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Al is gone, unless we completely screw up. He's the most obvious "odd-man-out." Look for a trade involving him for a SG, with other stuff possibly added to make the trade work out. I wish him the best.
Reggie is 50/50. Rick says he'll start if he stays, but it should be a ceremonial start at best. Another SG needs to come in and get 30-35 minutes per game, with Reggie getting backup minutes, starting or no. Personally I think he needs to retire, but I can live with him staying if he comes off the bench or keeps his minutes down to 20 per game at most.
J.O. is obviously staying.
Ron is staying. He's too valuable for the $$. No way we'd get anything remotely as valuable for him for that salary.
Tinsley is probably staying, but IMO AJ is probably gone (and Kenny for sure), with Brewer as backup or someone else acquired in a trade. I COULD see Tins getting traded if we got a Steve Francis/Steve Nash but I think that's highly unlikely (and would be a mistake).
Cro is probably staying becuase of his nasty contract, unless we bribe Charlotte into taking him (again, very unlikely, they can't afford him).
Pollard will be gone at the earliest opportunity - whether or not he has a future in this league it certainly won't be with this team. I see him getting packaged with AL for a SG (or maybe traded for a backup PG if AJ/Kenny leave).
I'd like Freddie to stay, but who knows. If Reg doesn't retire and we acquire a starting-caliber SG he will be redundant and needs to be traded. If he goes, oh well (even though I have a fish named after him), if he stays, that's OK with me too. I like him but he's not a "core" member ofthe team yet.
I love Jeff Foster, but who knows. He probably stays just because it's so hard to find a good center. Also his work ethic is obvious, he fits well with the team to an extent, but dammit it'd be nice if he could score even 10 ppg - would help J.O. quite a bit. Might be nice to get a BRAD MILLER - type center ed: ...
Who am I forgetting... ah yes Bender. He's the big question mark. If Al goes then Bender gets the backup 3 minutes, with a bit of Cro for good measure (tho Cro probably will back up Jermaine at the 4). Otherwise we still have too many forwards. He probably stays since Al is on the way out, so who knows.
-A starting-caliber 2 guard or combo guard. A Rip-Hamilton or Reggie-of-old-type player.
-Possibly a new backup PG.
MAYBE (but not likely) a scoring-oriented center, a la Erick Dampier/Brad Miller/Z. Ilgauskus(sp?). I don't see us having enough pieces to pull it off tho, since SG is obviously the more pressing need.
And that's about it really. We're set at the 3 and 4, and 1. 5 might be OK if we get a good SG, then Foster won't have to score.
Carlisle: Offseason Represents
Opportunity for Improvement
June 3, 2004
Q. What was your message to the team in the year-end meeting?
A. Weíre halfway to where we need to be. To win a title and to get a ring, youíve got to win four series; we won two. We were in some ways tantalizingly close in the third series but just couldnít overcome certain elements. The other message was all of us learned a lot during the playoffs, particularly during the Detroit series, about things we need to do better, both as a team and individually. Thatís why this is going to be a very important summer for us. Guys are going to need to continue to develop their games and their skills and the franchise is going to have some decisions to make on personnel and possible trades and the draft and other things. The one thing that I really take as a positive from my experience with this team is, when it was over two nights ago, there was nobody in that locker room that was just happy to get to the conference finals. Theyíre a competitive group and clearly their eyes are on a bigger prize and thatís a great sign for our team and our franchise.
Q. What do the individual players need to work on?
A. A guy like Jonathan Bender that needs to have a great summer in terms of continuing to develop his body and his game and understanding what our system is about. Jermaine needs to get healthy and heís had a year to see what playing in this style is about. You can go right down the line. Everybody is going to take things away from this and be able to work on ways to get better or work on ways to help us play our system better. In terms of the staff, we learned a lot about our team, and there will be some things we do a little differently next year because we have better knowledge.
Q. Can you say what those things are?
A. How we approach the game offensively. Defensively, I think weíll be similar. But knowing now what certain guys are capable of, I think from the beginning of training camp, being able to have that type of knowledge helps us develop our style at the offensive end a little more productively.
