Upbeat Players Downplay Distractions
By Conrad Brunner | Oct. 12, 2006
Lost amid the din of yet another off-court moment has been an otherwise upbeat training camp for the Pacers. Practices have been intense, attitudes positive and productivity high.
But so far, that's been largely a secret, one Jermaine O'Neal and his teammates wish wasn't quite so well-kept.
"It's a whole other atmosphere, a whole other team, a whole other personality," said O'Neal. "The (new) guys we got knew the situation when the came here, they knew they came into a tainted situation, but at the same time I want fans to be fair to the guys that's here working hard every single day, the guys that are trying to prepare a great product for the general public to see and they've done a heck of a job.
"I don't want that to go un-heard. We're not going to allow anything to sidetrack us. We're trying to the best of our ability to stay focused and I don't think we've stopped a beat on our team."
Stephen Jackson, who was formally booked Thursday on one felony and two misdemeanor charges stemming from his role in an incident out side an Indianapolis nightclub last week, was not at practice and it's not clear when he will return. The team has taken no action against him, which means he could resume his normal role while the legal process runs its course. It remains to be seen if he'll play Saturday in the preseason game against Utah in Conseco Fieldhouse (7:00 p.m.).
O'Neal said Jackson's situation was "no distraction."
"We're at a point now where a situation that happened with one our teammates was away from basketball," he said. "Anything that happens away from this gym is that particular person's situation and he has to handle it. Again, we support him as a teammate but the legal system determines who's right and who's wrong. When that happens, we can kind of go from there to Plan B but as of now we support him, we're going to be there for him emotionally and physically away from basketball as friends. Ö
"We feel bad for him and his situation but we have an obligation here, too. We have to come in and be ready to perform and get a product ready for the fans, for the NBA and for the season and right now I think guys are doing a great, great job of doing that."
The Pacers opened the preseason schedule with a 103-89 defeat of New Jersey at home Wednesday night, a solid first step toward shifting the focus back toward what happens on the court, and not in one.
"I think the things we did out there got our fans a little excited," said Al Harrington. "We brought a lot of energy, brought a lot of athleticism. To me, it looked like we had fun out there playing with one another, and that's something they missed last year."
BROKEN FINGER SIDELINES GREENE
Orien Greene, who played a key role in the fourth-quarter turnaround against the Nets, is expected to miss three weeks after suffering a broken left pinky finger in the game. Greene played the entire fourth quarter and had five assists, two steals and two points as the Pacers outscored New Jersey 30-11.
"It's coming at a bad time in a sense, because there are a lot more games to play," said Coach Rick Carlisle. "On the other hand, he played really well and he did the things we thought he was capable of doing when we claimed him off waivers. The good part of it is it's his left hand. It's a fracture we think can heal in three to four weeks."
Marquis Daniels missed most of the game, playing just 4 minutes before sitting due to a sore right hamstring and his status is day-to-day.
"The good news is itís not severe," Carlisle said. "We think he can get through this in a couple or three days if he gets the rest and treatment."
Center John Edwards, who had been out with a sore lower back, participate in his first practice of camp Thursday.
MISSED FREEBIES DON'T RATTLE HARRINGTON
The only negative in Al Harrington's otherwise strong 21-point, nine-rebound performance Wednesday was his 1-of-6 mark from the free-throw line. Harrington has a career mark of .713 but was below 70 percent in each of the last two seasons with Atlanta.
"The good thing is I felt like all of them were going in so my confidence isn't shaken in any way," he said. "Next game I don't plan on missing any."