By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst
Posted Jul 23 2009 6:29AM
The Indiana Pacers suddenly ended their year-long banishment of Jamaal Tinsley on Wednesday, agreeing to buy the 31-year-old point guard out of the final two years of his contract after not allowing him to play during the entire 2008-09 season. A league source said that the Pacers will give Tinsley approximately $11 million of the $14.7 million that remained on his deal. Tinsley is now an unrestricted free agent and able to sign with any team in a week.
Tinsley has not played since January 2008, after missing the final three months of the 2007-08 season with a knee injury, and after numerous run-ins and suspensions that had soured both local fans and the organization. After that season, Pacers president Larry Bird said that Tinsley wasn't in the team's future plans and that it would try to trade him, and told him to stay away from the team's practice facility and arena. However, other than a near-deal with the Denver Nuggets at the beginning of last season, Indiana came up with nothing, and Tinsley sat home in Atlanta all season.
He filed a grievance against the Pacers last spring, looking to either be bought out or released. The arbitration hearing was scheduled to be heard next week, but the Pacers headed that off by quickly coming to terms on the buyout.
"I asked Jamaal to call Larry Bird and (general manager) David Morway tonight, and apologize, and thank them," his agent, Raymond Brothers, said Wednesday evening. "He called both of them up and thanked them for the opportunity. There's no bad feelings, he's not bitter. He's just looking forward to playing again."
The buyout provides Tinsley with what will likely be a final chance to get his career back on track after years of incidents, injuries and on-court fits and starts. With several teams still looking for a quality starter or backup, someone is sure to take a look at the 2001 first-round pick who was once one of the league's up-and-coming young talents.
He averaged 9.4 points and 8.1 assists as a rookie. Then he helped the Pacers claim the league's best record in 2003-04, and the team was 34-9 in his regular-season starts after he came off the injured list.
Tinsley was the last player remaining on Indiana's roster who was on the team when its fortunes fell through the floor with the 2004 brawl in Auburn Hills, when Pacers players went into the stands to confront fans after an on-court tussle between Ron Artest and then-Piston Ben Wallace. Tinsley was not involved in either altercation and was one of the Pacers not suspended by the league after the fight, and averaged a career-best 15.4 points per game that season, but he didn't avoid other trouble several times during the next few years.
"This ends a very difficult period for all parties involved," Bird said in a statement. "We are pleased to have this resolved."
In October, 2006, just after the start of training camp, Tinsley and several teammates were at a strip club when an altercation occurred, which led to then-teammate Stephen Jackson being hit by a car outside the club -- and firing a gun into the air several times. Tinsley wasn't disciplined by the team (the league suspended Jackson for seven games the following season).
In February, 2007, Tinsley and then-teammate Marquis Daniels were involved in a fight at a local bar that led to a felony charge of intimidation being filed against Tinsley, along with misdemeanor counts of battery, disorderly conduct and intimidation. The charges were dropped in March 2008, after an agreement was reached where Tinsley and Daniels agreed to perform 32 hours of community service and stay out of trouble for two years.
However, during that interim period, Tinsley was involved in another incident, this one even more serious.
In December, 2007, Tinsley and members of his entourage were shot at in a high-speed chase through the streets of Indianapolis in which Tinsley was the apparant target of a robbery. Cars followed Tinsley's party out of a local club and followed them for several blocks, into a gas station, and to a local hotel, where one of the passengers in one of the cars opened fire, striking the Pacers' equipment manager in both elbows. (He was treated and released at a local hospital.)
Tinsley was not blamed for the incident by the Pacers, but he was suspended one game during each of the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons for "conduct detrimental to the team" and for a verbal altercation during a film session, respectively.
Numerous injuries have also curtailed his playing time in the last few years -- he has played in 72 games once in the last five seasons -- but several people who'd seen Tinsley working out recently in Atlanta said during last week's NBA Summer League that Tinsley looked in very good shape.
Brothers said his client currently weighs 187 pounds after spending the past few weeks with a college coach that has worked with Tinsley on his conditioning.
"I wouldn't say he's in basketball shape, but he's in good shape," Brothers said. "There's still team that are looking for a good point guard, and Jamaal fits that bill. He's going to have some opportunities."
Tinsley has career averages of 10.4 points and 7.0 assists.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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