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Ex-Pacers Players Quietly Wait For NBA Opportunities

Even NBA players are having a difficult time finding work these days.

Some might blame the economy. Others could blame aging bodies. And there are a handful that could argue that they're injury-plagued pasts have finally caught up to them. For two ex-Indiana Pacers, the offseason has been unkind and the doors for opportunity have been shut tight.

Jamaal Tinsley and Jonathan Bender have only worn the Indiana Pacers blue and gold during their professional careers, and while both are attempting to change that for the upcoming 09-10 season, it's proving difficult.

Tinsley, who spent last year banned from the confines of Conseco Fieldhouse, was finally granted his wish to leave the Pacers organization when team president Larry Bird released him in July. But despite being linked to several rumors this offseason, Tinsley has yet to land with a team.

Tinsley's agent, Raymond Brothers, who also represents Caron Butler and Zach Randolph, tried to work out deals with the Knicks and Heat after the Pacers waived Tinsley. The Knicks' deal fell through, and Pat Riley canceled the meetings between Tinsley and the Heat after Lamar Odom became available, albeit briefly, from the Lakers. Brothers said at the time that talks between Tinsley and the Heat would resume, but that never materialized.

Tinsley's connection with Miami, however, could still be alive. The Miami Herald reported earlier this week that the Heat are still eyeing Tinsley for one of their final available roster spots. The Herald's Barry Jackson wrote, "Jamaal Tinsley is working out in Las Vegas, and the Heat might still add a veteran backup point guard (Tinsley, Bobby Jackson, Brevin Knight are possibilities) if Mario Chalmers and Chris Quinn do not play better."

Tinsley, who played for the Pacers from 2001-08, hasn't played in an NBA game since Feb. 5, 2008. Since then, he's been working out in Atlanta, Miami and, most recently, Las Vegas. Brothers told the Herald that Tinsley was ready to play.

"Jamaal is in excellent shape," Brothers said. "He's ready to go. Pat knows what he can do."

On a similar side of the coin, Bender's attempt to land with an NBA team has been even less fruitful than Tinsley's journey. After retiring from the Pacers in 2006 after years of injury-plagued seasons, Bender decided that this summer would mark his return to the NBA.

In order to keep people updated on his status, his joined with an online athlete-centered site, Raw Skills, where three videos were uploaded of interviews with trainers and video of Bender playing in pick-up games. But the last update came in mid-Aug., and Bender's tweeting, which he did on the Raw Skills' Twitter page, was vacant for nearly a month until Bender began tweeting again last week.

In an e-mail conversation with IndyCornrows, Raw Skills' Eddie A. Davis III said that the group will continue to provide updates on Bender's progress.

"We will be adding and updating everyone on Jonathan's progress and situation on Rawskills TV," Davis said.

He also encouraged people to follow Bender's tweets and to ask the former Pacer questions directly through his Twitter page. Despite having only 15 followers on Twitter, Bender has begun updating again. His most recent tweets mentioned that his still training hard, but he is also taking a one-week vacation from workouts.

Bender was originally linked to the Knicks at the beginning of the summer free agent period, but that rumor was based mostly on the connection between Knicks president Donnie Walsh and Bender when they were with the blue and gold. Since then, all has been quiet on Bender's rumor mill.

Whether either two players land with an NBA squad this season is still uncertain. Injuries, suspensions and released players could still open up spots for them, particularly Tinsley, to have a shot in the league again.

Until then, both players will continue doing what they've been doing since taking off their Pacers jerseys for the last time -- waiting for the next NBA team to come a-callin'.