Q. How will you change the offense?
A. We will do some things a little differently and some of it will depend on personnel, how our team looks. Right now, I donít think this team will be back in its exact form next year. I think there will be some changes, either through free agency, the draft or the possibility of trades. Thereís going to be some things that are different, without question.
Q. Al Harrington obviously wants to start, but has been unable to do so here. How do you see his future evolving?
A. This has been a tough situation for Al, because I view him as a starter in this league. I know heís that kind of player. As the summer progresses, weíll see what takes form. If there was the opportunity for him to be a starter here, that would be great. And if there isnít, then it may be time for him to move on to another team. But those are decisions that are going to be made by Larry (Bird) and Donnie (Walsh). Whatever happens, Al has had a great year for us. In my mind, he shouldíve been the Sixth Man award winner. He had that kind of impact and we had the best record. He had a tremendous year and was one of the major reasons were in a strong position throughout the year and into the playoffs.
Q. Do you feel changes need to be made for this team to reach the championship level?
A. Because our team is still so young, I think itís very possible that we could just continue to develop moving forward, not make many changes, and that we would be in a strong position next year to be better. But this summer is going to be a busy summer. I expect that there will be some changes and the roster will be different next year. How much I donít know. Thatís going to depend on conversations that Larry and Donnie have and what makes sense for our team. I expect there will be some things that are different.
Q. Is the franchise taking a win-now stance, as it applies to potential offseason changes, or is it still building for the future?
A. That question can only be answered in the context of which players youíre talking about. I really believe the approach Larry and Donnie take will be to continue to try to acquire young talent. Maybe not early 20s-type guys, but we still want to get guys that are entering their prime or maybe in the midst of their prime. If thereís an opportunity to make a move on a guy thatís an older player that would be a championship move, Larry and Donnie would have to make that decision. Thatís a tough question for me to answer because I donít make those decisions. Time will tell.
Q. What's your shopping list of team needs?
A. Outside shooting is something you always need as a playoff team. Size is something you need as a playoff team. Part of the equation for us is the fact this has been kind of an unbalanced roster. Thereís been kind of a glut of guys at the small forward spot and there really havenít been enough minutes. The fact Jonathan was injured early in the year alleviated some of those issues but this summer may well be an opportunity to balance out the roster in terms of positions. But, again, those arenít going to be my decisions. A lotís going to depend on whatís out there in terms of guys that are going to be available in trades, and other things.
Q. What do you foresee as Reggie Miller's role next season?
A. First of all, Reggieís got to decide if heís going to play. After he makes that decision, then I can talk about it a little bit. Right now, as we are here, if he returns for an 18th year my feeling would be heíd probably be a starter next year. But a lot would have to happen between now and then before it would make sense to get into a serious conversation about that.
Q. Has he given you any indication he is considering retirement?
A. No, he hasnít. But, at the same time, itís a huge decision. Itís a decision thatís going to get a lot of attention in the league because youíre talking really about one of the all-time greats when it comes down to what heís done in this league. Itís a major topic, and Iím not going to sit here and make an assumption without having him say it himself. That isnít right. If weíre fortunate enough to have him around here another year, thatís going to be a great asset to us again. But thatís a decision that is an important one for him because at this point in time, when you get to be that age, there are a lot of things to consider. But Iím hopeful that heíll play Ė very much so.
Q. Will Bender become a more prominent fixture in the rotation next season?
A. Without question, this summer is a really important summer for him, that we spend the time with him to help develop his game to play effectively in our system. He made great strides this year in that vein. He had some stretches where his play was nothing less than breathtaking. But with the occasional injury sprinkled in, it made it hard for him to build a level of consistency. This summer is really key for him because heís a guy that can do things really no one else on our roster can do. At 7 feet tall he shoots threes, he can post up, he drives the ball, he can block shots. He and Jermaine (O'Neal) are really the two guys, from that size and ability standpoint, can do things very few guys on this planet can do. Itís important we get him ready to have a complete training camp next year and identify where heíll be playing. I think he needs to play two positions, probably small forward and a finesse, or shooting, power forward.
