The wind is fierce in Indianapolis these days. But itís not newspapers and leaves that are blowing through the cityís downtown streets, itís Pacer players who are being carried out of Indiana by intense winds of change.
Heck, this team held onto the same starting shooting guard for eighteen years. Most summers came and went rather quietly for Pacer fans, that was up until this summer began and Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird began to Ďrestoreí Indianaís current roster.
The NBA offseason began just a little over a month ago when the Miami Heat captured the 2006 league title, and since then the Pacersí roster has changed through the draft, trades, and more recently free agency. In a months time, it seems as though the Pacers have made more roster adjustments than they have in the last decade.
The last summer Indiana saw this much change was 2000, just months after having made their first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history. This Pacers team isnít coming off the same fulfilling experience, but rather a few years of disappointment that have brought about the calling for change within the organization.
That summer, the Pacers lost Rik Smits to retirement, Mark Jackson to free agency, and traded all-star Dale Davis to Portland for a bench-warmer named Jermaine OíNeal. They also brought in Isiah Thomas as the new head coach, replacing Larry Bird, and re-signed four players - Reggie Miller, Austin Croshere, Jalen Rose, and Sam Perkins.
In a six-year span from the beginning of the 2000-2001 season and the start of the 2006 offseason, the Pacers pulled the trigger on a grand total of four trades. Thatís less than a trade per season.
Whether Walsh and Bird thought it was time to increase the amount of offseason activity they were making, or it was the back-to-back seasons of mediocrity the Pacers suffered through--- something had to be done. To say something was done to make-over Indianaís roster would be an understatement...
On the night of the draft, the Pacers added promising young swingman Shawne Williams out of Memphis, and then pulled out a second round trade to acquire James White from Portland, who was drafted out of Cincinnati with first pick of the second round.
Less than a week later, news spread that the Pacers were close to a deal with the Dallas Mavericks that would send the longest tenured Pacer, Austin Croshere, to the Mavericks in exchange for Marquis Daniels. The move was one that hurt the Pacer faithful because of Croshereís professionalism, but was a good move because Daniels has promise and seems to fit in well with what Indiana wants to do next season.
Then came the loss of Peja Stojakovic. After expressing his interest in staying with Indiana for the rest of his career, the Pacers decided to go another way and allowed him to sign a lucrative deal with the up-and-coming New Orleans Hornets. The Pacers acquired an important trade exemption in the deal, but it meant that they essentially traded Ron Artest , one of the most complete players in the NBA, for an exception earlier this year.
Next, rumors ran rampant that the Pacers were just putting the finishing touches on a deal with Atlanta and that Al Harrington would soon be re-joining Indiana after two seasons with the Hawks. Basketball fans around the country began to speculate exactly what the deal entailed, but while everyone else was following rumors, a few more Pacers were officially on the move.
With attentions diverted towards the possible re-acquisition of Al Harrington, two moves flew under the radar this weekend that could have major implications on the coming season. Veteran back-up Anthony Johnson was dealt to Dallas, joining Austin Croshere as the Mavericks and Pacers continue to fuse rosters. And Fred Jones signed with the Toronto Raptors.
Jones was allowed to agree to terms with Toronto because Indiana withdrew their contract offer, and Johnson was sent packing in exchange for the aging Darrell Armstrong and second-year men Rawle Marshall and Josh Powell.
Itís now rumored that Powell and Marshall were only included in the deal to match salary and that the Pacers plan on cutting the two young players in order to clear them a little over a million dollars of cap relief. They could use all the relief they can get in order to try and get Al Harrington away from the Hawks.
With the re-acquisition of Harrington coming any day now according to multiple league sources, it seems as though the Pacers are far from done making moves this summer.
The Pacers are still thin at the point guard position, and could stand to upgrade at center. One option that seems plausible is trading with the Bucks to get Jamaal Magloire. Iím not sure Magloire would fit in well with the changes that have already been made this offseason, but whatís one more move?
Until the sun sets and the dust settles, Iím not sure who weíll be seeing in a Pacers uniform this fall...