AS A 15-year-oldon the New Jersey AAU circuit, Pacers guard Dahntay Jones chuckled the firsttime he saw power forward Troy Murphy take the court for the opposition."Troy played for the Newark Rams, this inner-city team," Jones recalls."He was this big white guy among all these black kids who ran up and downthe floor. But he turned out to be fearless." Teenage Troy, in fact, wasbasically doing then what 29-year-old Troy does today: racking up doubledoubles by banging down low (at 11.8 rebounds per game, he was second toOrlando's Dwight Howard last year) and draining threes (at 45.0%, he was theNBA's most accurate shooter with more than 185 attempts). Says Jones, "He'salways been a monster."
But even monstersdon't mind a little help. Despite getting career years from Murphy and All-Starswingman Danny Granger—who was named Most Improved Player—the Pacers wereundermined by their defense, which was fifth worst in the NBA. Enter free-agentsignee Jones, who will be counted on to up the defensive tempo as a top reserveand help Indiana end a run of three years without making the playoffs. WhileMurphy is the Pacers' ballast and Granger is their leading man, the 6'6"Jones will be their stopper. Indiana's need for such a player, Jones says, was"very clear from my first conversation with [president] Larry[Bird]."
As a Nugget,Jones drew notice last postseason for the way he hounded Kobe Bryant and ChrisPaul. (He also heard complaints from coaches Phil Jackson and Byron Scott abouthis physical play.) Jones, 28, has shown that same intensity in Indiana'spractices. "I know that signing Dahntay may not seem like a sexy off-seasonmove," says Murphy, "but I can already see what he's doing againstDanny Granger." The Pacers are hoping that a little more D will make a hugedifference.
PROJECTEDSTARTING FIVE with 2008--09 statistics
October 25, 2009
[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
|PG||T.J. FORD||PPG: 14.9||APG: 5.3||RPG: 3.5||SPG: 1.20||FG%: 45.2|
|SG||BRANDON RUSH||PPG: 8.1||RPG: 3.1||APG: 0.9||FG%: 42.3||3FG%: 37.3|
|SF||DANNY GRANGER||PPG: 25.8||RPG: 5.1||BPG: 1.45||FG%: 44.7||3FG%: 40.4|
|PF||TROY MURPHY||PPG: 14.3||RPG: 11.8||APG: 2.4||FG%: 47.5||3FG%: 45.0|
|C||ROY HIBBERT||PPG: 7.1||RPG: 3.5||BPG: 1.09||FG%: 47.1||FT%: 66.7|
KEY BENCHPLAYERS: G-F Dahntay Jones, 5.4 PPG; F-C Tyler Hansbrough (R), 20.7 PPG; G EarlWatson, 5.8 APG; C-F Jeff Foster, 6.9 RPG • New acquisition • (R) Rookie,college stats
COACH: JimO'Brien (third season with Pacers) • 2008--09 RECORD: 36--46 (fourth inCentral) POINTS SCORED: 105.1 (fifth in NBA) • POINTS ALLOWED: 106.2 (26th inNBA)
Danny Granger'sjump in points per game from 2007--08 to '08--09. He has raised his average byat least five points in each of the past three seasons, becoming the first NBAplayer to do so.
ENEMY LINES | ARIVAL SCOUT ON THE PACERS
They play anexciting style, but I don't see how they're ultimately going to succeed. If youcontrol tempo against them and you know a good shot from a bad shot, you canwin.... Danny Granger has become a good shooter and a better ball handler thanI thought he'd be, though his stats are probably inflated by the way they play.I'm not sure if he could stay on the floor with a team that stressesdefense.... The way they play obviously suits T.J. Ford, but he can getselfish—too often he'll take it one-on-one in transition and force shots. Hehasn't shown a lot of improvement as a playmaker. He can make the obvious pass,but that's about it.... I don't know if Roy Hibbert fits with their up-tempostyle. By the time the shot has gone up, he may just be getting up to thehalf-court line—and then he's got to get back defensively. In another system hecould be O.K.... I'm interested to see if Tyler Hansbrough's energy transitionsto the pro game. My gut feeling is that it won't. He's got short arms and heshoots it right in front of his forehead, so if a defender has a hand up, he'sgoing to have trouble. He overpowered people in college, but that won't work sowell either.