With Artest Returning, is Change Needed?

by Conrad Brunner

June 21, 2005

Tuesday, June 21, 2005
If you'd like to pose a Question of the Day to Conrad Brunner, submit it along with your full name and hometown to Bruno's_mailbag@pacers.com. Brunner’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Pacers players, coaches or management.

QUESTION OF THE DAY
Conrad Brunner

Q. What is all of this constant talk about the Pacers needing to make a move via trade? To make this short and sweet, am I the only one that remembers that arguably our best player, reigning Defensive Player of the Year and All-Star … the player that can create his own shot, change the game immensely and has incredible intensity on both ends of the court, Ronnie Artest? After looking at how the Pacers did without him, I say ‘why do we need to make a change?’

We are getting that incredible player back to simply add to the mix of last year (minus Reggie), without having to trade anyone at all. All I hear is about what changes need to be made, but we never even had our projected ’04-05 starting five out on the court at the same time this whole season. I suggest drafting a very solid player and let this team stay together, for they must have great chemistry after last season. With those players together, I see a very potent, championship contending team with a little extra ‘chip on their shoulders’. (From Reece in Noblesville, IN)

A. This is a topic of much discussion among fans, because much of the logic is sound. Without question, the return of Artest to a team that was competitive without him last season should make the Pacers significantly better. It also makes the pieces fit more comfortably. As well as he played as a small forward last season, Stephen Jackson's best position is shooting guard, and that's where he'll spend the bulk of his minutes in 2005-06. With Artest, Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal on the floor, the Pacers have three starters capable of averaging 20-plus points over the course of a season.

Though you suggest the chemistry should be good based on last season that logic doesn't necessarily hold for a couple of reasons, one physical and one mental. Because the projected lineup has never played together, it remains to be seen how it will gel, if those starters will develop the necessary symbiotic relationship. And because of the circumstances that led to Artest's absence and the toll that took on the entire team it remains to be seen how, or if, he will fit back in with his teammates.

While both President Larry Bird and Coach Rick Carlisle have talked about the need for change, neither has taken the stance that the nucleus of the team needs to be broken up. Bird's goal is to find ways to improve the supporting cast by addressing the primary areas of need on the roster – namely, depth and playmaking ability at small forward and shooting guard. As solid as the roster appears, the Pacers do have needs and that's what Bird and franchise CEO Donnie Walsh are endeavoring to address.