Ask the Pacers
When you have questions, Pacers.com takes you straight to the inside sources for answers. President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird, head coach Jim O'Brien, and even players will answer questions from fans. All submitted questions must include your first name and hometown to be considered. Not all questions will be answered, but all will be reviewed. Be sure to specify who you would like to answer your question.
Please note: This is a forum for team and played-related questions and answers only. Requests of a personal nature will not be accepted. Requests for player appearances should be sent to the Player Development department.
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Question for Conrad Brunner | May 1, 2008
Q. Greetings from Spain. After a tough and frustrating season, I wonder what is next with the Pacers. To me, key questions stand out:
I imagine you will have some sort of break now, so enjoy. (From Greg in Madrid, Spain)
A. Well, Greg, first things first. We did get a few days off last week, which explains why I'm rested and ready. For another break.
Now, on to your other questions.
Question for Jeff Foster | April 10 , 2008
Q. Jeff, with the increased playing time, are you satisfied with your point production? (From Kevin from Indianapolis)
A. I'm never really concerned about my point production. When opportunities present themselves, I try to take advantage of them. As long as we win games, I'm happy.
Question for Danny Granger | April 2 , 2008
Q. I'm from Australia and a huge fan. You’re my hero. You always have the tough assignments defensively on players like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce. How does it feel to play against them? And how hard is it to manage your energy offensively and defensively against them high-rank opponents? (From Justin in Adelaide, Australia)
A. It's a thin line. First, I've got to have enough for the defensive end. And then I've got to have enough for the offensive end. It's just a matter of conditioning my body. During the course of the game, I just go as hard as I can and when I start dragging, Coach (Jim) O'Brien sees it and he takes me out to give me a break.
Question for Mike Dunleavy | March 21, 2008
Q. I've noticed that you seem to follow a pretty strict routine during pre-game warmups. What other game-day rituals do you follow? For instance, where do you go during the National Anthem? (From Alyssa in Indianapolis)
A. I go to the bathroom (during the anthem) because I drink a lot of fluids during the day and that's really my only break. When the game starts you can't go to the bathroom. Other than that, I just like to kind of keep it consistent each game day. I wake up, get breakfast, go to shootaround, grab some lunch, come home, take a nap, have a pregame meal and head to the arena. During warmups I like to keep it consistent. I go through a routine and for the most part it's the same every time.
Question for Danny Granger | March 13, 2008
Q. Has there ever been a game in your life that you (at the time) stopped and thought of to be "the biggest game of your life?" Was it your first pro game, elementary school, high school, etc.? If so, what were the elements involved for you to consider it so highly? (From Allen in Indianapolis)
A. It was the championship game of the Mountain West Conference tournament my senior year, where we had to win that game to get into the NCAA Tournament. The game was very close and I had a great game and my career took off from there. That was a big game because that game put our team in the NCAA Tournament, it helped my draft stock, it helped me get drafted higher. (Editor's note: Danny scored a season-high 28 points against Utah in the MWC title game and was named the MVP of the conference tournament after averaging 24.3 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3.0 blocks in three games.)
Question for Jim O'Brien | March 3, 2008
Q. What do the Pacers need to do to start playing better defense? (From Mike in Bloomington, Ind.)
A. Play consistently well within the context of our schemes for four quarters. Our guys know exactly what they need to do in every circumstance because they've been thoroughly drilled on it. We just have to execute what they've been thoroughly drilled on over the course of 48 minutes.
Question for Jeff Foster | Feb. 22, 2008
Q. I am a huge fan of your blue-collar work in the NBA. And you have become my favorite Pacer player since the time that Dale Davis played on the team – the key word is team. It takes all players to make up a good team and knowing what each player is supposed to bring to the table. You definitely know what you’re supposed to bring to the table and I applaud you for this. Enough of the praise and on to the question. Would you feel satisfied spending your entire career in Indiana even if it meant that you would not achieve the goal of obtaining a championship, like Reggie Miller? I ask this because in the current state of the Pacers, it does not look like they will achieve that level within the amount of time that you might have left in the tank. (From Wade in Indianapolis)
A. Obviously, it's every player's goal to win a championship and recently we've fallen on I guess you'd say harder times than we've had in the past, but I have no intention as long as I have anything to do with it of leaving this organization. It's my goal, if we can get back to championship form before I'm done to do that. If not, it's to help in any way possible to get it back to where, some day in the near future, we can compete for a championship again.
Question for Larry Bird | Feb. 18, 2008
Q. Do you believe fans are staying away because the Pacers are not winning or do you believe it is because there are players on the team that fans have given multiple chances to but now refuse to support? The NBA is a business. If getting rid of a certain player or players gets more fans in the seats but costs a few wins shouldn't those players be moved? (From Jeremy in Fishers, Ind.)
A. It's a little bit of both, though probably more the off-court stuff than the not winning. I know the fans have been very supportive of this team for a lot of years and they know you go through ups and downs and obviously winning will bring them back. Like we've always said, we've got to clean this franchise up and these players have to stay out of trouble, get back in our community and do a lot of work there. Our players do a good job of that; they've just got to do more. You don't like to make trades unless you get back something you need to help your team. If it's a case where you just have to get rid of a player, sometimes you don't get the value back you want – but if you have to move 'em, you have to move 'em.
Question for Mike Dunleavy | Feb. 7, 2008
Q. I have been very impressed with the level of play you have brought to the Pacers, especially the way you've played (with) J.O. and (Danny) Granger, unselfishly passed the ball to teammates, hit big shots from all over the floor, and taken over games in order to win. Did you make any changes in your offseason conditioning or work on certain aspects of your game this past summer in order to fit so well with the team and Coach (Jim) O'Brien's system? (From Jennifer in Indianapolis)
A. Not really. I do the same thing every summer, I work really hard and try to get better and come into the season as prepared as I can. I guess finally the hard work is paying off.
