by Conrad Brunner
July 20, 2005
While much of the media focus on the Pacers during the Minnesota Summer League was on Ron Artest, the most encouraging – and ultimately important – development was the performance of center David Harrison.
Artest played well, leading the team in scoring (19.8) while contributing 5.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists in just under 30 minutes per game. But that was to be expected from an All-Star, even one coming back from a nearly season-long NBA suspension.
Harrison, on the other hand, was something of a revelation. In his first competitive play since undergoing knee surgery in March, Harrison made a strong case for a major role in the rotation. In 22.0 minutes per game, he averaged 14.8 points and 3.8 rebounds while shooting 61.8 percent from the field. He was overpowering at times, particularly against No. 1 pick Andrew Bogut of Milwaukee, when he scored 16 points in just 14 minutes.
There were rough edges, to be sure – six technical fouls and 14 personal fouls – but Harrison's overall level of performance was impressive.
"David's going to help us," said assistant coach Dan Burke. "He can really, really help us if he keeps working on his game and stays in shape."
Artest was greeted warmly by the sparse crowds in the Target Center and dealt with a relative media crush that came with his return to organized basketball for the first time since Nov. 19, 2004. He avoided distractions and was a positive force for the team, Burke said.
"I liked the way Ron approached it," Burke said. "He came in, stayed within the team framework, stayed on an emotional even-keel and did a nice job encouraging the young guys."
A handful of non-roster free agents also impressed the coaches with strong, consistent performances. Shooting guard Maurice Carter, who's had brief regular-season trials with the Lakers and Hornets, scored in double figures in all four of his games and averaged 14.5 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 66.7 percent from the field.
"Carter knew coming in it was about David and Ron," Burke said, "but he played within the system, played hard and played well. He does a lot of things well."
Jimmie "Snap" Hunter, making the conversion from scorer to point guard, averaged 10.2 points and a team-high 3.4 assists while totaling just two turnovers in 122 minutes. Hunter, who has been in the alphabet soup of secondary domestic leagues since leading Life College to the national title while earning NAIA Player of the Year honors in 2000, impressed the staff with his demeanor and his performance.
"Hunter's just fluid," said Burke. "You don't notice him and all of a sudden he's got 12 points and six rebounds. He has a confidence about him and he really thrives in key moments. He's just a guy who knows how to play and that really shows up in the summer league."
Other players who made positive impressions included forward Charles Gaines, who led the team in rebounding (6.2) and posted a 13-point, 13-rebound double-double against the Knicks; guard Chris Thomas, who finished strong, totaling 22 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in 51 minutes in the last two games. Forward LeRoy Hurd and shooting guard Romain Sato also had moments.
It remains to be seen which, if any, of those players will be invited back to training camp in October, but several convinced the Pacers staff they are worthy of an opportunity somewhere.
"Without a doubt," Burke said, "it was a positive experience for us."
NOTES: There were some familiar faces of former Pacers players and campers on opposing rosters. Norm Richardson totaled two games and three minutes with Houston; Jamison Brewer averaged 4.0 points and 4.0 assists but shot 28.6 percent for Minnesota; Bruno Sundov started four games for the Knicks and averaged 7.8 points and 4.4 rebounds; Marcus Haislip led Toronto in scoring (13.7) and was joined on the Raptors by Omar Cook, who led the summer league in assists (6.4) and Rashad Wright (4.4 points, 1.4 assists). … Andrew Bogut, the NBA's No. 1 overall draft pick, averaged 13.2 points and a league-high 10.0 rebounds for the Bucks. His worst game came against the Pacers, when he shot one-of-seven from the field and was ejected.