by Conrad Brunner
Oct. 10, 2006
Stephen Jackson returned to practice Tuesday and issued a heartfelt apology for his role in last week's nightclub incident.
Jackson was one of four players, along with Jamaal Tinsley, Marquis Daniels and Jimmie "Snap" Hunter, who were involved in an altercation in a nightclub parking lot early Friday morning. Jackson, who was punched in the mouth and struck by a car, required several stitches in his upper lip but otherwise escaped serious injury. He is not expected to play in Wednesday's preseason opener against New Jersey in Conseco Fieldhouse but could return Saturday against Utah.
"First of all, I want to start off by saying I'm sorry for this incident," Jackson said. "I want to apologize to my teammates, to the fans and this organization. It was definitely an unfortunate incident. I know for me, I worked hard this summer to get myself physically and mentally ready for this season and to come out to help this team be the best it could be this year and it was an unfortunate incident. Obviously, I'm definitely blessed to be here today. I didn't really think I'd be waking up the next morning after I got hit by a far being able to walk but I'm definitely blessed to be here and I understand, I take responsibility for my actions and everything I've done. And for that, I'm sorry and I do apologize for it.
"Hopefully, I can just move on from this and continue to be the player that this team wants me to be and this organization wants me to be and kind of put this behind me. Like I said, I hate that it happened. I am sorry for it. I haven't been in any trouble in my career before the Detroit incident to now. I haven't had a criminal record or anything. I'm just happy to be back on the court, happy that I'm alive and able to be with my teammates and my family, and hopefully I can get this behind me, move on and try to get ready for the season."
Shortly after Jackson made his statement, President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird addressed the media for the first time since the incident.
"What we have to do is wait for the police to get done with their investigation and we'll go from there," Bird said. "As an organization we haven't had a lot of comments about what happened because we don't know what happened. We don't know the full story. Are we disappointed? We're very disappointed, and it hurts. If you care about this franchise and you're a part of it, it's got to hurt."
Jackson, who missed four days of practice, participated in more of the practice session than expected, going through light and medium contact work. He did not participate in full-contact sessions.
"He's just happy to be back around," said Al Harrington. "(The players were) just happy to have him back around because he's part of our family."
WALSH HURT BY REGGIE'S COMMENTS
The man who drafted Reggie Miller and nearly two decades later retired his No. 31 jersey was stung by the former Pacers player's criticism of the team and franchise in the aftermath of the nightclub incident.
"It hurts me," Walsh said.
A guest on Dan Patrick's ESPN radio show Monday, Miller called the incident "a punch in the gut for Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird" and went on to criticize the players for rallying around Jackson, who he said was "slapping you guys in the face" with his actions.
Bird said he hadn't heard Miller's interview, saying only, "I don't comment on Reggie's comments."
Though Rick Carlisle also was a target as Miller suggested his practices weren't tough enough if players had enough energy to frequent nightclubs during training camp, the coach chose not to debate his former standout.
"I have unbelievable respect for Reggie Miller both as a player and a person and I consider him a friend," Carlisle said. "He's obviously earned the right to have an opinion but what I can tell you is, from a basketball standpoint, we're doing everything possible to develop this team to be the best it can be and I'll leave it at that."
FLIGHT 75 MAY DRAW VINSANITY
Jackson's absence could mean a starting assignment for rookie James White against no less than Vince Carter when the Pacers open the preseason schedule against the Nets. White earned the nickname "Flight 75" as a collegian because of his jumping ability, and the matchup against "Vinsanity" would be a premier initial challenge.
"I think that'd be a great test for him," Carlisle said.
The Pacers could be without two starters for the game as Jermaine O'Neal may be unavailable due to legal obligations. He was scheduled to testify in a lawsuit related to the Nov. 19, 2004 incident in The Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., either today or Wednesday. Jeff Foster likely will start in O'Neal's place with Harrington at power forward.
"It's an opportunity for a couple other guys to get more minutes." Carlisle said. "We've got a lot of guys that have played hard and deserve an opportunity to show what they can do in games."
PLAYERS HELP WITH HABITAT FOR HUMANITY
Pacers players and staff will help in the construction of a home for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Indianapolis on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. The Pacers will help with erecting the walls, connecting the walls, installing windows and hanging siding for the home at home at 1743 Roosevelt Ave.