Question for Larry Bird | Feb. 1, 2008
Q. From a team improvement perspective, what type of analysis do you do when a player like Jason Kidd becomes available? I would tend to think any team, Pacers included, would have to take a hard look at him and what he might be able to bring and at what cost. Your thoughts? (From Rich in Anderson, Ind.)
A. You look at your team and, knowing what you have to give up to get him, what do you have left? You really look at your team and see what direction you're going to go before you put all your eggs in one basket to get a guy that's 34, 35 years old.
Question for Jim O'Brien | Jan. 17, 2008
Q. Do you encourage "psychological warfare" to be employed by our players during a game, wherein they get into the heads of, strike fear, and frustrate the opposing team's players (or at least make our players feel they could take over the game as a person or as a team) through trash talking, physical contact, or other non-verbal means?(From Reggie in Parañaque City, Philippines)
A. In one simple word, no. I don't believe in gamesmanship. I think it lacks sportsmanship. I would never tell one of our players to take part in that.
Question for Jermaine O'Neal | Jan. 8, 2008
Q. What's it like when you see kids wearing your jersey and what was it like when you saw that for the first time in your career? (From Matt in Virginia Beach, Va.)
A. It’s a pleasure and an honor to see people wearing your jersey. It shows the great support that fans have for you and some of the things that you’ve accomplished in your career. When I first saw it, it was like “Wow.” It went as far as even seeing kids wearing my high school jersey which brought back memories also. It’s a wonderful thing for me.
Question for Mike Dunleavy | Dec. 30, 2007
Q. Who is the guy on the team that you’re closest to friendship-wise? (From Charlie in Plainfield, N.J.)
A. I would probably have to say Troy (Murphy), because we came here from Golden State and played together for five years before that and got to know each other really well and became pretty good friends.
Question for Jim O'Brien | Dec. 12, 2007
Q. How much faith do you put in the plus-minus stat? (From Tom in Columbus, Ind.)
A. Just in the pure stat, it’s not as important as combining it with two-man, three-man, four-man, five-man rotations. We are looking always at why it is a plus, why it is a minus. By itself it’s not that important. A combination of players is important. If Player A has a minus 35 we want to find out if a lot of that minus 35 is a result of him playing with a particular other player.
Question for Jermaine O'Neal | Dec. 10, 2007
Q. Why do you think the team did so well in your absence and what are you doing to avoid disturbing team chemistry? (From Bruce in San Francisco)
A. I have to piggyback off what the guys have been doing. My return doesn’t change anything; I think it just adds to what we already have. We have a lot of perimeter players that can be played, guys like David Harrison who has really been playing well. And it’s not to disrupt the chemistry of it, it’s more to just add to it and increase the defensive intensity on that end of the floor and score when given the opportunity.
Question for Larry Bird | Nov. 30, 2007
Q. Do you believe David Harrison has the ability to stay out of foul trouble? (From Ron in Indianapolis)
A. There’s no question about that. It’s just that he’s got to learn to move his feet a little bit better than he has in the past. Over the course of the year I think Coach O’Brien will have him in the right spots at the right time.
Question for Jim O'Brien | Nov. 23, 2007
Q. I’m a long-time Pacers fan. And, I’ve always felt, that a more up-tempo style would be more successful. Frankly, it’s more fun to watch. How do you feel about this roster, as we get deep into the season? Can they sustain the pace? Or, will we see more injuries to the big men? (From Bill in Gas City, Ind.)
A. The pace had nothing to do with injuries to the big men. Jermaine (O’Neal) hyperextended his knee, Murph (Troy Murphy) strained his Achilles and Shawne (Williams) was suspended. So that had nothing to do with it. We will sustain our tempo throughout the season. We feel like we have the depth at both the inside positions and the guard perimeter positions in order to run.
Question for Danny Granger | Nov. 19, 2007
Q. What are you most looking forward to this year and what do you think this team is capable of? (From Mark in Missoula, Mont.)
A. I’m looking forward to improving on last year. We had a sub-par year and now we have a lot of potential on the team so we just have to get everybody on the same page. I’m kind of excited about that.
Question for Jermaine O'Neal | Nov. 15, 2007
Q. What goals do you expect to accomplish for this new season? (From Ashley in Alabama)
A. I just hope to have a good season. Obviously, making the All-Star team is always a reflection of your team and if your team does well then you get those accomplishments. But my biggest goal is just to win a lot of games and get to the playoffs because we missed it last year. And the All-Star game still comes within those standards, if not; I’m still happy if we can make it to the playoffs and try to make a run.
Question for Jim O'Brien | Nov. 13, 2007
Q. David Harrison has been in this league for a couple years now; how does he still foul on a consistent basis? Is this a coaching issue or is he still too immature for the game? (From Iqbal in Indianapolis)
A. I would never use the word immature. Part of it is technique which is coaching. We spend an exorbitant amount of time with David talking about showing his hands to the officials and being in position where he’s not taking silly fouls. Part of it is because he has a track record of fouling; people are calling fouls on him in some cases when there aren’t fouls. But he can’t overreact when that happens. He’s got to build up a reputation that he’s not a fouler, that he’s not going to overreact. So part of it is just gritting his teeth and not overreacting to bad calls and part of it is technique. Part of it is always being in the ready position, what we call his stance, being down low and reacting to the movement of the basketball and putting himself in position where he’s not going to foul.
Question for Jermaine O'Neal | Nov. 8, 2007
Q. Did you have to make any personal adjustments to your game or your approach in order to fit the coaching style of Coach (Jim) O'Brien? A couple of times a year, I come to a couple of home games and it's a real joy and pleasure to watch you play. (From Matt in Virginia Beach, Va.)
A. No, not at all. I think what we play is what I prefer to play. I think that’s one of the most misunderstood things. Over the previous four years Coach (Rick) Carlisle ran the system that everybody thought was something that I wanted to be running. I can score in the low post, but you don’t want to get beat on (for) every single play. So getting into a transition offense where everybody has an opportunity to score and take some of the pressure off me is what I prefer. I don’t want to be the center of attention every play down the floor. So the adjustments were very little. It was almost something that was accepted with open arms. We’re having a good time so far with it.
