Instant gratification? Pacers call it free agency
Team's draftee is years away, but some can help right away
By Mike Wells
The NBA draft came and went Thursday with only a minute sound coming from the Indiana Pacers.
Their lone draft pick, Croatian center Stanko Barac, won't help them get to the playoffs anytime soon because he is expected to remain in Europe for three years.
The Pacers' next attempt at improving starts Sunday when the free agency period begins. Contracts can be signed starting July 11.
The Pacers don't have enough cap space to sign an expensive free agent.
They have their midlevel exception, which is more than $5 million, and a $4 million trade exception acquired during the eight-player deal with Golden State.
"After the draft, everybody looks at their team and they say, 'I need this, I need that,' " Pacers president Larry Bird said. "Now it will start heating up and we'll see what we can do. I expect us to be very active to find the guys coach (Jim) O'Brien feels he needs for this team. (Former coach) Rick (Carlisle) played a different style. We tried to get his type of players. We have a new coach now, so we're going to try and get his style (of players)."
Finding an outside shooter, a backup point guard and settling Jermaine O'Neal's future are priorities.
The Pacers finished 30th in league in field goal percentage last season, leaving O'Neal constantly facing double teams.
They are interested in Kareem Rush, a career 35 percent 3-point shooter.
He worked out for the Pacers last week after playing in Europe last season.
Rush, who scored a career-high 35 points against the Pacers in November 2005, spent five seasons in the league before being released by Charlotte with nine games left in the 2005-06 season because of his work ethic.
The Bobcats released a statement at the time about Rush's release, saying: "The Bobcats are about two things -- hard work and maximum effort. With that in mind, we think that it is best to go in a different direction with Kareem."
Bird and O'Brien have said they want players who will practice and play hard. The Pacers likely won't have to spend a lot to sign Rush.
Another possibility is Jason Kapono of the Miami Heat. The unrestricted free agent led the league in 3-point shooting (51.4 percent) last season.
Kapono only made $1.2 million, and there's a sense the Heat don't plan to
get into a bidding war over a one-dimensional offensive player who doesn't defend well.
Earl Boykins, Steve Blake and Chucky Atkins are a few point guards that will be available. Veteran Tony Delk, who didn't play in the league last season, also worked out for the Pacers.
The team's biggest issue, however, is O'Neal's future.
The Pacers have had numerous discussions with teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers and New Jersey Nets, but no deal appears imminent. The Pacers are interested in acquiring Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum from Los Angeles, but Lakers officials are reluctant to give away both for O'Neal.
"We're going to look this summer to maybe do something," Bird said. "If we get the right deal to make us better (we'll do it). If not, we'll come back with what we have."