Mark Montieth: Pacers Q&A
Indianapolis Star sports reporter Mark Montieth answers your questions about the Pacers.

October 25, 2004

With Jamaal Tinsley's contract coming to an end, when should we expect the Pacers to re-sign him and for how much if they plan on keeping him? (Tom from Cleveland, Ohio)

I wouldn't even want to guess what kind of salary Tinsley will command. Perhaps some of the recent contracts other Pacers have signed will serve as a guideline. Jeff Foster signed a six-year, $30 million deal, but that was before he became a starter. Artest signed a six-year, $40 million deal two seasons ago, which is similar to the contract Stephen Jackson signed over the summer.

The Pacers have until the end of the month to sign Tinsley to an exception. Otherwise he becomes a restricted free agent after the season, and the Pacers have the option of matching any offer he gets. It might seem safer for both sides to go that route to see what the marketplace says about his worth, but that hasn't been Donnie Walsh's style. It might be Larry Bird's, though.

Question: I have enjoyed reading your columns and feel you are one of the top reporters in the business! I think outside of Shaq, Stephen Jackson will turn out to be the most significant player move of the offseason. Your thoughts on this would be appreciated.

Additionally, I still think the club needs a swift point guard with scoring ability to make it past Detroit. But it is hard to see one being available as the season begins. I'd hoped they could have gotten both Jason Terry and Jackson from Atlanta. (Paul from Leesburg, Va.)

Thank you. You're obviously a genius when it comes to talent appraisal, so I can't argue with anything you say. Just kidding.

I agree, Jackson will be significant for the Pacers. Not just because of what he'll bring on the court, which is someone who can stretch the defense and improve the team's size and athleticism in the backcourt, but also because he brings so many positive intangibles.

He's a humble, enthusiastic player with a history of hitting clutch shots. Guys like him, who bounced around the minor leagues before making it in the NBA, usually are good players to have around.

Jackson has enough raw talent that he was drafted out of high school, so it's a unique combination. The other Pacers respect him for having started on a championship team and for his willingness to come off the bench. He's also a talkative, friendly person by nature, so he'll help keep everybody loose.

One could argue that the Pacers aren't as strong at point guard as last season, with Eddie Gill replacing Kenny Anderson. Gill is more athletic, though, and will accept his role as the No. 3 point guard more easily than Anderson, who handled last season's demotion professionally but still found it difficult to swallow his pride.

There are differing opinions around the league about Terry. He's athletic and skilled, but will he help a team win? Perhaps we'll find out this season, now that he's in Dallas. I doubt he would have been happy with the Pacers as a backup point guard, however, and his style of play might not have suited them as well as Tinsley's. Terry also will be paid $7.5 million this season, so the Pacers would have had to trade significant talent to get him.

Question: Last year, injuries caused starters to lose their position until the timing was right for them to get their job back. Could Jeff Foster have that situation occur given the positive performances we have been seeing from Scot Pollard? Also, could you elaborate on the differences in Pollard's and Foster's style of play? (David from Flower Mound, Texas)

I'm not sure any starters lost their job because of injuries last season. Tinsley opened the season on the bench and quickly went on the injured list for a legitimate reason, but he wasn't going to start regardless at that point. Kenny Anderson lost his starting job because of an injury, and never got it back after Tinsley played well.

I doubt Foster will lose his starting job to Pollard. His injury isn't that serious, so he won't miss much time, and the team was so successful last season with him as the starter. It's true, however, that he was dropped from the starting lineup against the Pistons, and played only two minutes in Game 6. He'll need to be a more consistent offensive threat to keep that from happening again, and the changes in the offense should help him do that.

Foster and Pollard are similar in their skills and style. Foster's quicker, though, while Pollard weighs 20 more pounds and appears to be better equipped to bang with the bigger centers.

Question: I've been reading comments from the national media about how the Pacers are in turmoil, behind the curtain, due to Ron Artest. What we read locally seems to downplay this idea. What's the story? (Steve from Tipton, Ind.)

The story is that the local media knows a lot more about the team than the national media. There's no shortage of people out there who have no clue about much of anything but still have a forum to express an opinion. You'll notice that they never cite a source for their information, or even claim to have one anonymously.

If you were around the team every day you wouldn't get the impression the team is in turmoil. Quite the opposite. Artest has been a disruption at times in past seasons and I quoted some of Larry Bird's frustration about Artest over the summer. Artest is capable of acting out, mostly with words, if the team loses and there are times it seems something is distracting him. But I see no reason why he can't continue the improvement he showed last season.

Question: Should there be cause for concern about Jermaine O'Neal's foot injury causing back problems and keeping him off the court? Seems these types of nagging injuries can linger. (Dave from Decatur, Ind.)

They can indeed, which is why the Pacers are playing it safe. Neither of his injuries appears significant, however. He practiced every day until last week, and his mobility does not appear to be impaired. He was injured (a ligament strain on top of his left foot) early in August, so it seems unlikely it could linger much longer.