Question for Jim O'Brien | Nov. 6, 2007
Q. It seems this year we've upgraded a lot on offensive help and good solid, fundamental players that will really help this team, but what about defense? I think the players we have right now are capable of playing a great team defense but I was wondering who you thought the best defender on the team was? Who are you planning to guard Kobe Bryant, Gilbert Arenas, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James? Statistically it would be Jermaine O'Neal who's the best, but is there a really good, one on one shutdown defender on this team that is overlooked, if so who? (From Mathew in Madison, Wis.)
A. I would say on the interior our best defensive player is Jermaine O’Neal. I think on the perimeter, if we were starting Jamaal Tinsley, Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy, I think the best option to play LeBron James or Kobe Bryant would be Danny Granger. I think guys that could be very, very good defensive players on an interior basis, I think Jeff Foster is very good, I think David Harrison is very good. I think Murph (Troy Murphy) is probably a little better than people give him credit for. I think Ike (Diogu) can be a solid defender. On the perimeter, I think Andre Owens in particular, is a very good defender that can guard both the one and two spots. We’re hoping that basically everybody that is on our team continually improves on their defense. Certainly, we’ll work with the fundamentals to try to dramatically improve people throughout the course of the year, never thinking that somebody is at this level defensively and they’re not going to rise. We’re always trying to make guys better defensive players.
Question for Travis Diener | Nov. 2, 2007
Q. We are Marquette fans who have been your fans for a long time. Because No. 34 is retired, you had to choose a new number. Why did you pick No. 12? Best wishes for a great season! (From Matt and Karen in Chicago)
A. Four other numbers were taken. I asked for No. 10, but that’s Jeff (Foster)’s number, No. 3 is Troy (Murphy)’s number, No. 4 is Shawne (Williams)’s number and Kareem (Rush) is 21, so I took 12 kind of by default.
Question for Jim O'Brien | Oct. 30, 2007
Q. There has been talk about Danny Granger being a star in this league. He seems to have the physical attributes that could propel him to stardom, but this has been nothing more than just talk since he came into the league. His ability has not translated to consistency on the court. You, as a coach, have been instrumental in breathing new life into players' careers. What do you foresee yourself doing to bring out that star potential in Granger and turning him into a franchise-type player? (From Travis in Lapel, Ind.)
A. First of all, I don't think you should expect somebody that's in their second year to play with tremendous consistency. I think that's unrealistic. Danny was realistic with me when I first sat down with him when he said what was expected from him changed from the beginning of (last) year, when he was not one of the go-to guys, to after the trade when he was one of the go-to guys. He said he wasn't physically or mentally ready for that and he said it will never happen again. He's really physically fit. He knows what's going to be expected of him. You'll see him grow every single year because he has that type of attitude.
Question for Ike Diogu | Oct. 25, 2007
Q. How difficult is it getting new coaches so early in your career? Is it all pretty much the same, or does your style change for each coach? (From Kevin in Indianapolis)
A. It changes a little bit, but that’s just the nature of the business. One minute you’re here, the next minute you can be gone, so it’s up to you to adapt.
Question for Larry Bird | Oct. 23, 2007
Q. Do you have any tips or advice for a first time coach -- how to be a successful one, at that? (From Bill in Cranston, R.I.)
A. Preparation and practice and having your players buy in to what you're trying to do are probably the most important things. Obviously, talent will eventually overcome but if you have a team that buys into what you're trying to do, they work hard and you prepare them for each game, you will have success.
Question for Jim O'Brien | Oct. 19, 2007
Q. When Mike Dunleavy first came to the Pacers he shot an OK percentage but as the year went on he got worse and worse. What can you as a coach do to help Mike get his confidence back so his shot starts going in again? Do you plan on him starting or being more of a scorer for the second unit? (From Chuck in South Bend, Ind.)
A. I would be very surprised if Michael wasn't in the starting lineup. He's a definite starter in this league. We have a little bit of a challenge having three really solid wings with Danny Granger, Mike and Marquis Daniels. But Mike is going to have the ball in his hands a lot this year. He's going to be a playmaker for us. His coming to Indiana will be great for him and great for our franchise.
Question for Dick Harter | Oct. 15, 2007
Q. When you were here last you did a great job of getting some guys that were not known for their athleticism to become a pretty solid defensive club. While the current roster does have a couple of gifted athletes it also has some guys that due to lack of quickness don't defend well. What is your plan to turn this club around defensively and how do you plan to protect the slower guys from getting burned like they did last season? (From Amber in Plainfield, Ind.)
A. Defense always comes down to all five people on the floor working together, so individual skill or quickness doesn’t stay as important as it does if we do not have team help. We hope we can do it as a group rather than individually.
Question for Larry Bird | Oct. 11, 2007
Q. How do you look back on the signing of Sarunas Jasikevicius? Do you regret that he was moved in the Golden State trade? I often feel that he would be awesome if given consistent minutes starting, and that Rick Carlisle's (or Don Nelson's) system was not the right fit for him. Do you agree? (From Bruce in San Francisco)
A. We brought Sarunas in here to come off our bench with the team we had at the time. I know the type of player Sarunas is. He really didn’t get a good shake here and I think at Golden State with Don Nelson, he had two very good guards ahead of him. So I think if Sarunas stayed in the NBA he would have made his mark, but he is getting a little bit older. It’s unfortunate because I know he can play in this league.
Question for Jim O'Brien | Oct. 8, 2007
Q. How do you see Jeff Foster fitting in to this new team? He is not a great shooter but he hustles and plays decent defense. Will he still be seeing a good amount of minutes this year? (From Jade in Muncie, Ind.)
