Well as you may remember from earlier this summer I said I wanted to do a series of posts venting about everything from the past so that by the time the season came around I would never feel the need to talk about them again.
I made a total of two of those posts. One about the brawl and one about Artest.
After that I just dropped it. Oh I tried a few times but to be frank with you it felt more like I was forcing it than anything else. You see the bitterness if prtty much gone.
So while I really truely have about a 100,000 word post in me about Donnie Walsh and his tenure here I just don't have the heart to do it anymore. Frankly I actually feel very sorry for Donnie. I know it did not end the way he wanted it to end here in Indiana and right now it seems as though he is trying to force himself into his job in N.Y. From what we have read it seems to me like this just won't last that long.
Then throw in the health scare and well let's just say that I really don't have the heart to go at his time here. I will just say it is in the past and hopefully we can move on.
Brad Miller was another topic I wanted to talk about but then Brad goes and get's busted for pot and well, let's be honest the last thing we need on this team is any more off court distractions. I still say it was a horrible horrible trade (yes, it was a trade) but I just don't have the energy to argue with those who want to disagree.
I really wanted to post something about how I thought the 61 win season was really a fluke, but at the end of the day it was still a 61 win season and the only proof I would offer to rebutt that would be to offer my opinion of how it was a house of cards built on a foundation of sand. But again that would just be my opinion, the statistical facts would prove me wrong. So again I don't have the energy to argue with people who disagree with me.
So I actaully had an "odd thoughts" post all worked up in my head tonight to start the new season with. I wanted to talk about players and who we thought would do what and how often they would do it. I still plan on doing that post this week.
However as I sat down to type this I perused the star to see the new Pacers articles.
Lo & Behold the first article I come across was "Bird says team poised to fill leadership void"
As I'm reading this article along comes this quote.
Just because you make the most money doesn't mean you're the leader," Bird said last month. "A lot of guys didn't want to step on toes. Not only here, but other places I've been at. They'd say, the guy makes the most money, that means he's the leader. That's not the case. The leader comes from the guy doing the right thing, the guy that's going to be there every day at practice, the guy that plays through pain without complaining. They do the necessary things to prepare themselves.
All of a sudden I developed Energy Legs as though I had drank Rawberry to actually go at the Jermaine O'Neal posse'.
Ok, maybe I'm reading what I want to read here but then maybe I'm not.
To me Larry Bird is actually saying that Jermaine O'Neal did not prepare himself and would not play through pain. But wait, I can already hear the keyboards clacking somewhere up in Chicago and down in Cincinatti. Jermaine O'Neal shot freethrows left handed after getting his shoulder seperated and we have video that shows his leg bent backwards and he came back and played.
Yes, yes we have all seen that.
But let's look a little deeper about leadership and how that plays into what we are talking about here.
Nobody can deny either of the above, also no one can deny that many times over the years he has come back and played sooner than expected and often times sooner than he should have.
However what also can't be denied is that the seasons he did that in the Pacers were either considered legitimate playoff teams or a couple of years high playoff contenders.
But over the past two years when the team has not been so good, the returns have not been so fast. The time away has been more.
The old saying "it's easy to lead in good times but true leaders emerge from bad times" comes to my mind here.
Again, I may just be reading what I want to, but I think the real true shot across the bow at O'Neal comes from the part about not being there every day at practice.
We never really found out if he came to practices last season or not, did we?
If he did not, then does everybody realize that he never practiced with Troy Murphy or Mike Dunleavy. That would be one half of the remaining starting five that he never practiced with. Is it any wonder why the team never gelled?
Rick Carlisle did not make Jermaine O'Neal practice his last season here, this comes from both J.O. and Carlisle btw.
How can you lead the team when you don't practice?????
Now some are ready and willing to give J.O. a pass over the past couple of seasons for not wanting to be here because, (how was that put?) oh yea, nobody wanted to be here.
My answer to that is bull.
When you are the franchise player, even when you don't deserve to be, then all of the stones fall on you. You are the one who has to lift up everybody around you and charge the hill.
Are you allowed to be depressed, down, down hearted and down trodden? Well we are all human so to a certain extent in your personnal time yes, yes you can be.
