The Indiana Pacers have plenty of decisions to make this offseason and from the initial burst of quotes from Herb Simon, Larry Bird, and Jim O'Brien after last game of the season, it sounds like they can't wait to overturn the current roster. While on the road, I've been trying to catch up with all the information flowing in since Wednesday night and have found that change seems to be the common theme running through all of the articles.
Starting at the top, Bruno's Q&A with Herb Simon sheds some lighton why we've heard more from Mr. Simon in the past month than we have during the previous 25 years combined that he's owned the team. Simon's involvement and his tapping of Jim Morris represent the organization in the community sends a strong signal that he plans to do right by Indiana.
Q. To announce on the same day that two men the magnitude of you and Jim Morris would become directly involved in the day-to-day operations of the Pacers, what message do you think that sends to the community?
A. That the Simons are here to stay. We're involved. Melvin has the better deal. He's the second-guesser, so he likes that better than anything else. And the fact that Jim Morris was available, was wanting to do this thing, with his background, with his connection to the city, with what he's done for the city, his good deeds, I mean he's just a remarkable man with all the right attributes to handle that part of the Pacer franchise.
Yesterday Bob Kravitz called for the Pacers to jettison Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley ASAP without regard for value. I can agree with the Tinsley angle and J.O. to a certain extent, although a little time may fetch more value for J.O. Kravitz takes a quote from Larry Bird which reveals that the Pacers are prepared for a future without J.O.
"I think at the small forward and two guard, we're pretty well set with Danny (Granger), Shawne (Williams) and Mike (Dunleavy),'' Bird said. "Any time you go into the draft, you look for point guards and you look for big guys. It's according to what's going to be there. If there's a point guard we really like, we have to look at him. But if there's a big man there, you always like the bigs.
"At the four position we could use another guy. We've got a lot of holes to fill.''
Does that sound like O'Neal is in Bird's plans?
"I'm sure he (O'Neal) will look at all his options, and we'll look at ours,'' Bird said. "Throughout the summer, we'll probably be talking to some teams and seeing what kind of interest they have in him. He hasn't told us if he wants to stay here or if he wants to go somewhere else, but there comes a time in any player's basketball career that you want to try to do what's best for yourself and for your team.''
Now, we move on to Jim O'Brien who was quite blunt in his assessment of the team on his radio show with Mark Boyle (thanks, Pacers Digest). This article on Pacers.com has similar quotes with JOB discussing the need for tough players they can rely on from day to day.
"Certainly we think we have to shore up the point guard spot," O'Brien said after the Pacers concluded the 2007-08 season with a 132-123 victory over New York Wednesday to finish with a 36-46 record. "Our point guards, whoever they may be -- they might be these guys -- we need defensive toughness right at the point. When the ball comes over halfcourt, we need somebody that's going to play hard-nosed, tough defense and we need that at every position.
"When I say that we're looking for dependable, mental, physical toughness, I mean that and so does Larry. That's what we want and that's what we're searching for and however long it takes we're going to make sure that everybody we have that wears a Pacer uniform is exactly that."
Rare in today's NBA that a team has so many players that don't fit a coach's style, yet the coach is safe and the players are not. That's a good thing, assuming they can move toward a better balance of "JOB players" on the roster.
Finally, we move to Jermaine O'Neal and the great unknowns surrounding his game and future with the Pacers. J.O. From this article it sounds like J.O. is positioning himself well to not opt out, which no one thinks he'll even consider, while trying to minimize the financial impact on the decision.
"I just missed 40-something games, and I’m not concerned about any going off and trying to get another contract somewhere else or whatever," O'Neal said after the Pacers beat the Knicks 132-123 Wednesday night to wrap up the 2007-08 season. "I’m concerned about my well-being and playing basketball. Basketball’s my life.
"I’m not going to fool you guys. I’m not going to say I’m happy about where I’m at. You can have all the money in the world but if your job isn’t going right then you’re not happy, and I had 2½ months to just really mental check. It’s just like reality to me, watching and seeing some of the things, some of my ability kind of slow down probably because of the knee injury, and one thing I was really positive about was that every doctor that I saw this past year said that I can get back and that’s one thing that I wanted to hear."
J.O. goes on to discuss his hunger to return his game to where he can make a big impact on the court. From reading between the lines, the Pacers don't appear interested in waiting to see how much of J.O.'s game returns, even though it may increase his value for a trade later on down the road. Nope, it sounds to me like the mind set this summer is to purge whatever ails the Pacers and begin building again in a way that matches the vision shared throughout the organization from the owner to the head coach. All of this talking is a start, but now we have to wait and see what actions are taken to back up the talk. Should make for a fun offseason, that's for sure.