This is all we are left with today.
Ira Winderman I find is one of the best NBA Writers around
Pacers will have to make changes
Published June 6, 2004
The team that seemingly had all the answers when it came to facing the Heat in the second round of the playoffs exited the conference finals with nothing but questions.
Too tall to tame for the Heat, Indiana now is talking about the need for additional height after coming up short against the Pistons. Too deep for Stan Van Gundy's rotation to match, the Pacers are weighing the merits of dealing forward Al Harrington, the runner-up for this year's Sixth Man Award.
"I don't think this team will be back in its exact form next year," coach Rick Carlisle said in his season-ending comments. "There will be some changes, either through free agency, the draft or the possibility of trades. There's going to be some things that are going to be different, without question."
Because of roster redundancy -- when factoring in Ron Artest, Jonathan Bender and even former University of Miami forward James Jones -- Harrington sets up as the odd man out.
"This is an unbalanced roster," Carlisle said, left with a dilemma that mirrors the Heat's perimeter conundrums with Dwyane Wade, Lamar Odom, Eddie Jones, Caron Butler and Rasual Butler. "There are a glut of guys at the small forward spot and there haven't been enough minutes."
Over the years, the Pacers have recognized the dangers of keeping starting-quality talent on the bench. It is among the reasons Antonio Davis was shipped to Toronto for the draft rights to Bender.
"If there is the opportunity for him to be a starter here, that would be great," Carlisle said of Harrington. "And if there isn't, then it may be time for him to move on to another team."
Such a move might not be nearly as costly as the dealing of Davis to the Raptors a year before the Pacers made it to the 2000 Finals.
Harrington entered this postseason with a career 2.6 playoff scoring average on .196 shooting.
While the numbers were up to 9.5 points on .429 shooting this year, big-game issues remain.
With center Jeff Foster fading in the postseason (after a requisite big game against the Heat), another big body could have been crucial against the Pistons. The Pacers had such a presence in center Brad Miller -- until loyalty got in the way last summer.
Instead, the Pacers opted to re-sign Reggie Miller and dump Brad Miller in a trade with Sacramento to avoid the luxury tax.
What the Pacers were left with was a 38-year-old non-shooter caught in a lopsided mismatch with Pistons guard Richard Hamilton. In four of the six games in the Eastern Conference finals, Miller scored six or fewer points (after, of course, a requisite big game against the Heat a round earlier).
Miller has not announced his intentions for next season.
"After he makes that decision, then I can talk about it a little bit," said Carlisle, whose glut at small forward could then be alleviated with the shift of Artest to shooting guard. "If he returns for an 18th year, my feeling would be he'd probably be a starter next year."
With a little less Reggie, a little more Scot Pollard in the middle and something substantial in return for Harrington, the Pacers should have the continued look of a contender.
This time, though, sentiment can't get in the way.
NO DESK JOB
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he could not envision the type of full-time move into the front office that Pat Riley made this season with the Heat. "I never have had that yen to be a maneuverer behind the scenes, manipulator of players, builder of franchises, so to speak," he said, with retirement a possibility after the Finals. ...
When Commissioner David Stern offers his state-of-the-NBA comments during the Finals, there likely will be additional discussion about getting Michael Jordan back into the league in an ownership role. Question: Why? Why would any franchise want to install in its front office the man who traded Hamilton to Detroit for Jerry Stackhouse, drafted Kwame Brown over Pau Gasol and hired Leonard Hamilton as coach? Even more appalling than having a Michael Jordan jersey hung at the top of your arena would be seeing him in the executive suite. ...
Pistons coach Larry Brown has fired an early salvo regarding the curious way Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant have gotten into foul trouble this postseason, but have a grand total of only one disqualification (by O'Neal) in 17 games. "If four is the limit of fouls for them, I hope four is the limit of fouls for us, too," Brown said.
THE WADE WAY
Like the Heat's Wade, UConn guard Ben Gordon appreciates that his NBA chances revolve around versatility.
