White, Williams On Different Paths
By Conrad Brunner | Oct. 9, 2006
In most respects, James White is not a typical NBA rookie.
In many respects, Shawne Williams is.
Though both of the Pacers' prized draft acquisitions are considered integral parts of the team's future, their training camp experience thus far couldn't have been much different.
White, who turns 24 this month, is a veteran of five years at two major universities (Florida and Cincinnati) under three different head coaches, which prepared him well for the transition to the NBA – so much so, in fact, that with Stephen Jackson sidelined due to minor injuries sustained in an incident early Friday morning outside an Indianapolis nightclub, White has filled his spot with the first unit in practice.
"He plays the game and doesn’t look like a rookie player," said Coach Rick Carlisle of White. "He'll make a few rookie mistakes but he carries himself with a veteran affect which is great to see. (Danny) Granger was like that last year. Tayshaun Prince was like that my second year in Detroit. Generally, guys that have been in college three, four, five years have those characteristics. He's done pretty well."
Williams, 20, who played just one year at Memphis, is struggling with the learning curve accelerated by the requirement that he be able to play multiple positions.
"This is by far more difficult on Shawne Williams than any of our other players," Carlisle said, "because he's learning a perimeter position and a post position and he's a rookie player trying to observe a lot of things for the first time. He's working hard at it, but it's a challenge."
White has a confident aura about him, not quite cocky but definitely not intimidated by his new surroundings. His quick adjustment has not been entirely surprising but doesn't make it any less gratifying. He could start the Pacers' first preseason game Wednesday night against New Jersey in Conseco Fieldhouse, assuming Jackson is unable to play.
"The things we do here, I've really seen it all before," White said. "I played in college for five years for three different coaches. They all run their different systems. When we do different things, eventually one of the things I did in the past will come out, so it's pretty easy to pick up on things."
So does that mean he doesn't really feel like a rookie?
"Nah, not really," he said. "I still feel like I get blamed for everything. The games harder because the guys are a little bigger, a little faster, things like that but as far as picking up plays and the defensive rules, it's all the same."
Williams is a lithe 6-9 forward who may be best suited for the perimeter now, but the Pacers believe he will grow into a strong interior force. He's facing essentially the same demands as Granger last year in learning very different positions, though Williams has far less experience to draw upon.
"That makes it a whole different level, trying to learn outside and inside," Williams said. "It's totally different positions. For one person to go out there and learn one position is kind of easy. But to learn two or three else, that's something. Coming from college, we'd run the 3-2 set. Now you come down and we've got probably 20-30 plays they put in on one day and you're trying to learn the four, then they switch to the three and you forget the four, then they put you back at the three. It's a big challenge, man.
"It's like the ACT test all over again. It's something I've got to deal with. It's part of becoming an NBA player."
JACKSON "VERY DOUBTFUL" FOR WEDNESDAY
Though Jackson is expected to rejoin the team Tuesday, he will participate only in light drills until the stitches in his mouth have been removed. Carlisle said Jackson was "very doubtful" for Wednesday night's preseason opener.
"It's going to be a few days before he'll be able to participate in contact drills because he has a lot of stitches in his lips and the plastic surgeon wanted to make sure those things don't get busted out," Carlisle said. "He'll be able to do some non-contact things and it'll be good to have him back."
Jermaine O'Neal said the fallout from the incident involving Jackson, Jamaal Tinsley, Marquis Daniels and Jimmie "Snap" Hunter has offered an important lesson for the team.
"First and foremost, all of us have to learn from the situation and put ourselves in situations where our lives and careers won't be tested," he said. "Obviously, that can be anywhere but you want to cut down the percentages a little bit. The next thing is we've got to put that situation aside, let that situation handle itself and continue to concentrate on basketball. We're on a very strict timetable here where we need to be productive every single day. We don't have time to have any setbacks.
"For the most part, we haven't talked any more about that particular situation with Jack. He's doing a pretty good job of getting in here and working out on his own. All in all, this team is pretty focused right now. The previous two years, dealing with the situation, we didn't really know how to deal with it at a team. The most positive thing out of that particular situation the last two years is now we know what to do. We know how to deal with it. We know what we have to do to stay focused and stay a unit."
O'Neal may not play Wednesday because of legal obligations in Detroit.
NO MORE EXCUSES FOR LEANER HARRISON
Fully 30 pounds lighter, chiseled and in the best shape of his professional life, David Harrison is reaping the rewards of a rigorous offseason conditioning program in Colorado under the guidance of his former Buffs coach, Ricardo Patton.
Now weighing in at 262 and able to add or subtract a few pounds as needed by regulating his water intake, Harrison looks primed to take a major step forward in his third season.
"My main motivation was wanting to be able to stay on the floor," he said. "Any excuse for me not to be on the floor, I don't want it to be made. I tried to eliminate all the other people's excuses and just answer the question, 'Why am I not playing?' "
Though the new faster-paced offense has led to some speculation Harrison might get left behind, Carlisle doesn't agree. Harrison runs extremely well for a big man and has deceptive athleticism.
"We've just got to get him comfortable with what we're doing," Carlisle said. "This style suits his abilities very well."
Harrison has returned to practice full-speed after missing the first three days of camp with a sprained ankle.
FAN JAM CROWD IMPRESSES PLAYERS
Considering the timing, the fact roughly 10,000 attended the team's annual FanJam presented by Conseco on Sunday not only raised the players' spirits, it helped steel their resolve to move forward.
"Unbelievable," said O'Neal. "When we walked out once we got announced, I just looked around and I was like, 'Wow.' It just goes to show this city is a great city and has a lot of great fans. We feel like they've given us another opportunity to prove ourselves so we'll be working that much harder on the court to put together a product and a team they're going to be happy to watch."
The highlight of FanJam is an intrasquad scrimmage that resulted in a 39-all tie.
NO CUTS YET; TOUGH DECISIONS LOOM
With Jackson unlikely to play, O'Neal possibly out of town due to legal obligations and John Edwards still nursing a sore back, the Pacers could have just 16 players available for Wednesday night, making it unlikely any cuts could come before the game.
"I doubt that we'll cut anybody before then but we'll see," Carlisle said. "Right now, I don't think so, though."
Strong performances by relative unknowns like forward Josh Powell and guard Rawle Marshall, former Mavericks acquired along with Darrell Armstrong, will make the coaching staff's roster decisions much tougher than usual. Assuming the Pacers keep the full complement of 15 players (12 active and three inactive), four players must be release before opening night.
"The competition is tight," Carlisle said. "There's a lot of guys that have the ability and deserve to be on NBA rosters. Right now it'd be hard to handicap it because there are guys at different positions competing for roster positions and a lot of it isn't necessarily linked to position or a head-to-head competition, per se, so it's going to be very interesting. The games are going to go a long way toward determining who belongs and who doesn't. … It's very much up for grabs."