When Jim O'Brien turns and glares down his team's bench looking for subs tonight, his view is going to be the best it has been this season.
Starting with tonight's game at the Bobcats (5 p.m., no TV), the Indiana Pacers will add valuable veterans Troy Murphy, who returned from a six-game absence to record a double-double Friday, and Jeff Foster. With Mike Dunleavy's return set for Wednesday against the Clippers, suddenly the team's depth chart got a little crowded.
But the three vets should flow easily into the offense and defense schemes they know well. Foster will continue to come off the bench behind starter Roy Hibbert, but it is still unclear when, or if, O'Brien will re-insert Murphy into the starting lineup, which would effectively nix the Pacers' small-ball mentality to start games.
Small ball is what helped the Pacers nab five straight wins, but the past two losses indicate that the Pacers definitely need Murphy, Foster and Dunleavy to help the offensive flow during the fourth quarter. Spacing has become an issue. As well as passing, shooting, dribbling and everything else an offense is expected to do in the fourth. O'Brien told Mike Wells of the Indy Star that Murphy and the returning players will get their fair share of minutes:
"As always, guys that deserve to play will play. It's that simple. That's not a decision I really have to spend a lot of time thinking about. What it gives the coaching staff is some unbelievable options. Murph's going to play a lot of minutes for us. He's been gone for a couple of weeks and he's not in his normal game shape. When he gets back to 100 percent, that will work itself out. I know this: We need Troy Murphy on the basketball court. That's the bottom line."
So while you ready yourself for some crazy Sunday NBA action between the Bobcats and Pacers, check out the jump for links about tonight's game, Stephen Jackson's offense in Charlotte, and Larry Bird speaking about the brawl.
- The Bobcats are losers of seven straight. Their defense has controlled the tempo of games by holding their first 12 opponents to an average of 90 points per contest. Their offense, however, well...not so much. The team is only dropping 83 points per game and new acquisition Stephen Jackson, who the Pacers just saw in a Warrior's uni last week, hasn't helped the offensive flow according to the Charlotte Observer despite scoring 22 and 26 points in the past two games. Maybe this is a good thing that this game isn't on TV tonight.
- Bruno previews tonight's game by looking at the return of Murphy, Foster and Dunleavy. Bruno also posted a blog on Friday about Tyler Hansbrough's early impressions on the team and life in the NBA.
- As link above, Mike Wells noted that the coaches are thrilled to have so many injured players back into the lineup.
- In other injury news, Wells tweeted yesterday that Danny Granger will be limited to just playing in games for the next few weeks to try and heal that right heel.
- Tonight's game is previewed by the Charlotte Observer.
- Eight Points, Nine Seconds recapped the Cavs-Pacers game here, while also offering a cool link and recap of an interesting interview with team president Larry Bird, which included his thoughts on the current state of the team as well as remembering the brawl.