"In college, I was asked to score a lot. And when I was asked to play point guard, I excelled," he said after a tryout with the Cavaliers. "My situation has been compared to Dwyane Wade. We both can play two positions, but I'll be a point in the NBA, and I'll have to prove that I can play that position."
Interestingly, the majority of teams that have contact the Magic about the No. 1 overall draft choice have expressed more interest in Georgia prep forward Dwight Howard than UConn center Emeka Okafor. That could leave agent Aaron Goodwin with the top pick for a second straight year, now representing Howard after locking up LeBron James before last year's draft. ...
When contemplating mock drafts, contemplate another team exercising the Clippers' No. 2 pick. It's a tradition. Since the advent of the lottery in 1985, the Clippers three previous times have exited at No. 2. In 1989, they drafted Duke forward Danny Ferry, who rebuffed their advances, bided his time in Italy, and then forced a trade to the Cavaliers. In 1995, the Clippers immediately dealt No. 2 pick Antonio McDyess to Denver for a package including Rodney Rogers and Brent Barry. And in 2001, No. 2 pick Tyson Chandler was dealt to Chicago for Elton Brand.
At the conclusion of the Eastern Conference finals, the Pistons' Brown mentioned that the Heat's Jones is among the possibilities for the roster he will coach at the Athens Olympics.
"I think they're waiting to find out what positions are needed to be filled, how many big guys we have, how many small forwards we have, how many guards," Brown said. "I think we've got some good players, some good alternatives, so we'll see."
Brown previously had mentioned going with a young roster that could include Wade, while selection chairman Stu Jackson has spoken of Odom as an option. Such decisions could drag on for a while.
"We don't have a cutoff date," Jackson said. "Olympic rules say you have to have a roster 72 hours prior to competition. If we have to use every bit of that time to fill and put our team together, we will."
Basketball competition at the Athens Games begins Aug. 15.
Guard Kenny Anderson spoke at the conclusion of the Pacers' season of possibly ending his career where it started, in New Jersey. "Rod Thorn would have to be interested in me," he said of the Nets executive. Now, granted, New Jersey did a poor job in covering itself at point guard this season behind Jason Kidd, but Anderson? To refresh: The 33-year-old appeared in only four of the Pacers' playoff games, for a grand total of 19 minutes, closing with four points and five turnovers. ...
The New York Post has reported discussions between the Nets and Heat regarding Jones. One package that would work would be guard Kerry Kittles and forward Aaron Williams, players whose contracts could come off the books after next season and provide Riley with salary-cap flexibility for the '05 offseason.
The prime targets of the halfcourt-challenged Nets, though, appear to be Seattle guard Ray Allen and Portland forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim. ...
Due $19 million over the next four seasons, 7-foot-4 Shawn Bradley is expected to be exposed by the Mavericks in the June 22 expansion draft. With $5 million the going rate for backup centers on some teams, Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff figures he just might find a market. "I think Shawn Bradley could help some team for 20 minutes" a game, Bickerstaff said.
MISSING THE POINT
Confusing to the end was the Timberwolves' failure to bolster their rotation at point guard while aware of Sam Cassell's fragile back and Troy Hudson's ankle woes. Then again, this is a team that has parted with Chauncey Billups and Bobby Jackson over the years for nothing in return. With Hudson now to test free agency, the 'Wolves could before forced to decide between spending their mid-level salary-cap exception on free-agent forward Trenton Hassell or a backup to Cassell. ...
Figure on Game 6 of the Western Conference finals mercifully being the NBA's last sighting of Minnesota's Oliver Miller, with four fouls in five minutes being his legacy. During one sequence, the NBA's widest body, was part of a double foul with the Lakers' Devean George, called for an offensive foul, beaten for an alley-oop dunk, and then called for another offensive foul -- all in a span of 54 seconds. ...
The latest from Tracy McGrady is that if Orlando is looking to rebuild, he wouldn't mind being dealt to Houston, Indiana or Detroit, teams he views as needing his scoring. The last time we checked, McGrady was under contract and could be dealt anywhere the Magic darn well pleases.