But when the clock is ticking no matter what you feel you better be there everyday with bells on.
If not, then step aside and let someone else be the leader. It doesn't matter if you are talking the NBA, NASA, NASCAR or the NRA. If you are the leader then you have to want to be there, if not everything else is null and void.
That is just my minor speal on his leadership abilities or lack thereof.
Really and truely at the end of the day I always felt two things about him.
1. He was the most self centered player I have ever seen in a Pacers uniform.
2. He was vastly over rated.
Now of course as I always have in previous years I will again do the right thing.
I was a fan of Dale Davis, the player he was traded for. So feel free to throw anything that I type out the window and discard it as the mad ravings of a "fanboy" who lost his player. I will understand.
My point of view though is differant on this. I never blamed O'neal for the trade, I knew from a friend of mine that Dale had demanded a trade from Walsh was not returning to the team no matter what. So, Walsh got the best that he could from the situation.
I tried my best to like the guy, but from day 1 with the club he made it very very tough on me.
He spoke at great length of all of the personal awards he coveted and was going to win and then oh by the way he wanted to help the team win.
Unnerving for me to say the least but he was young and excited so maybe we can over look that.
Then came the worst thing that could have ever happened. Reggie Miller designated J.O. as the new franchise player. He hadn't earned it and frankly was not mature enough to handle it. But he went on to have a productive year and over the summer even went to the rookie free agent camp. I remember setting on the sidelines watching him play against players who would never be in the NBA and think to myself "maybe he does get it" I mean he did not have to be there so he will always get kudos for that.
But then came the next season and this is where I will probably have to say that my Dale Davis type player love comes into play, but I have never seen a power forward so offended by power players in my life as J.O. was becoming more and more apt to complain about physical play.
Then came the infamous Pacers Pistons brawl. No, not the one you are thinking of. This it the one where Jermaine cheap shot Corlis Williamson in the air and the Big Nasty used J.O.'s head a backboard and threw the ball off of it.
Then came the most comical thing I have ever seen in my life. J.O. acting like wanted to fight any and everybody but actually fighting nobody but poor old Tree Rollins who was our asstant coach at the time. Ben Wallace stood on the floor totally perplexed as to what to do. As my friend Twes said at the time "Ben had never been hit in the face with a purse before so he didn't know how to react".
This just kept going and going and going till finally Jermaine left the floor.
This was one of many such episodes where Jermaine decided to act tough and indignant but truely not do anything. There is nothing wrong with just walking away, this is actually the best thing to do. Make them pay at the free throw line is the best policy. But if you are going to want to play the tough guy then by all means, please do. Reggie Miller would go after guards or centers. I've seen him chase Matt Gieger down the floor as well as Derrick Coleman.
However one of the best things that ever happened to J.O. came at the end of that season. Zeke took J.O. to the side at the end of the year and told him to not work on his game and be a better player but to go away and be a better man. J.O. seemed to actually respond to this a little and came back a slightly differant player.
There are however two things that I have never blamed J.O. for and actually feel that he got the raw deal in both instances.
1. The Pacers trading away Brad Miller and not replacing him with a real center who had talent to play. Not Scot Pollard who for whatever reason just never fit in with Carlisle's style of play and certainly not Jeff Foster who was a not a power player by any sense of the immagination.
2. The Pacers firing Thomas after giving O'Neal the contract extension. The way that was handled was really rotten by the Pacers, IMO. I'm not saying they should not have fired Thomas but the way it was handeled was poor.
I could go on and on and on but I guess I will just wrap it up by saying this.
I have never seen a player who was only a 20 & 10 guy be labled a franchise player more than J.O. was.
Yes, yes he was 3rd in MVP balloting one year. Well Peja was 2nd that year so that tells me all I need to know about the balloting process for that year.
I've been ridiculed because I have always said that Jermaine in his prime was really not any better than Shareef Abdur Rahim in his prime. I still hold to that thought. That is not saying that Shareef is a bad player, far from it. But he is not a franchise player either.
But, IMO, neither was Jermaine O'Neal.
Ok, I know this is just the beginning of this. Feel free to flame away at me.
I can already feel the fires burning now.