Q. O'Neal has said it could take up to 6 months for his knee injury to heal, and that he isn't likely to play in the Olympics. What's your understanding of his health status?
A. Bone bruises take a long time to heal so that you canít see them on the MRI. We had a situation in Detroit where Chucky Atkins had a very similar type of bone bruise. Thereís a period after which you can play but the bruise itself isnít necessarily healed. This is a case where Jermaine is making a wise decision to not play in the Olympics. He needs this summer to get it healed, to get his body back in one piece. Is it a serious injury? I donít think itís characterized as serious but itís one that, if itís not taken care of, can persist for a while and perpetuate. You just donít want that to happen.
Q. How aggressively will you approach this summer in terms of offseason programs for the players?
A. We told the guys weíre going to be very aggressive this summer. Weíre going to do a lot of traveling to see guys if theyíre in other venues. Thereíll be the opportunity for guys to be here and work out. The summer league is going to be important for certain of our young veteran players. And weíre going to be very pro-active with really attacking this summer, looking toward the beginning of next October, to get ourselves as ready as we possibly can for that moment. Thatís where our next opportunity begins.
Q. It sounds like this could be a momentous summer for the franchise. Is that what you anticipate?
A. I guess the key word is opportunity. This summer is going to be a great opportunity for this franchise, not only to have options in trades, free agency and the draft Ė or a combination of some or all of those components Ė but also for us as a staff to really develop the guys that we have and get them ready to compete at an even higher level next year. The combination of those two things Ė the possibility of changes to the roster and our ability to spend time and work with guys this summer Ė we just feel is really key heading toward October. Thatís why weíre going to be very aggressive and very pro-active.
Q. How does the expansion draft affect your offseason plans?
A. We could lose one player or we could lose zero. Thereís 14 players being picked, I believe. The science of who to protect and all of that is something Larry and Donnie will examine. Theyíll make the right decision and then we have to wait and see. We may be sitting back with our fingers crossed, hoping nobody gets taken. But it is another component to the summer. It happens before the NBA Draft, so those things are going to have to be examined and decisions are going to have to be made and theyíre going to be tough decisions.
Q. Where will Bender spend his summer?
A. Heís going to be in New Orleans a lot of the time and I think heís going to be here some of the time, too. Heís one of the guys weíve encouraged to play on our summer league team, just to have a 10-day period with him. Thatís a very important time. And weíll have some other guys on that team, as well. Primoz (Brezec)ís situation is a little clouded because of the situation with his (Slovenian) national team, so weíre not sure if heís going to be available or not. Jamison Brewer is a guy Iíve talked to about playing. We talked about it with Fred Jones but pending the situation with his shoulder. And James Jones would be the other one. Weíre going to have our own team (this year) and weíre going to Utah and itíll be an important time for us.
Q. There's been quite a bit of speculation that Associate Head Coach Mike Brown is in line to become a head coach elsewhere. Is this a major concern?
A. Thereís a strong possibility that we could lose him. But thatís just a byproduct of having good people that coach at a high level. One of the reasons Gregg Popovich agreed to let Mike come here is that he knew heíd have a higher level of responsibility and he knew this would be an opportunity for Mike to become a head coach. Iím not worried about that. In fact, if the right situation comes up for Mike, it would be great for him to have that opportunity. Of course, weíd have to find somebody to replace him, which would be tough, but itís part of the business and itís a part I had to deal with when Kevin OíNeill got the job in Toronto. I really had to form a completely new staff, which was a challenge.
Q. Are there any untouchables on the roster?
A. Thatís really for Donnie and Larry to say. I donít think Jermaine OíNealís going to get traded. Thatís my feeling. But thatís something you have to talk to them about.
