Q. Since I am currently living overseas I am unable to watch Pacers games and thus it is difficult for me to judge how individuals are playing outside of box scores and what is written on the Internet. Therefore, I wanted your opinion on whether you think Rick Carlisle suitably develops younger talent? I ask this because, although it is still early since the trade, Ike Diogu has received minimal playing time. This in addition to Marquis Daniels seemingly playing well (making this judgment off box scores) once he finally received playing time. Finally, I believe Carlisle also came under some heat in Detroit for not playing (Tayshaun) Prince enough as a rookie. As someone who sees the Pacers up close, what is your opinion on how Coach Carlisle develops and uses his younger players? (From Peter on Oxford, U.K.)
A. It's interesting how media labels, once applied, are rarely removed. Carlisle quickly labeled as a coach that was particularly unforgiving with young players in Detroit and almost exclusively because of the Prince scenario. When coaching a team expected to win, it's perfectly understandable to be hesitant to invest substantial playing time in an unproven young player because of the risk. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, to do so might be the best thing for the franchise and player in the long run but, if the team doesn't win right away, the coach probably isn't going to be around to reap those benefits.
How intense was the pressure to win in Detroit? Carlisle, who inherited a team that had gone 32-50 the year before he arrived, was fired after guiding the Pistons to consecutive 50-win seasons and a berth in the 2003 conference finals. With the Pacers, Carlisle has faced similar expectations. He is not in a build-for-the-future scenario. Even so, he has a pretty good track record with young talent in Indiana.
Fred Jones and James Jones both evolved quite a bit as players in their formative years, in part because both were forced by circumstance into bigger roles than they might've otherwise anticipated. When the team returned to relative normalcy and it was apparent there would be intense competition for playing time, both moved on to what they hoped would be greener pastures.
It would be hard to argue with the pace of Danny Granger's development, or the result. He gives every indication of being on the verge of stardom, having stepped seamlessly into the role of No. 2 scoring option since the trade with Golden State. I'd hesitate to consider Marquis Daniels a "young player" for the sake of this discussion because he game to the Pacers as a three-year veteran. Even so, his opportunity for playing time increased dramatically after last week's trade and Daniels now appears to be a fixture in the rotation.
Rookie Shawne Williams also has played more regularly since the trade, although as a 19-year-old with just one year of college experience, he'll need to be brought along more slowly.
Diogu's playing time likely will be up and down, at least in his first few weeks with the Pacers. He's learning his third system in 1½ NBA seasons and young big men typically take the longest to emerge under the most fertile circumstances. He played a major part in last night's comeback win over Miami, which should boost the coaching staff's confidence in him, and figures to be the fourth post player in the rotation behind Jermaine O'Neal, Troy Murphy and Jeff Foster.
The one young player who hasn't made much progress in Carlisle's tenure is David Harrison, another young big man facing a lot of veteran competition for playing time in his first two seasons. Harrison has had opportunity to play when healthy but has been dogged by injuries and foul trouble. What role awaits him when he returns remains to be seen but there will be a crowd in the frontcourt.
Generally speaking, coaches are paid to win now, which easily can work at cross purposes to the concept of player development. But in Carlisle's tenure the Pacers have, despite middling draft picks, stocked and maintained a relatively deep pool of young talent.