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Same Old Story with J.O. in Lineup

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Jim O'Brien is a straight shooter. When he was hired by the Pacers he promised a certain style of play and effort from the team and he's delivered on that promise well ahead of schedule.

I trust what O'B says to be true. That's why I'm having a hard time reconciling his words about how Jermaine O'Neal fits into his system with what I'm actually seeing on the court.

The offense has been flowing well without J.O. with production simply hinging on made shots. Prior to last nights game O'B stated that the offense is the same with or withot J.O.

"We've made strides as a team, but those strides will be even greater when Jermaine gets back," said O'Brien, who is coaching his first scoring post player. "We run the same offense with or without him. We run the same defense with or without him."
My eyes sure didn't see the same offense last night. The first possession off the opening tip may have been the most glaring example of the difference we see with J.O. down low. Danny Granger had the ball on the wing with J.O. setting up shop on the post. No one was moving and Danny was telegraphing an overhead entry pass to J.O., which was tipped and stolen.

Now, that may be the same offense, but that play isn't run without J.O. It was the first play of the game and so out of character from what we've been seeing in previous games.

J.O. played 27 minutes and the ball ran through him quite a bit. He didn't appear to have the lift or quickness he needs to run the game from the low post. When the ball sits in his hand while he sets up a move or looks for a pass, my teeth grind. It doesn't look like the same offense they run with David Harrison on the floor, where DH is active, setting picks, flashing to the post or rim for a pass.

So is it merely a matter of health? I will continue to give O'B the benefit of the doubt until J.O. plays at 100%. He didn't look anywhere near 100% last night. Mike Wells' recap reports J.O. hurt his shoulder but he feels fine.
"It's not serious," O'Neal said. "I'll be fine. I felt pretty good out there tonight."
J.O. may have felt good, and he did look good at times, but the team we're used to seeing didn't look to good with him on the court. If he did feel good, and his health is near 100%, then his game has diminished quite a bit which is troubling.

I'm sure many will clamor for a trade but honestly, who's going to deal for J.O. now. He's looks like damaged goods and until he shows otherwise O'B has to make his system work with J.O. in the mix.

Other thoughts from the loss:
-- This loss can't simply be pinned on J.O.'s return. The volume of missed bunnies is where I'd begin and end the search for answers to why the Pacers lost.

-- Here's a story on Marquis Daniels and his bothersome knee acting up after going 10 days without any problems. With Quis out of the lineup and Murphy coming off the bench, it seemed like O'B was searching for the right combo all night.

-- Travis Diener played a few minutes in the first half and again missed an open 19 footer shot in rhythm. I thought to myself that Andre Owens needs to get a shot. He can bring some defense and energy in running the second unit and he won't shoot it any worse the Diener is currently. O'B had the same thought because Owens got some burn in the third quarter. A.O. didn't do anything spectacular but it was nice to see him get a chance.

-- Check out Pacers Notebook for more on "talk" on J.O.'s knee and a request for Troy Murphy to slim down.