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Jim O'Brien Looks Ahead With Pacers But Without Dunleavy

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Jim O'Brien was on Eddie and Kravitz this afternoon and unloaded a few interesting tidbits while discussing his thoughts on this season and how things may play out next season.

There was plenty of talk about the differences between how the season is finishing this year compared to last year at this time despite the similar records of the two teams.

While looking ahead to next year, JOB opened up about his expectations for Mike Dunleavy including a tentative timeline I have not heard before. Eddie White asked JOB how he plans for next year with the availability of Dunleavy in question.

JOB: I might be overstepping my bounds medically speaking, but I don't think there's any chance of having Michael before January 1 and that would be aggressive. So, you have to go into the season as if he's not going to be a part of the team. And if we're lucky enough to get him healthy in January or February, he's not all of a sudden going to be ready to jump into the starting lineup. He will be a guy who we will probably bring off the bench initially when he comes back. And by that point in time, I hope the combination of Brandon and Danny at the wings will be so solid that it will be difficult for Michael to break into the starting lineup and if that happens, then having a healthy Michael Dunleavy coming off the bench is pretty good.

With the talk of Dunleavy's successful surgery, I was anticipating that he'd be back in action by mid-December if not earlier. While JOB's comment stunned me initially, I'm happy to have my expectations straightened out. If Dun does return next year, sounds like my plan for this year will be in play. Considering Dun and Quisy will remain out of the picture next year, Brandon Rush should continue in the role he's been playing recently. Rush appears more comfortable playing without a sub ready to replace him.

While JOB is happy with his current players more changes are obviously needed. Considering the defensive struggles, JOB is looking for help.

JOB: We have to find a defensive mind-set that we didn't find last year and we haven't found it yet this year. That has to be something that we grow consistently over whatever tenure I'm going to be here because you'll never be a contender unless you're one of the better defensive teams in the league.

Kravitz: How do you get better defensively? Is it as simple as just getting players in here who are better defensive players or can you be a reasonably good defensive team with the roster you have at your disposal now?

JOB: No.

Kravitz: (laughs) OK, I'll take that as a no.

Other items of interest discussed and the audio link:

  • Teams biggest need is a next generation Jeff Foster type big or as we've been discussing around here a more traditional, athletic power forward. Troy Murphy and Roy Hibbert aren't real productive together but Murph and Foster are. The Pacers need a stout, defensive presence who is willing to knock opposing players on their butt when they try to get to the rim and can produce next to Hibbert. Likes the prospects of Rush and Granger improving the defensive production on the wings.
  • TJ Ford - JOB is real happy with Ford's defensive ability and expects him to improve offensively next year. The offensive issue have to do with Ford adjusting his style of play to the offensive system of the Pacers. JOB thinks he'll get there next year and once he does his talent level will make him dangerous and likely back in a starting role.
  • Jarrett Jack - Of course, he'd like to have Jack back but expects other teams to try to sign him this year. The current market may keep the price in check which would allow the Pacers to sign Jack, although it sounded like JOB was preparing for life without Jack.
  • JOB didn't rule out drafting a point guard even if Jack, Ford and Diener were all under contract heading into next year. Obviously, it would depend on how the draft falls and which PG is available.
  • Hopefully the next generation Jeff Foster includes a little more offensive production. After JOB was off the show, Eddie mentioned Tyler Hansbrough who would certainly fit the description, although I'd rather not like to start worrying about the Pacers using their first pick to reach on Hansbrough. If they can get him in the second round or in some deal that offers a late first rounder, then I'm all for it.

AUDIO LINK: Jim O'Brien on Eddie and Kravitz