A. Well, he'll play defense, rebound and hustle and he has the green light for shots within his range. Jeff is indispensable to us, a great leader, his work ethic is wonderful, he has a terrific understanding of the game, a great understanding of Jamaal and Jermaine – he knows how to work off them and they know how to work off him. He's a guy that's going to get a lot of playing time, without a doubt.
Question for Danny Granger | Oct. 5, 2007
Q. With the possibility of becoming the No. 2 option offensively on this team (behind Jermaine O’Neal), what goals have you set and hope to accomplish this season? (From Adam in Rising Sun, Ind.)
A. The goal is just to be a leader, to help lead this team, be a scoring option and just play to the best of my ability. I’m usually going to (defend) the hardest offensive player every game, so I hope to just play up to my potential.
Question for Jermaine O'Neal | Oct. 3, 2007
Q. I was wondering if you had any friends that played in the NFL or more specifically the Colts; if so, who? (From Mark in Missoula, Mont.)
A. I have a lot of friends that play in the NFL. Richard Seymour from the New England Patriots, I played high school ball against him, he was in my conference in South Carolina so we’re very good friends. Quite a few of the Colts players, actually two of them are my neighbors, Dwight Freeney and Reggie Wayne. Me and Peyton are pretty cool with each other. Bob Sanders and I got a chance to really hang out quite a few times this summer, grab dinner and stuff. I know a lot of people. One thing about basketball is you get the opportunity to mingle not only with athletes, but different entertainers, different actors and actresses. It’s kind of a big circle. You tend to find yourself at different functions meeting new people all the time.
Question for Donnie Walsh | Oct. 2, 2007
Q. I live in a rural area and for 15 years have not had cable TV. Yes, I could get it but chose not to. Last year I was only able to see one Pacers game due to them being on Fox Sports. My question is, what is your TV contract this year? Don’t you believe even though you might make more money with the cable deal you are losing fans? (From Jerry in Carthage, Ind.)
A. I'm always concerned with that, when you end up doing the type of deal we've done. But with over-the-air television, it's harder for teams to be able to occupy the space they need – meaning 30 or more dates every year – on a station that has other programming they want to put on. Conflicts develop and it gets difficult, even though we had a great arrangement with Channel 4, to continue to do that and to meet their expectations as well as ours.
Question for Larry Bird | Sept. 27, 2007
Q. What impact do you think the Kevin Garnett trade will have on the landscape of the Eastern Conference, specifically towards the Pacers? (From Lee in Huntsville, Ala.)
A. It'll have a big impact. You get three top players on one team, it's going to make the East tougher to win. Still, we feel a team can beat a few individuals. On paper, they look very good but until the season starts you never really know what's going to happen.
Question for Larry Bird | Sept. 24, 2007
Q. I understand J.O. has three years remaining on his contract and that the 2007-08 is a player-option year for him. As such, has there been a definitive "drop-dead date" as to when a decision might be made on his tenure? (From Lee in Hunstville, Ala.)
A. Jermaine is under contract for one more year with us and then he has a player option for two years, which would allow him to opt out of his contract after this year. We look forward to him being here the next three years.
Question for Larry Bird | Sept. 21, 2007
Q. We are less than six weeks from the tipoff to the '07-08 regular season. Is the Pacers roster closed or the fans can wait for surprises? (From Paulo in Joinville, Brasil)
A. I don't know about surprises but we're always looking to make our team better. Whether it's from now to the start of the season or throughout the season, we'll do whatever we can to make this team better.
Question for Larry Bird | Sept. 16, 2007
Q. As a Travis Diener fan, I am excited in his move to Indianapolis. He's now going to have the chance to showcase his skills in front of a much more basketball-savvy crowd. But I have two questions I would like for you to answer. What did you see in Travis during your pursuit of signing him? Among all of the NBA players you played with or against, who does he most closely resemble? (Enrico from San Jose, Calif.)
A. Travis is the type of player we're looking for in the fact he can shoot the ball, he can get us into our offense, he's quick, he can make plays for other players. I've been following Travis since he was in college and I've always had the utmost respect for his game. He brings a lot of things to our team that we don't have. He sort of resembles Mark Price a little bit. I always had a lot of respect for Mark as far as his ability to dribble the ball, shoot the ball and make plays for other people. Travis has got all those same qualities.
Question for Conrad Brunner | Sept. 13, 2007
Q. During the last couple of seasons, injuries have been one of the biggest problems that the Pacers have faced. Could you please give us an update on the injured Pacers, (I.E. Jermaine O'Neal, Marquis Daniels, David Harrison) and others? (From B.J. in Sullivan, Ind.)
With the opening of training camp a little more than two weeks away, the Pacers appear to have no major health issues in the way. O'Neal (left knee cartilage) and Harrison (shoulder/collarbone) both are fully recovered from arthroscopic procedures performed in late April. Both have been regulars for workouts at Conseco Fieldhouse the past few weeks. Daniels has been remarkably diligent in his recovery from a knee problem that cut short his 2006-07 season, going through rehab and conditioning work with the Pacers' training staff in the early months of the offseason and likewise has fully recovered. Both O'Neal and Daniels, in fact, have said they feel better heading into camp than they have in years, fueling optimism about what they can accomplish in 2007-08, both in terms of production and health maintenance.
Question for Jim O'Brien | Sept. 7, 2007
Q. I have never felt we have had great rebounding teams but the last few years seem to be worse than usual. Do you have any thoughts on how you might go about helping this area? (From Dave in Logansport, Ind.)
A. I'd be very shocked if we weren't one of the better rebounding teams in the league. I think we're going to be long, we're going to be big at the wing spots, Jermaine's a strong rebounder, Ike Diogu's strong, Foster's strong. I think we can be a real factor on the offensive glass and we will not take too kindly to giving up second shots. It's always a point of emphasis and I think we're positioned to be a pretty darned good rebounding team.
Question for Donnie Walsh | Sept. 4, 2007
Q. I see that we've been affiliated with a D-League Team in Fort Wayne, Ind., this year. Will the shortened travel time, the northern Indiana marketing opportunity, or our change in coaches make us any more willing to assign players there this year? (From Frank in Indianapolis)
A. I think that's a good thing for us. We haven't had the kind of players that you would send to the D-League but if we do and we feel like we should do that, I'd much rather it be in Fort Wayne because it's closer, we can get to see them, they're within driving distance. All of the advantages of geography are on our side.
Question for Jim O'Brien | Aug. 30, 2007
Q. How will you change things for the Pacers? Will it start with defense or will you be focused on offense? (From Pat in Richmond, Ind.
A. I don't think you can necessarily focus on one area over the other. Our philosophies of offense and defense are very different in this respect. We have a very systematic form of playing defense that basically allows for very little innovation on the players' part. Everybody's got to be on the same page. If one person breaks down, the whole system breaks down. Offensively, the people that have the ability to put the ball in the basket at a higher level and a higher efficiency than others will be guys that I would anticipate get the most shots and score the most points. Not everybody, in my mind, is created equally at the offensive end. You have to go with what the talent level is there. Defensively, nobody has any faces to me; they're all expected to give the exact same effort and the exact same rotations are all expected. As a way of gauging things for our fans, our goal is to be in the top five in the league, field-goal defense-wise. We were 13th last year. Our offense was 30th in field-goal offense. If we can move up 11 spots this year in terms of field-goal efficiency, and that's counting 3s, then I think we'll be a playoff team.
Question for Donnie Walsh | Aug. 27, 2007
Q. When you look at Kevin Durant, is he essentially what you felt that Jonathan Bender would become when you drafted him in 1999? I keep reading scouting reports on Durant and he reminds me of what I thought Bender had the potential to become if injuries had not kept him down. Do you see what I'm seeing, or are there notable differences? (From Mark in New Castle, Ind.)
A. I see what you're seeing. I think Durant is a little more skilled at this point, offensively. But Jonathan was three inches taller and probably much more athletic, so I would say I expected Jonathan to be the kind of player I expect Durant to be – and that's a very high-level player.
Question for Jim O'Brien | Aug. 22, 2007
Q. I watched your teams in Boston and Philadelphia play a fast tempo with a high volume of 3-point attempts and enjoyed the crispness of such an offensive attack. Are you looking to get the same thing out of this roster or will it be a healthy medium between slowdown set offense and Phoenix-style up-tempo offense? (From Bradford in Avon, Ind.)
A. Nobody's going to be like Phoenix but I think the fact we were 30th in the league in field-goal offense would tell anybody that there's got to be some changes in how this team attacks offensively. We believe the best way to score in the NBA is to push the tempo and attack defenses before they're set up. It will be a tremendous point of emphasis for our basketball team and we will shoot I would say a high volume of 3s because that's going to make people like Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley much more productive players. We have done a really good job of signing people like Travis Diener, Andre Owens, Kareem Rush, Stephen Graham, guys that are maybe not household names in the NBA but all can space the court. I think this will make Jermaine a better basketball player because people will not be able to clog him up and it will open up the middle for people like Jamaal and Marquis Daniels.
Question for Donnie Walsh | Aug. 20, 2007
Q. I know for many years we have given Jamaal Tinsley the starting point guard spot with the Pacers. For the past few years he hasn't lived up to his capabilities; some believe that it was the offense that Rick (Carlisle) ran before which limited a point guard to play his role. Do you believe that with Jim (O'Brien) in as coach now, Jamaal will live up to his potential? (From Sidhu in Toronto)
A. I think we're going to find out because the style will be more conducive to Jamaal's game. Because of that, I think Jamaal will have to show not so much the skill or talent level because he's shown that, but to be consistent with it for an entire year. He has the opportunity to show that now.
Question for Jim O'Brien | Aug. 15, 2007
Q. Do you believe there are players (from the summer-league team) that will get a good portion of playing time -- for example, Andre Owens and Kareem Rush? (From Dawit in Fishers, Ind.)
A. I said this to Andre, I said this to Kareem, Stephen Graham and I'll say the same thing to Travis (Diener). They're new players on the team and playing time is earned. I have a real good feeling that Jermaine O'Neal is going to be a guy that gets a high volume of minutes. I certainly anticipate Jamaal Tinsley getting a high volume of minutes. If one of these guys like Andre Owens or Kareem or Stephen Graham can beat out older guys for playing time, so be it. A couple of years ago, I had a team that had a perennial All-Star in Glenn Robinson at the small forward spot and in training camp a rookie, Andre Iguodala, beat him out handily. So I just went with the guy I thought was going to serve the team better in that particular year. My job is to put a winning basketball team on the court. I don't care how old they are or how much they're getting paid, the guys that earn the playing time will play.
Question for Larry Bird | Aug. 13, 2007
Q. Since the first day Danny Granger came to town, I felt that he had the potential of being something special for the Pacers. Do you think that Granger has the potential of being a great player/leader on this team? (From Jeff in Indianapolis)
A. It all depends on how hard he works and how far he comes in his development the next few years. Obviously, he's got a lot of skill, he can shoot, he can pass, rebound. He's got the package, but he has to get better. When he first came in here, we thought we got a great pick at No. 17. We know we did, it's just that he's got to develop. As far as being a leader, Danny does a good job. He's a quiet leader right now but in the near future you'll see him be more and more vocal.
Question for Larry Bird | July 31, 2007
Q. I know you have said that you don't plan on rebuilding this franchise; however, after discussions with many Pacers fans the overall consensus seems to be to start over. The team may struggle at times over the next couple of years, but watching young players grow and seeing them progress would be much more entertaining than watching the current team (Danny Granger is a perfect example of watching a player grow and enjoying it). So, would you ever consider making some deals to bring in youth and future draft picks in order to build for the future? (From Aaron in Indianapolis)
A. If you look at our team now, we're very high on Ike (Diogu), we're very high on (Danny) Granger, we're very high on Shawne Williams. We've got a core of young guys here we think we can develop with our veteran players to move forward. If we can make some trades to get some draft players and go after players we want, we'll do that.
Question for Larry Bird | July 27, 2007
Q. I have taken notice recently that pure shooters are becoming harder and harder to find. Recently, the players that come to mind are Michael Redd, Ray Allen and Ben Gordon. Being a pure shooter yourself, why do you think the number of players that can really shoot the rock is dwindling? (From Mark in Missoula, Mont.)
A. Usually, your best shooters are one-dimensional players. From what I've seen in the last 15 years, percentages really don't mean anything anymore. Back when I played, I always felt if you shot around 47 percent, you weren't considered a good shooter. Now, if you shoot 43-44 percent, they consider you good. I don't think a lot of emphasis is put on percentages now. I just think the art of shooting the basketball is a matter of guys practicing on it. Years ago, you used to have pure shooters like Rick Mount and Billy Keller and those guys from around here. They were real shooters. Now, guys spend more time on other parts of their game and their bodies, and dribbling and other things, and shooting just isn't second nature.
Question for Larry Bird | July 25, 2007
Q. I am wondering what was wrong with Darrell Armstrong last season in that (backup point guard) role. He was a veteran leader who always made an impact when he was on the floor. He was also a very good long-range shooter which is another area of need. Will Darrell be back next season and if so in what role? (From Jake in Indianapolis)
A. We haven't made that decision as of now. Darrell provided a lot of energy last year and gave us good backup for some short minutes off the bench. We also feel that if Marquis Daniels can stay healthy this year, we'll probably use him at the point for short minutes. We're going to play a different style this year where it really doesn't matter who makes the entry pass to start the offense, it's going to be a lot of players. You might see (Mike) Dunleavy, Marquis, Jamaal (Tinsley, of course, and even (Danny) Granger can get the ball up the court and get us into our offense.
Question for Donnie Walsh | July 23, 2007
Q. You have been around the NBA for quite a few years and I am sure you know many (contacts) inside the league office. A couple of years ago, the NBA gave a one-time chance for teams to cut one player to get rid of a burdensome contract. Have you heard from any of your NBA insiders if the NBA is planning to do this again any time soon? Is there any way you could call in a favor to get them to do it again? (From Jeremy in Fishers, Ind.)
A. No. This was a one-time-only adjustment that teams could make if they were caught, at the time of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, with salaries that were prohibitive, they had the opportunity to get them off there (Editor's note: the Pacers exercised their one-time option to clear the final season of Reggie Miller's contract from their salary cap figure). It was done because that provision came so fast, the luxury tax, that a lot of teams would have been up over (the threshold).
Question for Larry Bird | July 18, 2007
Q. There are two players from last year's team that are now free agents (Keith McLeod and Rawle Marshall). I don't know the difference between unrestricted and restricted but I was wondering if you plan to keep those two. (From Mike in Indianapolis)
A. We just let Rawle Marshall go last week before training camp. He's a restricted free agent, which meant we had a right to match any offer that came his way. If you're unrestricted, you're free to go anywhere. Keith McLeod's an unrestricted free agent so he can go anywhere he wants. We're still talking about bringing another point guard in and he's one of the guys we're talking about.
Question for Jim O'Brien | July 16, 2007
Q. The Pacers finished this season with the worst field goal percentage in the NBA. Why did this team struggle on the offensive end and what can be done to improve their shooting percentage? (From Nick in Dallas)
A. I think our team this past year was too predictable on offense. They did not create the type of tempo that was necessary to get a few cheap baskets every game. In the NBA, if you always allow the defense to set up, then your weaknesses will be exposed over the course of 82 games. We have to have a substantial part of our offense that is unpredictable and will allow people like Jamaal Tinsley and Marquis Daniels and Danny Granger to get in the open court. There's no reason why we should not be a very, very good rebounding team and if you're a very good rebounding team that should open up chances to run. All of our staff's teams in the past have always been close to the top in turning over our opponents and the best way to get a fast break is off of turnovers.
Question for Jim O'Brien | July 8, 2007
Q. I’m just wondering, how are you going to utilize our young players who have the potential to become superstars? What I mean is, if Danny Granger (whom I think will be a superstar) needs to play a lot of minutes to develop, would you do it if you have other players like (Troy) Murphy, (Mike) Dunleavy, and (Jermaine) O’Neal who are the starters? (From Machete in Puerto Rico)
A. The first priority that we have is to win this year, but closely behind that is our ability to develop a group of people that some time in the future will be able to compete for an NBA championship. Since you bring up Danny Granger's name, Danny is going to be a very, very important part of both this year and the future and he will play extended minutes this year. Shawne Williams is a very important part of our future but we do not give out minutes unless they're earned. Our players will understand that. In most businesses, the cream rises to the top and I believe that is the case in professional basketball.
Question for Jim O'Brien | June 26, 2007
Q. You wasted no time naming your long-time assistants to be on your staff now. Specifically, what do they bring to the table? (From Alan in San Diego)
A. They bring a past record of success in turning around teams that were not doing very well prior to the staff's arrival and quickly getting teams back into the playoffs and focused on what is important in the NBA, and that is simply winning. Our staff is experienced, extremely hard-working and have tremendous loyalty to the organizations they work for.
Question for Jim O'Brien | June 22, 2007
Q. In what summer league will the Pacers participate? What players do you expect to take part and what do you hope to accomplish? (From Steve in Greenfield, Ind.)
A. We're participating in the summer league in Orlando the second week of July and we will have some of our players go with us. Shawne Williams and Danny Granger will practice with us and play a couple of games in Orlando. Orien Greene, if we decide to pick up his option, will be with us, as well as some players we want to get a thorough look at. In the case of the players that will be on our team this year, it will give them a great advantage in understanding what we expect offensively and defensively prior to training camp.
Question for Donnie Walsh | June 18, 2007
Q. I know the obvious thing to say is we are trying to win now. However, I am concerned that no matter what happens with personnel, this year's team won't be competing for a championship. I guess my question is, what are your plans, as far as time goes, to get this team back to the Finals? (From Greg in New Castle, Ind.)
A. I'm not sure I agree with some of your suppositions. I think the league is as close to parity as it has been in a long time and if you make the right move during the summer you can become a contending team – but you have to make the right move. I don't put any time limit on when we can get there. We're going to get there as fast as we can get there.
Question for Conrad Brunner | June 11, 2007
Q. Given that he is athletic, has the ability to get to the basket and is able to defend the more physical guards around the league, is it possible the Pacers are looking at Marquis Daniels to fill the starting point guard role next year? How did he perform at the point when he was asked to do so with the Mavericks? If it is not a possibility, what are the Pacers best options through free agency or trade? (From Darin in Sullivan, Ind.)
A. The idea of Daniels as a point guard has intrigued management since he was acquired a year ago but a variety of circumstances – primarily the injury that kept him out the entirety of training camp and the preseason – set him back and he was never able to earn the confidence of former Coach Rick Carlisle at the point. It appears new Coach Jim O'Brien will take a look at Daniels in a variety of rules, possibly including the point. While with Dallas, he did fill in as a starter on a few occasions and fared well. As for external options, if a change is to be made at the point it most likely will need to come via trade, because the Pacers don't have much money to spend in free agency. The draft is a possibility, although more as a long-term option.
Question for Larry Bird | June 8, 2007
Q. What is your top priority for the 2007-08 season? To re-establish the credibility of the organization that has been lost in the past few years since the Detroit incident, or to deal for players to get back to the playoffs next season? Do you really think we can do both? (From Chad in Chattanooga, Tenn.)
A. I think we can do both. We're a lot better team than what we ended up. Changing the culture around here a little bit will help. Every coach I talk to, that's the No. 1 thing. We're going to change the culture, get players in here that want to play every night and practice every day. But you've got to start somewhere. I think we've got a good enough team to make the playoffs but we've got to change the culture a little bit.
Question for Larry Bird | June 4, 2007
Q. I was just wondering how serious the organization is at delving into the free agent market? I see names like Chauncey Billups, Bonzi Wells, Jason Kapono, James Posey, Primoz Brezec, Mike Bibby, Luke Walton and Austin Croshere, just to name a few. Do you feel there are any guys out there that could come in here and fill a void, and if so, how serious of a push will be made to get the necessary pieces? (From Jeff in New Castle, Ind.)
A. When you talk about Chauncey Billups, it'll be virtually impossible to pull him away from Detroit. There's a lot of players out there that I like but it'd have to be a sign-and-trade. We're not going to use the mid-level and we're not going to spend a ton of money but we will make changes.
Question for Larry Bird | May 31, 2007
Q. What do you do you see as Shawne Williams' role in the upcoming season? Is this dependent on the new coach, or do you expect him to play a major role or at least crack the rotation? Is this something you will stress to the new coach, to play the younger guys like Williams more? (From Aaron in London, England)
A. That's totally up to the coach. If Shawne puts a good summer in, I think he'll improve a lot. He's a multi-skilled player that can play two positions. After watching him last year, he was coming along pretty well. If he continues that, he should get more minutes, no question about it.
Question for Donnie Walsh | May 29, 2007
Q. As opposed to the other professional sports leagues, why is it so hard for teams in the NBA to get to the elite level, much less stay there? It seems like the vast majority of franchises never get above mediocrity despite changing players, coaches, and GMs, while in the other professional sports many teams are viable contenders when their seasons begin. I know the differences in the Collective Bargaining Agreements plays a big part, but what is your opinion? (From Tom in Westfield, Ind.)
A. If that's true, I'm sure it's got something to do with the fact the NFL for the most part doesn't have guaranteed contracts so they can go out and sign almost a new team every year. That's something an NBA team cannot do. If you have a poor team, have a lot of contracts and don't have enough room to make changes by signing free agents, you then must go out and rely on being able to trade some of the players away in order to improve that team. That can make it a longer process than would take place in the NFL.
Question for Donnie Walsh | May 24, 2007
Q. What's your opinion about how Mike Dunleavy has played after the trade? I know he's not as consistent as your hopes but I believe he could be better. I've seen a lot of his early years at Duke and the Warriors and think he could be an incredible all-around player, especially with his unselfish play. (From Frank in Beijing)
A. I think Mike Dunleavy got better and better from the point he got here and his statistics will bear that out. He's got a bright future. He's 6-9, he can play one, two or three. His shooting improved from the point that he got here to the end of the season and I think it will continue to improve. I also think he'll add strength, which can make him a unique player with his skill set. He did very well here particularly because I thought there was a lack of confidence coming in and he seemed to overcome that on a daily basis. I think he'll be a very, very good player.
Question for Larry Bird | May 21, 2007
Q. This offseason the team is looking to make some personnel moves and hire a new coach. Coaches usually are known to coach certain styles of basketball for example either half court or run and gun. Are the Pacers going to get a coach and then make roster moves to fit his coaching style or is the team looking to get a certain type of player and find a coach that fits those types of players? I understand that a player may not want to come to a team before he knows who the coach is. I can also understand a coach not rushing to take a job when he does not know what the roster is going to look like. I just wanted to know your philosophy and which way the team is heading. (From Jeremy in Fishers, Ind.)
A. Usually the coach, but we're in no hurry. We said it was going to be a long process. We've interviewed a number of guys. We've interviewed some guys twice so far. Personnel changes usually come in the summer. Some might come around the draft, but probably not, because everybody wants to see who they got in the draft. The personnel changes will probably come in July. Every coach has his own style and a player we might be in love with, the coach might not be. It's difficult but when you go out and talk to these coaches you try to get an idea, going through your roster, who they like and who they don't. The ones I've interviewed think we're a lot better than we showed last year and that's a plus.
Question for Donnie Walsh | May 15, 2007
Q. What two positions do the Pacers have to improve in order to get back to championship contenders? (From Ira in New York)
A. I'm not sure it's positional, although you could make a case it is because we have a lot of players that can play different positions. I think we need more speed at certain positions, we need much better shooting at certain positions and we need players who can create their own play. Hopefully, you can get all of those things in one or two players.
Question for Donnie Walsh | May 10, 2007
Q. How do you prepare for the upcoming offseason? We know after the trade the team has long-term contracts. But the team doesn't expect to be in danger with the luxury tax. So could we sign one or two free agents that could help our team by using the mid-level exception? (From Frank in Beijing)
A. First of all, we have to get to the lottery and even though we don't have, percentage-wise, a great chance of getting a top-three pick, the chance is there and we have to see how that goes and what our draft position will be if we have one at all. After that, we'll go into the free agent period which begins in mid-July. I'm sure we'll be involved in discussing trades, I'm sure we'll be involved with looking for free agents through the mid-level or through sign-and-trades. My feeling is after the trade, while we liked the players we got, it did call for us to add some players that can create their own play. That will be our emphasis as we go forward.
Question for Conrad Brunner | May 3, 2007
Q. What is the status of that second-round pick we made a couple years ago – the guy that won the "most promising young European player" award or something like that. We opted to let him develop in Europe. Is he available? Is he ready? (From Alan in San Diego)
A. Erazem Lorbek was the Pacers' second-round pick in 2005, No. 46 overall, but has remained in Europe to develop his body and his game. A 6-11, 240-pound power forward, Lorbek won the EuroLeague Rising Star award in 2005. The same award was won by Andrea Bargnani in 2006. After averaging 9.2 points and 5.0 rebounds with Climamio Bologna (Italy) during the 2005-06 season, Lorbek signed with Unijaca Malaga in Spain. Neither comfortable nor productive there, he was "loaned" to Benetton Treviso in Italy. When the Italian Basketball Federation voided that move, Lorbek signed with Lottomatica Virtus Roma. Between the two Italian teams, he averaged 14.5 points and 6.1 rebounds, shooting 60.1 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from the 3-point line. Considered a gifted shooter but an average athlete, Lorbek, now 23, is expected to compete with the Slovenian National Team in the European Championships this September in Spain, and much of his summer will be devoted to preparations for that important event. He's under contract with Unijaca Malaga for one more season, and it's uncertain if he'll have an opportunity with the Pacers in training camp.
Question for Conrad Brunner | April 30, 2007
Q. What areas do you think call for the most improvement? I think that a deadly 3-point shooter is something this team is in dire need of. Most teams in the league don't have a dead-eye shooter, but it seems as if a lot of teams' second-best shooters are better than anyone on the Pacers. (From Eric in Union, Ky.)
A. Though there is an obvious need for at least one more 3-point shooter, the Pacers' most obvious offensive shortcoming last season was the lack of players capable of making something from nothing. When the shot clock is winding down or the play called didn't achieve the desired result, they often were left with a desperate heave because there was no one on the court with the requisite creativity and skill to break down the defense on his own. Marquis Daniels was just such a player and was beginning to come into his own when sidelined by the knee injury. The devastating effect his absence had on the offense clearly illustrates how badly the Pacers need help in this area. Daniels' return to health will help, and Danny Granger could become that kind of player but there still is a major need for a creator -- a player that can create either for himself or a teammate when all else fails.
Question for Larry Bird | April 24, 2007
Q. You of all people should know what constitutes a player that can literally take over games and will the team to win, since you qualified as (that kind of) player before. What are those qualities that constitute players that can take over? Who are the top three players in the Pacers today that can take over games (the whole game or at least in the clutch)? (From Reggie in Parañaque City, Philippines)
A. First of all, you have to have a lot of confidence in your game. You have to know, when a game gets tight, you've got to make a play for somebody else to get a good shot or you're going to have to score yourself. I think we've got some young guys that, in the next year or two, will be able to do that. The one thing I see with our guys is they give into the jump shoot too much when we need a basket instead of taking it to the hole. If we just learn to be more patient, we could take our man off the dribble and get to the rim. But if you don't, you've got to make a play for somebody else.
Question for Public Information Director David Benner | April 23, 2007
Q. How is it possible that a player get an injury of any kind that is caused by (still and video photographers) on the floor? Time and time again, I see NBA players get tangled up in the media personnel on the floor during NBA games. Shouldn't the media personnel be pushed back several feet? Is a photograph for the newspaper so important that it is worth risking an injury? (From David in Lynchburg, Va.)
A. Per NBA rules, all photographers and television camera operators must stay at least four feet behind the baseline at all times. League rules also require that on each side of the basket stanchion, a space of two feet will be reserved for television camera operators. Immediately next to those spaces is a three-foot escape lane that has to be clear throughout the game. In Conseco Fieldhouse, these areas are clearly marked and the rules are enforced. Unfortunately, due to our seating configuration, photographers can’t be pushed any farther back than they already are. It’s a situation that can go either way because I’ve seen many players use the photographers as a buffer from falling into the stands where there could more of a serious injury caused by seating or obstacles around the floor. It also must be noted that the primary photography positions under the basket are occupied by experienced television cameramen and still photography cameramen who do their best to get out of the way.
Question for Larry Bird | April 20, 2007
Q. Do you think that all your moves towards a more run-and-gun approach has worked out for the Pacers or do you think that the team should head back to a more halfcourt set offense? (From Philip in Sydney, Australia)
A. We really haven't run as much as we thought we were going to. One of the reasons is getting the right players on the court at the right time. I like to run and get easy baskets but when I talk about running, I'm talking about off long rebounds and steals. It's easy to talk about but it's something you've got to implement in training camp and make a commitment to running. You can't run one night and not run the next night. The teams in our league that run, run every night. But I don't want to get into a run-and-gun style game because our team isn't geared toward that. We like to run off turnovers, mistakes and long rebounds because we don't want to give up a lot on the defensive end. This year, our defense has not been good at all. And you can't defend anybody, you can't run.