaged 10.0 minutes, 2.1 points and 1.4 assists in 62 games with the Mavericks in 2005-06. He has career averages of 10.1 points and 4.4 assists. Though he played a secondary role on the court, Armstrong was an important part of the team chemistry of the Western Conference champions.
Coach Avery Johnson's faith in Armstrong's leadership was demonstrated in January. On the flight back to Dallas after a 117-115 loss in New York, Johnson summoned Armstrong to the back of the plane and suggested he conduct the next day's film session. No coaches would be present.
The Mavericks promptly won 13 in a row and 19 of 20.
"He knew I had the leadership," Armstrong said. "He knew the guys responded to me, so he had me do the film session the next day without the coaches. It was fun. It was something new, something different for me and I think it instilled something into me because it showed me I do have the ability, once I finish this game, to coach somewhere in this league or around the world."
Armstrong will have to wait to begin his coaching career. The free agent reportedly signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract to facilitate the sign-and-trade deal and believes he still has plenty to offer the Pacers in a reserve role.
"It's an exciting time in my career," he said. "When teams say they need your leadership and they need you to come in and mentor these young guys, that's great. I think Indiana realized I can still play this game. I still play with the energy I need to play with. I'm not going to play 40 minutes but I can play 10, 12, 15 and do my part. I'm just delighted to have the opportunity. I always felt like this team was a good team and I still feel that way. This is a good opportunity and a good place for me to play basketball."
Though the Pacers have undergone quite an offseason face lift already, including a previous trade with Dallas that netted Marquis Daniels in exchange for Austin Croshere, Armstrong isn't boarding the train of thought that the team is rebuilding.
"They have a lot of transition going but they still have a foundation in Jermaine O'Neal, in Jamaal Tinsley and in Stephen Jackson," he said. "I like the transition. It's not about starting new. It's just about continuing to add pieces to the puzzle. Hopefully everybody can connect at the right time, especially when you get to the playoffs and compete for the championship."
Sounds like Armstrong is not afraid to speak his mind, when the time is right, with Reggie and Croshere gone another veteran with a great work ethic is certainly a big plus for all the young players to emulate.