Q. Considering the changes that were made last summer, do you think this team actually overachieved?
A. That question is one to be answered by our ownership and our management people. I donít view it that way because I had strong belief in guys like (Jeff) Foster, in his ability to step in and play a key role. Fred Jones was a nice surprise and now looks like a very good draft choice two years ago, and looks like a guy whoís going to be a solid player in this league for a long time. Iím always reluctant to talk about that, because then it sounds like you didnít expect to be good, and I knew we had a chance to be very good, if we committed to certain things Ė if we committed the defensive end, if we committed to sharing the ball, and if we committed to winning. And the team did that, so I guess Iím never surprised at what can happen when you have a group that commits to those things.
Q. Are you comfortable with Jamaal Tinsley as the starting point guard?
A. I really like Jamaal and I like how he approached the entire season. At this point in time, looking toward next year, itís his job to lose. I think stating anything other than that would be inaccurate. Heís earned that distinction, pending what may or may not happen this summer. There could be a major trade and all of a sudden there could be some other guy. But right now he looks like the guy for next year.
Q. Why did Scot Pollard never become a prominent member of the rotation?
A. Iím surprised the way the season went, relative to Scot. I expected him to be a major part of the rotation. But on a nightly basis it came down to whether we were playing big teams or small teams. If we were playing big teams, heíd play. If we played small teams, Croshere played. Both of those guys were great about it. It was not an easy situation. Even though Pollard didnít play much, he brought a lot to our team with a veteran presence. The guys just had a sense for the fact heíd been deep into the playoffs and was just a real positive force even though he didnít play much. Those were all positive things. And at the same time, heís a better player than was demonstrated this year, based on his minutes. He just is. I know that from seeing him every day in practice and knowing how he works and knowing how he played in Sacramento. It was a different kind of situation because Al really played four full-time, Foster emerged as a legitimate starter and Jermaine was going to be out there at least 36, 38 minutes every night. And we didnít have major injuries, either, which couldíve tipped the scales to where he wouldíve played a lot. And if he had, he wouldíve played well.
Q. Was losing in the conference finals an experience the team needed to go through in order to take the step to championship contention?
A. Well, we certainly have to learn from the experience. There are a lot of new things you go through when you get to the conference finals for the first time. I know that from my experience last year with the Pistons. They were much better prepared this year for those types of pressures, those types of difficult situations, having been through it before. So it bodes well for our future on the one hand. Yet, on the other hand, itís not a consolation. I felt we were in a strong position to win the series. ... You just never know what things happen along the way that facilitate you getting there quicker or that may make it tougher. Injuries, this year, played a part in the conference finals. How big a part would be a topic for a lively debate. But youíve got to make the right moves and have good fortune to get through healthy and stay intact that way. This summer, for us, is going to be about putting ourselves in a strong position to do that Ė to get our bodies strong to be able to endure a 100-game season, to get the roster set up as well as it can possibly be to compete at a high level not only in the regular season but deep into the playoffs. The work started yesterday, the day after the Detroit series was over, and itíll be a busy summer.
Q. Kenny Anderson has said he'll likely be elsewhere next year. Does that create a need for another veteran backup at point guard?
A. After being with Jamison Brewer for a year, heís a guy Iíd love to see back here because of his competitiveness and the fact heís a young guy that still has great upside. But there are other ways it could happen. It could happen through free agency and so forth. I know Tinsleyís going to be back. Anthony Johnson, Iím not sure of his contract situation but heís indicated he likes it here and he was an important part of our season. I like Brewer but there are a lot of good players out there. My hope would be that we could have another very competitive point-guard situation, but then be able to go into the season with three instead of four. Four was a lot. There were times we needed all four of them, but thatís really too many.
Q. Is it possible this roster actually had too much depth and too many options?
A. The concept of having better balance to your roster and fewer options, in a perfect world, is the ideal way to have it. Where you can get in trouble is with injuries. This year, our roster was a little unbalanced but because of the injuries we were always OK. There was always somebody else ready. Bender was out early so Artest and Harrington handled the three spot. Ronnie went out with his thumb surgery and Bender happened to be ready to come back into it and became a real factor.