Artest's Importance Obvious

by Conrad Brunner

March 25, 2003


ASK THE COACH
With Brendan Malone

To ask a question of coach Malone, submit it along with your full name and place of residence to askthecoach@pacers.com. Not every question will be answered, but all will be considered, and are subject to editing.

Q. What can be done to keep Ron Artest out of trouble? (From Kevin in Greensburg, IN)

A. We have spoken to Ron ad nauseum about what he has to do. I think Ron has to understand if he is suspended, that is a detriment to the team success because our record is 5-8 without him. Many people point to the fact that our slide when we lost 13 of 15 games can be attributed to the fact it started with his first suspension and continued as he has been suspended again.

Q. It always bothers me when I hear players and coaches try to explain why things are not going well by saying "we have gotten away from doing this or doing that. ..." These are professional players, who have obviously made it to the top level. I know there are a lot of games in the schedule, but practice time does occur between games whenever possible. Do players simply forget, or become lazy? Why on earth would pro ball players "get away" from the things that obviously brought them success? (From Daniel in Greenwood, IN)

A. That's a very good question. It's a question we ponder as coaches. Why don't you just continue doing the things that have been successful, both defensive and offensively? You run a set and execute it and score, why not replicate that particular play? But for some reason, people get bored with success or, if you get up by 20 points, you stop playing defense, you stop being patience on offense. We have to replicate the things that have been successful for us. It's not happening right now and hopefully the light will go on.

Q. The Pacers offense seems to pick up when the team turns up the defensive pressure and forces the opponents into poor shots or a turnover. The best example of this was the Feb. 12th game at New Orleans; since then I've only seen small stretches of very aggressive defense. Stopping dribble penetration seems to be a weakness. How much time is spent on going over defensive assignments and strategy with each player and as a team? When the coaching staff discusses creating matchup problems for the other team, do you consider creating matchup problems that favor the Pacers on the defensive end? (From James in Indianapolis)

A. Your observation is a good one. We work on defensive stance, moving the feet and helping out every day. I think there is a correlation between good defense and good ball movement. A game that stands out in my mind after the New Orleans game was our game in Philadelphia on March 12, where we played excellent team defense. We are constantly looking for mismatches to exploit with players like Ron Artest and Al Harrington; when either is guarded by a smaller defender we post him up out of the 'Quick' offense. I appreciate your observations, and these are things we are work to improve on a regular basis.

Q. I agree with Isiah (Thomas). The refs are coming into every game with the intent on keeping the Pacers from playing aggressive defense. That was their trademark the first half of the year - and the primary reason for their wins. What will the team do now that the refs have taken that edge away? (From Fred in San Antonio)

A. Continue to play the way we've played all year, but to play defense with our feet and show our hands because referees officiate hands rather than the feet and body. We have to show our hands on defense because as soon as you bring your hands down, that's an automatic foul. Before every game, the referees meet and talk about the personality of our team, as well as our opponent, and with the publicity about our physical play lately I'm sure they're looking to control the game in the first 5 minutes. We have to be aware of that.

Q. My question is regarding Jamaal Tinsley. It seems to me that he has so much potential but is manifesting just a small fraction of it so far. In my humble opinion, the problem with him seems to be the lack of focus or effort, or both. Sometimes, it just looks as if he's not trying his best. There is no doubt that he can be a great point guard if he gives his 100 percent in both effort and focus. I know that he has been through some tough times, but being a professional means not letting the personal factors affect your performance at work, isn't it? Is this a fatal character flaw, or can the Pacers eventually turn Tinsley into a true professional like Reggie Miller? (From Jonathan in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

A. Jamaal had a lot of distractions this season because of the fact his mother had cancer. As a matter of fact, he was called out of practice Monday when we heard that his mother died. You can criticize and say he should be a professional, but I think it was very difficult for him to sustain concentration because his mother's death was imminent. I thought his best game was in Philadelphia, when he came up from Maryland after visiting his mother, on the offensive and defensive ends. He did a great job following Allen Iverson off of screens, getting in front of him and making the right decisions, offensively. I think if he could play like that continuously, he'd be an outstanding guard. Isiah feels, despite the fact he's been up and down all year, that he would love to have Jamaal in the game at crunch time because he believes he has the mental toughness to make the big pass and make the big shot in critical situations.

Q. I love Jermaine O'Neal's game and team spirit, but there are two things he does that make me think he could improve on them. He does a little victory-bounce after throw-downs. In the playoffs, if I was the opposing team, I'd scout this and tell the player he guards to sprint downcourt after any J.O. dunk. My question for you is do teams scout to this degree, and if they do, does the Pacers coaching staff take "counter measures" to point this out to our players? (From Lance in Santa Monica, CA)

A. The counter-measure is to show him on tape and tell him what has happened. Not only does he do the dance after a dunk, he complains to officials after perceived missed calls, while his man is sprinting downcourt and scoring layups. This has been pointed out to him time and time again and I think he's getting the message. He's a lot better this year than he was last year, and he's better now than he was at the beginning of the season. It's a work in progress but he does continue to get better in this area.