Set to Resume Command
By Conrad Brunner | Sept. 27, 2004
A position of great uncertainty a year ago has stabilized. Jamaal Tinsley enters training camp as an entrenched starter, and expectations are high for the fourth-year floor general.
Though last season was statistically the worst of his career, with career lows in minutes (26.5) and assists (5.8), it may also have been the most significant. After losing the job to veteran Kenny Anderson to begin the season, Tinsley reclaimed it when Anderson was injured and maintained a strong grip thereafter, earning the confidence of the coaching staff in the process.
"Jamaal showed me last year he has a very high basketball IQ," said Coach Rick Carlsle. "He understands the game. When you talk with him about Xs and Os and strategy, a lot of times he’s thinking way beyond what you expect of a young point guard. He has great ideas and he has some real leadership qualities. The real challenge for him this year is to take that knowledge of the game and translate it into greater consistency and to take his game to a higher level. I see no reason why he can’t do that."
Anthony Johnson, a seasoned veteran who provides leadership, defense and timely shooting, was re-signed to serve as Tinsley's primary backup.
"Obviously, he played at a high level for us last year, both in the regular season and the playoffs as our guy off the bench," Carlisle said. "He brings us stability, he brings us some real leadership qualities in the locker room and he’s one of the more experienced guys we have at that position. It’s important to have guys like A.J., who have been to the Finals a couple of times (with New Jersey) and know what it’s like to compete at that level. That’s one of the many reasons we felt it was important to get him back."
Veteran newcomer Eddie Gill replaces departed free agent Jamison Brewer as the third man in the rotation. His quickness and ability to play pressure defense could carve him something more than an end-of-the-bench role. The Pacers are the fourth NBA team for the 26-year-old, and the first to assure him of a roster spot heading into camp.
"Eddie’s on the team and he knows that," said Carlisle. "He’s here. We want him here. We signed him to a two-year deal because we feel he’s at a point where he’s ready to come into his own as an NBA player. He also gives us a little something the other two guys don’t. He’s more of a true point guard. One of his real strengths is getting up and pressuring the ball full-court for 94 feet, and we will call on him to do that for us at times when we get stagnant or if I feel we’re just not performing at the level we need to perform at."
Carlisle said it isn't likely the Pacers will keep four point guards among the 15 potential roster spots, which isn't good news for second-round pick Rashad Wright. A defensive specialist who proved a timely scorer at Georgia, Wright will have to outplay one of the veterans to earn a job.