PROJECTED STARTINGFIVE with 2006-07 statistics
KEY BENCH PLAYERS:F-C Jeff Foster, G Travis Diener*, G Marquis Daniels, C David Harrison, F IkeDiogu *New acquisition
Record: 35-47 (9thin East) Points scored: 95.6 (24th in NBA) Points allowed: 98.0 (12th in NBA)Coach: Jim O'Brien (first season with Pacers)
Rarely is a55-year-old man the center of an NBA marketing campaign, but Jim O'Brien is themost marketable asset the Pacers have these days. That the new coach is thestar of the team's television, radio and print ads speaks to the current stateof the franchise. Attendance has dropped in each of the past three seasons asthe number of player indiscretions (see: Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson)increased. Last year Indiana finished 35-47 and missed the playoffs for thefirst time in 10 years. "We understand the disconnect that we have had fromour fans because of some off-court problems," says O'Brien, who had a182-158 record in five seasons with the Celtics and the Sixers. "We aredoing everything in our power to change that."
O'Brien is alsomaking changes on the court. He gutted former coach Rick Carlisle's structuredoffense and replaced it with a free-flowing, up-tempo system that willemphasize the three-point shot--even though the Pacers were 22nd in three-pointshooting (.346) last season. O'Brien says he expects big years fromstill-developing Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy, but his pet project will bemercurial point guard Jamaal Tinsley, an All-Star talent on his best days and amope on his worst. "This is a guy who needs to be in the open court,"says O'Brien. "I'm going to try to put him in an environment that willallow him to succeed." All-Star forward Jermaine O'Neal, whose name wasfloated in trade rumors during the off-season, remains on board and committedto being a Pacer.
No one can arguewith O'Brien's commitment. He's been a one-man Pacers outreach program sincemoving to downtown Indianapolis, speaking at functions and often engaging inimpromptu discussions with passers-by on Market Street. "I have my eyeswide open as to what this job will demand," he says. With this roster, it'sgoing to demand plenty.
An opposing team'sscout sizes up the Pacers
Jermaine O'Neal isa guy who is on the downslope of his career. He still has those good low-post,back-to-the-basket moves, but he's doing that less and taking the jumper moreoften. He's been getting hurt so much in recent years that it's as if he'slearned to play a different way. . . . Jamaal Tinsley likes to play up anddown, and opponents fear him getting into his rhythm because he plays like astreet player. But that tempo can also be detrimental to the team because hemakes so many mistakes. . . . Mike Dunleavy is a skilled, talented guy, but theskills don't translate into production. He's smart, he knows what to do, he canshoot and pass, and he has a good feel. But he's like an expensive car thatcan't get out of first gear. . . . Danny Granger will put together two niceplays, and then it will be another quarter before he makes his next one.There's a lack of urgency with him. . . . They won't go anywhere until theydecide to fully commit to rebuilding, which will mean getting rid of somepeople--starting with O'Neal.
For the first timein the franchise's 40-year history, including eight ABA seasons, the Pacerswere the worst shooting team in the league. They made only 43.8% of their shotsfrom the floor in 2006-07.
RON HOSKINS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; STARTING LINEUP: ;
WALKING ADVERTISEMENT O'Brien has not been shy about selling his team.
RON HOSKINS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES