Is Artest Really the Problem?

by Conrad Brunner

March 21, 2003

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Conrad Brunner
Q. The national media seems to think the problems that the Pacers have are due to (Ron) Artest, but I personally think it is due to injuries and family issues. Could you please tell me since the All-Star break how many games have the Pacers played with the original starting lineup? (From Willie in Indianapolis)

A. Without question, Artest's frequent suspensions have hurt the team. Many consider him to be the most important player on the roster because of his combination of skills, as well as his consistent intensity, and his absence is a quantifiable burden. The team has gone 4-7 in games he has missed - 10 for suspensions, one for illness. They'll play the next two without him, as well, because he was suspended for a sixth time this season for his flagrant foul against Boston's Paul Pierce on Wednesday night. But you're also correct that injuries and personal issues have also been an obstacle.

Jermaine O'Neal's stepfather has been hospitalized since March 1 with a self-inflicted gunshot wound; Jamaal Tinsley's mother is gravely ill with cancer; and Austin Croshere missed three games after his father-in-law passed away. Mix in the foot injury that has kept Brad Miller out of the lineup four consecutive games and five out of six, and that's a whole lot of adversity for one team - particularly a young one - to confront at one time. Since the All-Star break, the Pacers have had their primary starting lineup (Jamaal Tinsley, Reggie Miller, Artest, Jermaine O'Neal and Brad Miller) together for 12 of the 19 games. That lineup, however, hasn't been together since March 8 in Portland.