As most of you know I have never been much of a fan of Jamaal Tinsley. Actually I was the first two months of his rookie season and then I turned on him fast as I became very troubled by what I saw. Also during the 61 win season for the most part I learned to tolerate Jamaal, but that was only temporary and of course he was injured in the playoffs that year once again.
The past two season, I wanted Tinsley gone, off the team and I would have been OK if they would have just bought his contract out. I would have been fine with anyone else at point guard. McCloud and Armstrong - OK, AJ and whoever - OK. really just about anyone I would have been OK with it. Anybody but Tinsley (ABT) was my motto.
What bothered me most about him wasn't the off court court incidents (although I could do without those) it wasn't his turnovers, it wasn't his desire to always get into a personal duel with the opposing point guard, it wasn't his horrible shooting and questionable at best shot selection, and believe it or not it wasn't even his terrible defense which often times bordered on criminal, more than anything it was his terrible on court leadership. He provided none in fact I believe he often had negative leadership, his impact on his teammates was an overall net minus. He brought his teammates down with him.
But this year things have changed - he has changed. He is a changed person. I don't know why it is, but he is different. I'm not going to get into rumors or insinuations about JT's personal life - suffice it to say, things have changed in his personal life and that has carried over to the basketball court. Sure the coaching change has made a difference, but don't be fooled, that is not the only change, nor it is close to being the most important change - Jamaal is a changed man this season.
And the changes have impacted JT's play on the court, but more than that it has changed him and the way he interacts with his teammates. I can honestly say that for the first time in his career Jamaal Tinsley is a leader in fact he is the on court leader of this basketball team and he is the biggest reason why the Pacers team is a lot better than all the experts thought and why I believe this team has a chance to be better than most of us die-hards figured.
His flaws are still there, he gets beat defensively way too often (but at least he is trying and he is in a defensive stance more often) his shot selection is questionable a lot of times - but I don't consider his turnovers a flaw (except during the 1st half against the Knicks) because he creates so much offense. the really good point guards often commit a lot of turnovers.
So I applaud Tinsley for turning his life around and for becoming the basketball player that he was always apable of being.
New-look Tinsley: 'I'm just happy'
Point guard opening up, playing better with fresh start
By Mark Montieth
Call Star reporter Mark Montieth at (317) 444-6406.
December 21, 2007
Jamaal Tinsley's personal transformation has been evident in his improved play this season. Sometimes, it's even more obvious when he isn't playing.
Sitting out the Indiana Pacers' victory over Philadelphia on Wednesday because of a deep thigh bruise, Tinsley played the role of assistant coach. He wore a yellow tie, sat next to the staff, and took teammates aside during timeouts to lend advice and encouragement.
He might have the same role tonight in Minnesota.
That picture was a distinct contrast from recent seasons, when he often dressed sloppily when on the bench with an injury, or stayed on the bench during timeouts, ignoring the huddle when he was in uniform but out of the game.
The changes, glaringly obvious to teammates, front office employees and media members, have been more than cosmetic, however.
Fan opinion of Tinsley is still shaped by several nightclub incidents, including one in which he still faces criminal charges.
Those who are around him regularly, however, have seen a different person since camp opened. He initiates conversations with front office employees; he shocked one by saying hello on media day. He arrives earlier for games. He speaks out more in team meetings. He jokes with teammates in the locker room. Whereas he once mostly muttered monotone cliches after losses, he now pulls reporters aside to point out his mistakes. Sometimes, he even asks for help straightening his tie.
Several things, most notably a coaching change, a style of play more suited to his skills, improved health, a more satisfying personal life and simple maturity.
"I'm just happy," he said.
"My six years (with the Pacers) have been frustrating . . . injury stuff, losing my mother, other people that I love. It means a lot when you've got coaches and teammates you've been around for a while who want to see you do good, and I finally get to show people what I'm capable of doing."
Tinsley, 29, doesn't like to reveal much about his personal life, but teammates acknowledge the impact of his mother's death in the spring of 2003. Letris Smith, who died of cancer, was his foundation, the woman who raised him and his seven siblings in an impoverished Brooklyn neighborhood after his father and stepfather both died within a three-month period when he was 9 years old.
"It seemed like it took a long time for him to recover from that," Jermaine O'Neal said.
Rick Carlisle took over as the Pacers coach the following fall, marking the start of a strained four-year relationship. Carlisle gave Tinsley's starting position to Kenny Anderson on the first day of training camp in 2003. Tinsley didn't get it back until Dec. 30, after Anderson was injured, but he never totally regained trust in Carlisle.
Jim O'Brien's arrival in May offered a clean slate, and Tinsley has responded with his best season. His shooting touch remains erratic, but he is averaging 14.8 points on 40 percent shooting. His rebounding (4.4) and assist (8.7) averages are career highs, and he could break Mark Jackson's franchise record for single-season assist average (8.7), set in 1997-98.
It's not just that O'Brien's style of play fits Tinsley's skills. O'Brien's straightforward personality is a good match, as well.
"He's a guy who speaks his mind, and that's all you can ask for," Tinsley said. "He holds you accountable instead of BS'ing you and beating around the bush. As a man, that's all you can ask for."
As Tinsley has taken advantage of the fresh start offered by O'Brien, he has extended one to others. David Harrison, now in his fourth season with the Pacers, sees a teammate who has replaced skepticism with trust.
"Before, he would go into situations prejudging your thoughts toward him," Harrison said. "I think he's kind of done away with that with the new coaches. He's giving everyone a clean slate. Even me and him . . . we hardly ever talked before, but now it seems like I talk to him more than anyone else on the team.
"It's just a new environment. I think he's trying to let people get to know the real Jamaal instead of the persona that was presented."