"MAN ON THE SPOT
New 91 Is One Volatile Catalyst
If Ron Artest were a stock, you wouldn't want to invest your life savings. In SAT terms, Ron Artest is to volatility as Jennifer Garner is to bootylicious.
This offseason, Artest told Slam Magazine he should have been the MVP because he was the best player on the best team. Confidence is a powerful tool, but assuming those words got in front of Jermaine O'Neal, Artest ran the risk of creating a little more tension in the locker room.
That tension surely exists already. It was reported after the playoff loss to Detroit that prior to Game 6 Artest missed a practice, a team flight, and the game-day shootaround. Not a good way to endear yourself to teammates.
Perhaps it's fitting that Artest has apparently decided to wear number 91 – a number last worn in the NBA by Dennis Rodman. Like Rodman, Artest changes games defensively when he's not undermining his team with his words or antics.
With his mental health in check, Artest is in fact one of the league's most valuable players. If his behavior, not his play, becomes the story, the Pacers will be better off without him.
There is no evidence to suggest that the Pacers, 61-21 a year ago, would take a precipitous drop in the standings, but it's hard to imagine them again boasting the league's best record.
The Pacers were a Tayshaun Prince fingertip away from hosting Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last year. The team returns intact, minus Al Harrington, who was traded to Atlanta for Stephen Jackson.
Jackson excelled as a role player on the Spurs championship team, and was a prolific scorer last year in Atlanta, where somebody had to score. He will be a nice addition if he defends and can accept being the third option on offense.
Options one and two, clearly, are Jermaine O'Neal and Ron Artest. After the Shaq/Kobe divorce, O'Neal and Artest might be the best 1-2 punch in the NBA. O'Neal, third in MVP voting, enters his ninth NBA season at the ripe old age of 26. Artest, 24, had a breakout year offensively and earned his first Defensive Player of the Year award.
The rest of Indiana's talent is good, not great. With a nod to the lifetime achievements of Reggie Miller, he's no longer a go-to guy at age 39. In May, though, he's still worth buying a ticket to see.
The two positions coaches typically deem the most critical are manned by committees. Jamaal Tinsley and Anthony Johnson play the point. Jeff Foster and Scot Pollard man the middle.
Austin Croshere and Jonathan Bender continue to gather dust, flashing just enough intermittent brilliance to suggest they could shine if ever given an extended opportunity.
O'Neal and Artest are good enough to put the Pacers in the playoffs with three players from the Indianapolis 'Y', so Indiana's questions won't be answered until May, when we see if a minor roster tweak is enough to propel them past Detroit and Miami.
Jonathan Bender: With Al gone, could be first forward off the bench
Stephen Jackson: Won't duplicate numbers with Hawks
I think they're a team in turmoil, but no one ever talks about it … Ron Artest is a huge factor. I don't know how long that honeymoon is going to last, considering some of the issues they had during the playoffs last season. To me, the Pacers are very talented, but there's commotion going on … They have too much talent to completely flop, but they're vulnerable this year … Jermaine O'Neal takes a beating like no one else in the East. If they lose him for any length of time, they're just an average team in the East … I like Stephen Jackson as a player, but he also adds fuel to the fire … Their luck may run out this year."
--Eastern Conference scout
PLAYER/2003-04 STATS PPG RPG APG
PG Jamaal Tinsley 8.3 2.6 5.8
SG Reggie Miller 10.0 2.4 3.1
SF Ron Artest 18.3 5.3 3.7
PF Jermaine O'Neal 20.1 10.0 2.1
C Jeff Foster 6.1 7.4 0.8
F Jonathan Bender 7.0 1.9 0.4
F Austin Croshere 5.0 3.2 0.7
G-F Stephen Jackson 18.1 4.6 3.1
G Anthony Johnson 6.2 1.8 2.8
G Fred Jones 4.9 1.6 2.1
C David Harrison Draft
G Rashad Wright Draft
C John Edwards Free agent
G Eddie Gill Free agent
G Anthony Johnson Re-signed
G-F Stephen Jackson Trade
G Kenny Anderson Free agent
G Jamison Brewer Free agent
F Al Harrington Trade
C Primoz Brezec Expansion
PPG Jermaine O'Neal 20.1
RPG Jermaine O'Neal 10.0
APG Jamaal Tinsley 5.8
SPG Ron Artest 2.08
BPG Jermaine O'Neal 2.55
Points Scored 91.4 (20th)
Points Allowed 85.6 (3rd)
Field-Goal Percentage .435 (19th)
Opponents' FG% .432 (9th)
Rebounding Diff. +1.55 (8th)"
Your thoughts please, ladies and gentlemen. I personally feel the scouting report to be very negative of our team. Judging from this article I would say we would be just another little above average team, certainly if you then read the "previews" of say Miami and Houston .