Should Jackson be Starting?

Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2004
Conrad Brunner

Q. I'm sure my question is much easier to ask than it is to answer, but it really is the question on nearly every Pacers fan's mind in my neck of the woods (there are so few of us in L.A.), so here goes:

The triple offensive threat of (Jermaine) O'Neal, (Ron) Artest and (Stephen) Jackson all on the floor at the same time is an exciting proposition for any Pacers fan. Based on their performances so far in camp and in the first few preseason games, will Jackson be seriously considered to replace (Reggie) Miller in the starting lineup?

While I'm at it, here's a follow up: Would a reduction in Miller's role on the floor hurt his role as a team leader, and therefore hurt the team's chemistry? (From Kent in Venice, CA)

A. The more Pacers fans see of Stephen Jackson, the more this question comes up. It seems the newest acquisition has opened quite a few eyes as to his all-around abilities. It was fairly well known that Jackson was a solid threat from the perimeter and off the dribble, but even Coach Rick Carlisle has been surprised by his ability to get things done from the low post. That doesn't mean, however, the team would be better off with Jackson starting and Miller coming off the bench.

With the second unit, Jackson is the go-to guy. The offense can run through him, which in fact offers him more scoring opportunities than he'd likely get with the first unit, which runs through O'Neal and Artest. In Tuesday night's game, for example, Jackson took over in the second half after O'Neal had left the game with a back injury, and when it was obvious Artest was struggling.

As the team is presently constructed, chemistry would be best served by the status quo. Miller has been a starter for 16 seasons. It's a role he has earned and in which he is the most comfortable and productive. Jackson is perfectly willing to come off the bench. He's done it before and done it well. It's also important to understand that, though O'Neal, Artest and Jackson aren't on the floor together at the start of a game, that doesn't mean they won't be on the floor together at the finish, as needed. If Miller is happy, Jackson is happy and the team is thriving, there is no need to fix what isn't broken.