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Other Side Of Good Injury News: A.J. Price Working His Way Back To Active Roster

Sometimes running into a headwind with rain hitting you in the face is a good thing.

After a long weekend of working my way through leftovers, I decided I better go for a run this evening before dinner so I could justify the pie I planned to eat later. I don't consider myself a regular runner, but I try to get out a couple of times per week but usually need some motivation to get started. I love finishing a run, but those first few strides are always a killer. Any reasonable excuse to put off the exercise until later, which often means the next day, usually wins out.

So I did get started tonight on a little three mile run with some dark clouds hanging out in the west. I had checked the radar (looking for an excuse?) and it appeared I could complete my run before any rain hit.

Obviously, I'm no Bob Gregory or even Kevin for the matter, because after a pleasant mile and half out I turned to head home and was greeted by a stiff headwind and a few drops of rain. About 100 yards later, the wind was slamming a steady rain into my face. After adjusting to the mild shock of the situation, man, did it feel good to plow through those elements conspiring against me and finish.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't want this to happen. Had I known this weather was so close I would've never left the house (but still would've had the pie). But I've run through similar situations before and once you adjust, I find a little extra boost in my stride rising to the challenge, even uttering under my breath, come on wind, blow harder. A little fight-or-flight mentality kicks in with flight not being an option since the only place to flee to is home, and the fastest way to get there is to keep running.

So finishing my run tonight, dripping wet and cold, made that pie taste a little better. It also reminded me of the sudden "headwind" A.J. Price felt in the middle of his pre-game workout last Friday as the Fieldhouse was buzzing with excitement over Mike Dunleavy's return and Danny Granger giving it a go.

The Pacers rookie point guard was the odd man out with all of the healthy bodies returning. Instead of suiting up as an active player, he would put on a coat and watch the game as one of the inactive players for the first time in his young career.

This is the other side of all of the good news focused on Dunleavy. For a young player like Price from a big-time program like Uconn where he became accustomed to playing in big-time games and not only playing a big role but leading his team, getting tapped to be inactive has to be tough, even when it was expected. Like nothing could brace me for the sudden jolt of wind and rain, nothing could prepare Price to hear that he didn't need to suit up against the Mavericks.

While Price was going through his individual work on the Fieldhouse floor about 90 minutes prior to the opening tip. Assistant coach Dick Harter called Price over to the bench where he was sitting. Offering a grand-fatherly presence, Harter was the bearer of bad news for Price which he delivers after putting an arm around the rookie.

The message was quick and to the point and Price is no dummy, he knew the math would put him in street clothes on this night, but now it was official. Price took the news like he expected it and quickly went back to work on the court, no doubt with a little extra resolve.

Even if you know the news is coming, when it's official the reality hits the core of a competitor. After that wave of fight-or-flight instincts kick in for a fighter, the news becomes fuel for future success.
After his workout, I caught up with Price in the locker room, not yet ready to shed his hoop clothes for the coat and slacks he would later wear. He was more focused on UConn trying to overcome a late deficit to Duke. With so many Dukies in the locker room, he held out hope for bragging rights later, but for now he was quietly urging on his old teammates.

Fittingly for the night of his first inactive game as a pro, Price's old team would get their own wake up call when Duke would put away the Huskies, 68-59. No doubt, this loss will test Uconn's resolve as they try to use the lessons to make them stronger in March.

So now Price continues to work to make sure his future with the Pacers doesn't just have him active but part of the action. For now though, with the team's veteran players available, Price has to remain flexible and willing to play any role, even if the role changes from night to night.

"I know there's a lot of veteran players on the roster ahead of me and I have to keep working. I know my time will come"

That's what you want to hear. No harm in letting the ego take a hit, feeling some disappointment, as long as you know the only way to change your current situation is to keep working. Does actually hearing those words that you are going to be inactive, add a little fuel to your fire.

"Oh, definitely. You want to be active and ready to go for every game. There's always a chance to play so you have to be ready."

No doubt. When you put on the uniform as an active player, even if you're not in the regular rotation, there's always a chance your number will be called. Foul trouble, injury, technicals, lopsided scores - they all make the possibility of playing time real and regardless of the circumstances every minute is valuable for a rookie like Price.

But once on the inactive list, you're not allowed to shed the suit coat and join the fray. Instead, you just keep putting in the work and focusing on future playing time when every player on the roster is healthy and you're expected to make something happen on the court.

A.J. Price keeps working toward that day, even if the elements are currently testing his resolve.