Is Team Chemistry at High Point?
Thursday, Jan. 6, 2005
If you'd like to pose a Question of the Day to Conrad Brunner, submit it along with your full name and hometown to Brunofirstname.lastname@example.org. Brunner’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Pacers players, coaches or management.
OF THE DAY
Q. With such a season filled with turmoil, suspensions and injuries to key Pacer players, the team chemistry appears to be at the highest level ever as the players demonstrate a strong bond for each other and enjoy playing together as a team. How do you measure the Pacers' team chemistry compared to other NBA teams and how much impact will this carry in the team's goal of winning an NBA championship? (From Brad in Fort Wayne, IN)
A. You raise an excellent point. There's no question the aftermath of the Nov. 19 incident and the incredible hardship placed upon the franchise, has had a galvanizing effect in the locker room. Jermaine O'Neal has made several references to the respect he gained watching guys like Austin Croshere, Fred and James Jones and Jamaal Tinsley carry the team in his absence. And now that he's back, O'Neal is playing with a passion that has carried him to the highest level of performance of his already distinguished career. Everyone seems to have taken this season on as a personal mission to prove that the incident, and accompanying punishment, won't prove a fatal blow to the team's hopes.
It's hard to say how the Pacers' chemistry compares to that of other teams around the league, but it appears to be at a level I haven't seen since the 2000 NBA Finals team. While the team will continue to miss Ron Artest's defense and intensity, his absence has left O'Neal as the clear and undisputed leader of the team and it is a role he relishes. The importance of that distinction can't be overstated. O'Neal is playing with something to prove, and so are his teammates. That has made for a very unified locker room and cohesive team on the court. Assuming the chemistry can be maintained the rest of the season, or possibly even strengthened, it could be a major factor in the playoffs.