Jeff Foster no longer is the Indiana Pacers' "old man." That honor now belongs to Maceo Baston.
Foster, 31 and two years younger than Baston, is their longest-tenured player, however. He has the gray hair and battle scars to prove it.
"Obviously things haven't gone the way many people expected since the brawl and Reggie (Miller) retired," Foster said recently. "You would see that by how we played and the lack of support we got from fans."
The Pacers made the playoffs in each of his first seven seasons, including the 2000 NBA Finals. The culture inside the locker room suffered the past two seasons, when they missed the playoffs.
Foster insists better days are ahead. The roster transformation is almost complete. More players have spent the summer in town, working out at Conseco Fieldhouse. All-Star Jermaine O'Neal has been traded, albeit perhaps a couple of years too late.
"It was tough because Jermaine really didn't want to be here the last couple of years," Foster said. "It was tough to become a team when your best player did not want to be on the team."
Foster and Jamaal Tinsley are the only holdovers from the 61-win team of 2003-04, and Tinsley isn't expected back.
Foster is entering his 10th season with the Pacers in part because he thrives in a role few want: He does things that often go unnoticed, from blocking out and diving for loose balls to being a presence in the locker room.
Team president Larry Bird has noticed.
"He's a glue guy to your team," Bird said. ". . . He's going to come in here and give you everything he's got."
Training camp is seven weeks away, but Foster started noticing a change shortly after the Pacers acquired seven players in a two-day span in late June. Even the tone of fans' questions has improved. Instead of asking about Pacers' questionable actions off the court, they're asking about playoff seeding.
Foster isn't calling the Pacers contenders, but he likes the motivation. Players such as T.J. Ford and Roy Hibbert have something to prove. Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy are trying to show they can lead a playoff team.
"There are a lot of guys that are new to this and want to be part of the culture change," Foster said. "You have holdovers that are hungry . . . There's been a black cloud over us the last few years. We're ready to have a nice sunny day."
Yea, I know there are other things in this article. But I think the fact that a team mate is now openly stating what we all have known for awhile.