Lineup changes loom on West Coast swing
Jackson, Foster set to join Harrington, O'Neal and Tinsley as starters
By Mike Wells
November 28, 2006
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Indiana Pacers coach Rick Carlisle believes long road trips can either bond or break a team.
The Pacers' six-game trip got off to a rough start when they lost at Toronto on Sunday. Now it looks like the Pacers could have a new starting lineup tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers as they continue in search of an identity.
Indications from several players point to Stephen Jackson regaining his starting shooting guard position and Jeff Foster starting at center.
Carlisle declined comment about the situation following the team's practice at a Portland-area health club Monday.
"It's a possibility there could be some lineup changes," he said.
Jackson will replace Rawle Marshall at shooting guard and the starting front court will be Foster, Jermaine O'Neal and Al Harrington.
O'Neal missed Monday's practice with lower back spasms, but he said he should be in the lineup tonight.
Carlisle said on his weekly radio show last week that he would wait about 10 games before deciding if there would be any changes with the opening-night starting lineup of Jamaal Tinsley, Jackson, Danny Granger, Al Harrington and O'Neal. Carlisle started Marquis Daniels in front of the struggling Jackson on Nov. 18. Daniels' stay in the starting lineup lasted three games before Marshall took his place at shooting guard against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Nov. 24.
"We're in a situation where we're trying to find the players in the right position and right rotations," O'Neal said. "It's been a very difficult thing for the coaching staff. As players we have to do a better job with them helping out; giving them some easier choices that work for our team. It's good to have all the guys out there. Jack has been playing well off the bench, but we feel like we need to make a little bit more change to get off to a better start."
The starting combination of Tinsley, Jackson, Harrington, Foster and O'Neal is what some people thought it would be when the Pacers acquired Harrington from Atlanta in a sign-and-trade deal in August. Carlisle started Granger in place of Foster because he wanted to have his best players on the court at the beginning of the game. The move backfired because the Pacers lacked energy and they've routinely fallen behind in the first quarter. They've trailed at the end of the first quarter in 11 of their 14 games this season.
Foster is a high-energy player who doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective. His main purpose on the court is to defend and rebound. Harrington will slide to small forward, a position he said he wants to play.
"I hate that I got out of it. My first year in Atlanta, I had to move to four after they got Antoine (Walker), then last year I played four all season," Harrington said in the preseason. "I just want to get one more crack at it, because I know I'm a small forward. I can post, I can shoot the 3 now, I can handle the ball. I can punish other threes. No other three besides Ron Artest is as strong as I am. . . . I know I can defend that position."
The Pacers hope the lineup change will bring spark to a team that has yet to play well on a consistent basis.
"Right now we're still trying to figure out the solution and the substance to make things go," O'Neal said. "Obviously we haven't quite found it because we're 7-7 right now. It's a puzzling thing. I feel like when it's all said and done we'll be able to find it."