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Do the Pacers Need a Franchise Player?

Got a head-nodding chuckle out of Peter Vecsey's column yesterday regarding the growing number of franchise players who are always looking for help to make them successful.

Bottom line: Kobe has evolved into a fake franchise player . . . same as Chris Webber and Tracy McGrady and now Garnett and Jermaine O'Neal. They're not conceited; they're convinced they're bad to the bone, all commanding max money - a lot more in K.G.'s (grandfathered) case.

All of 'em repeatedly failed to carry their respective teams to the Finals sans another superstar; McGrady can't even get out of the first round with Yao Ming, as opposed to Allen Iverson and LeBron James, who reached the Supreme Court surrounded by role players.
So the fake franchise players get max money but want even more from their teams, like someone to help with the heavy lifting of a playoff run. As much as I like J.O., the shoe does fit. There is no way he can carry a team on his own. He has never been able to close out games as a go to guy down the stretch. He's a damn good piece but needs other talent around him.

J.O. would be lethal with the Nets and despite LJL scoffing at the rumors Vecsey backed up this report that the Pacers and Nets were close to a deal. Vecsey's comments on the near deal:
In all fairness to K.G. and J.O., at least they've maintained a covert campaign to seek higher ground. I'm positive O'Neal will be traded; had Marcus Williams been added to the Richard Jefferson-Nenad Krstic pot, he'd already be a Net. The tri-pod of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter (count on him re-signing for four years at $15M per) and O'Neal would've made Jersey the team to beat in the East.
If Marcus Williams was in there for Jason Collins, I'd do that deal in a hurry. The Newark Star-Ledeger report appeared to have a solid Pacer source confirming the trade talks.
Depending on whom you consult, there was an offer on the table for Jermaine O'Neal as late as Thursday afternoon, and it involved Jefferson, Nenad Krstic and Jason Collins.

As far as the Pacers were concerned, they had some valid reasons to turn it down.

For starters, Jefferson plays small forward, which happens to be one of Indiana's few positions of strength, as it is currently occupied by rising star Danny Granger. Second, Krstic is coming off knee surgery. And most important, new coach Jim O'Brien has stated in several interviews over the past three weeks that he believes he can get O'Neal to play as he did three years ago, when the six-time All-Star finished third in the MVP race.

One Pacers official, who chose to remain anonymous yesterday because he didn't want to insult the Nets' offer, was blunt: "I don't see us changing our minds, because say what you want about Jermaine, he's a franchise player," the official said. "I like all the players in the deal, you're giving up one hell of a big. Krstic is a good one, but he's not on Jermaine's level. And I know Jimmy likes Jermaine very much and is confident he's going to play well for us. So this deal wasn't coming from our side."
The "I know Jimmy..." line leads me to believe this source was LJL himself or at least Donnie Walsh. The Nets just signed Vince Carter to a few years at about $15 mil per which doesn't necessarily close the window on acquiring J.O. but it makes it awfully tough. The deal can't work without the salary of Jason Collins but since the Pacers don't like that deal, I guess it doesn't work either. So the Pacers continue to hold out for max value coming back in a deal for their max player. If that happens, the Pacers can begin building up a strong franchise which may be easier without a "franchise player" eating up the cap.