3 Indiana Pacers Will a shotgun marriage of coach and players lead to playoff bliss?

October 27, 2003

In late August, Rick Carlisle was in an Atlanta studio
auditioning for TNT by doing a mock game telecast with Kevin
Harlan. He'd also been in touch with ESPN, and his transition
from head coach to talking head seemed all but certain.
"Something was going to be done in the next three or four days,"
says Carlisle, who was fired by the Pistons in May even though he
had led them to consecutive division titles. "But then I got the
call from Larry [Bird] saying this situation was going to
change."

This situation is the Pacers' coaching job, formerly the province
of Isiah Thomas, whom Bird fired in one of his first moves as the
new president of basketball operations. He hired Carlisle on
Sept. 3, less than a month before training camp was to begin. "It
was kind of a shotgun deal," says Carlisle, "so we haven't had
three months to get to know these guys and develop any real
closeness."

His relationship with the Pacers will be under scrutiny. Among
the reasons Detroit ousted Carlisle were his failure to bond with
owner Bill Davison and his clashes with G.M. Joe Dumars over
personnel. Jermaine O'Neal, an Isiah protege who had just signed
a seven-year, $120 million extension with Indiana, objected to
the change, and the volatile Ron Artest had an early run-in with
the new coach.

Carlisle has put in an aggressive, helping man-to-man defense
similar to the one he used with the Pistons, who allowed the
fewest points in the league last year. He was throwing so much at
his troops so fast that O'Neal compared the experience to
learning on the fly as a new member of the national team. Says
new center Scot Pollard of Carlisle, "He likes to get in and get
us working hard. I like that."

Whether the rest of the team agrees will determine how far the
Pacers go. --C.B.

COLOR PHOTO: GREG NELSON (CARLISLE) Rick Carlisle COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER (ARTEST) EYE OF THE STORM A contributor at both ends of the floor, Artest may be trade bait if he doesn't make peace with the new regime.

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Pacers

"Detroit jumped to the top rungs of the East the last two years,
and Indiana will do the same, because of Rick Carlisle's
little-known strength: He teaches spacing as well as any coach in
the league. You could already see in preseason that the Pacers
were more organized than last year's team. Good spacing forces
ball movement, because teammates are so blatantly wide open that
a player looks bad if he doesn't pass to them. In this scheme
Jamaal Tinsley should have a breakout season.... Right away
Carlisle is going to establish a rotation of eight or nine
players, which means they might end up trading one of their young
forwards. If Austin Croshere can stay healthy, he's going to be
given a fair chance--G.M. Larry Bird likes him and his big
contract is hard to trade. Any team in the league would want Al
Harrington, but Ron Artest has more potential because he's so
good at both ends of the floor. Actually he's a little overrated
as a defender; he makes stupid mistakes, like trying to
intimidate guys by bumping them, which they use as an invitation
to drive right by him. Carlisle and Bird will probably be patient
and see if they can help Artest become more stable emotionally
[he was suspended for a total of 12 games last season]. If he
doesn't come around, he'll be the one to go.... This team is so
loaded it can afford to make trades. If Reggie Miller recovers
from his off-season ankle surgeries and regains his form of two
years ago, then he'll play 30 minutes a game. If not, it's no big
deal because they can give some of that time to Jonathan
Bender.... Jermaine O'Neal looks like the kind of superstar
capable of leading his team to a championship someday. Carlisle's
spacing will open up the court for O'Neal; if his numbers go down
it will be because he's using his opportunities to set up
teammates."

FAST FACT
Jermaine O'Neal was the first Pacer to average 20 points and 10
rebounds since Clark Kellogg (20.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg) did it in
1982-83.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP with 2002-03 statistics

Record: 48-34 (3rd in East)
Points scored: 96.8 (10th in NBA)
Points allowed: 93.3 (13th)
Coach: Rick Carlisle
(first season with Pacers)

SCOT POLLARD[1]

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
C 152 4.5 4.6 0.3

BPG SPG FG% FT%
0.65 0.57 46.0 60.5

RON ARTEST

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
SF 50 15.5 5.2 2.9

BPG SPG FG% 3FG%
0.72 2.30 42.8 33.6

JAMAAL TINSLEY

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
PG 109 7.8 3.6 7.5

SPG FG% 3FG% FT%
1.71 39.6 27.7 71.4

REGGIE MILLER

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
SG 112 12.6 2.5 2.4

SPG FG% 3FG% FT%
0.89 44.1 35.5 90.0

JERMAINE O'NEAL

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG
PF 9 20.8 10.3 2.0

BPG SPG FG% FT%
2.31 0.86 48.4 73.1

BENCH PVR* 2002-03 KEY STATS

F AL
HARRINGTON 122 12.2 ppg 6.2 rpg 1.5 apg 0.87 spg 43.4 FG%
G[1] KENNY
ANDERSON 183 6.1 ppg 2.2 rpg 3.2 apg 0.95 spg 42.7 FG%
F-G JONATHAN
BENDER 215 6.6 ppg 2.9 rpg 1.22 bpg 44.1 FG% 35.8 3FG%
F AUSTIN
CROSHERE 254 5.1 ppg 3.2 rpg 1.1 apg 41.1 FG% 39.1 3FG%
C-F JEFF
FOSTER 299 2.1 ppg 3.6 rpg 0.27 bpg 0.36 spg 36.0 FG%

NEW ACQUISITION[1]
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 94)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)