flashy, splashy "Official Guide and Register" from the National
Basketball Development League arrived this past week. Funny, though,
there was one team missing: the Indiana Pacers.
Did you happen to see the Pacers' box score from last Wednesday night? It's a keeper.
it this way, here's a list of players whose names were not in the box
score: Ron Artest, Jermaine O'Neal, Stephen Jackson, Austin Croshere,
Scot Pollard, Jamaal Tinsley, Reggie Miller, Jeff Foster, Jonathan
Bender, and Anthony Johnson. The first three are in the David Stern
Stockade. The others are hurt.
were eight players who did dress, and they had a total of 406 games of
NBA experience. Three of the eight were not even on the team 10 days
earlier, and two of them were late cuts of the championship-driven New
Orleans Hornets. A third, Marcus Haislip, had arrived from his Tennessee
home the night before the game. One of the five starters, Eddie Gill,
is highlighted on the website of the Dakota Wizards of the CBA. At one
point, the Pacers had five players on the floor who had all been
elsewhere last year.
marked the 11th different starting lineup that coach Rick Carlisle used
in the first 15 games. By the time the Pacers return to Indiana from the
West Coast, where they lost to Sacramento Friday and faced Golden State
last night, it might well be 13 lineups in 17 games.
call it a fluctuating roster situation," Carlisle said by phone from
Sacramento Friday. "There have been a lot of challenges, but we've
decided to take an upbeat, positive, and opportunistic approach to this
lost Wednesday's game to the Clippers, 88-76, their second straight
defeat after racking up three straight W's following the You-Know-What
at Auburn Hills and ensuing suspensions. It was their second loss to the
Clippers in three weeks and marked the first time since 1992-93 that
the Clippers swept the season series.
must seem like training camp all over again for Carlisle, who should be
named the NBA's Coach of the Month for December regardless of his
record. He hasn't had 12 available and healthy players for any game this
season. In one six-game stretch, he had nine players or fewer available
for four games. Only two of the players who went against the Clippers
last Wednesday were on the team last year.
a lot of ways, the real challenge is on the new guys," he said. "Marcus
Haislip got in late the night before the Clippers game, went to a
shootaround, then we had to throw him out there for 25 minutes. These
situations are atypical. But when they come up, you end up flying by the
seat of your pants. The real problem is when you only have seven or
eight guys, you know a couple are going to go heavy into the 40s [in
minutes] and that takes a lot out of your reserve tank."
is help (and hope) on the way. Johnson, recovering from a broken bone
in his right hand and a five-game suspension courtesy of the
commissioner, was available for Friday's game. Miller (broken bone in
left hand) was activated Friday, served his one-game suspension, and
planned to play last night. Foster (hip) is hoping to play for the first
time this season Tuesday against the Bucks in Indianapolis. Croshere
(ribs) and Pollard (back) are in that murky, day-to-day category. Bender
(knee) is out for a while. He has played 27 minutes this season.
also could be help from New York, where arbitrator Roger Kaplan has
determined he wants to look at Stern's stiff suspensions and believes he
has the power to do so. The league contends otherwise and went to court
late Friday to block Kaplan's involvement. Under the terms of Stern's
suspensions, O'Neal (25 games) and Jackson (30 games) would be eligible
to return in January while Artest is out until next season.
the union succeeds in getting those penalties reduced, Carlisle may be
looking at some familiar faces a lot sooner than anticipated.
SIMMONS STARTING, CLIPPERS STARTLING
Clippers are on a historic run - for them. The victory over the
pseudo-Pacers last Wednesday was their fifth in a row, their longest
winning streak since 1995. And that win came after their best November
(9-6) since the 1970s, when the franchise was in Buffalo.
may have been a bit premature in offering up Primoz Brezec of Charlotte
as winner of the Most Improved Player award. The Clippers have their
own candidate in forward Bobby Simmons, who has taken advantage of
injuries to become a regular and valuable player.
feels great," he said. "To get an opportunity to start and be on the
floor and have a commitment in minutes is huge. I'm thankful to coach
[Mike] Dunleavy for that every day."
is among the league leaders in shooting percentage and free throw
percentage. Only one player in NBA history has finished in the top 10 in
both categories: the Celtics' Kevin McHale in 1990.
is in his second season with the Clippers, following two uneventful
years in Washington. Until this season, Simmons had started only 13 of
his 122 NBA games. Now, he's a regular and making the most of it in the
last year of his contract.
got the opportunity to start," he said, "and that's the best thing that
happened to me. And it's great to be a part of all this. We're on a
roll. Everyone likes each other and that's important."
Clippers could be in for an awakening soon, however. They are in the
midst of a stretch in which they play 13 games in 27 days - and 12 of
those games are at home in the Staples Center. And the sole road trip
was to Golden State, a team they've beaten three times already.
PIERCE'S FRAME OF MIND A GOING CONCERN
Ainge has no plans to trade Paul Pierce - that should not constitute a
bulletin at this point - but it might be worth noting that at least two
league executives, both of whom requested anonymity, think Pierce's
value is still pretty high. Let's put it this way: If Toronto (Vince
Carter) or Portland (Shareef Abdur-Rahim) rang, Ainge wouldn't even take
Here's what one
league exec said of Pierce: "He is one of the better offensive players
in the game, although it seems there are disgruntled stars all over the
league. They get a big deal and enter the pressure cooker. If things go
bad for their team, right or wrong they get blamed. It is how they
handle the rest that determines their marketability, or creates a trade
That last sentence strikes to the core of the Pierce/Celtics dynamic. He may, as Ainge believes, have many more productive years ahead of him. But he also can see that the Celtics
are, at best, a few years away from being anything resembling a serious
contender. Does Pierce want to spend the prime of his career trying
just to get there - and will he be content to make that journey?