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Mark's Mailbag: Lance, Free Agents, Rookies

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

November 20, 2012

Editor's Note: Have a Pacers-related question for Mark? Want to be featured in his mailbag column? Send your questions to Mark at askmontieth@gmail.com.

Q. I have followed Lance since high school and he is an amazing talent despite some off the court issues early on in his career. However, it seems like he is stuck in a logjam at the guard position. Do you know if there will be a bigger role for him this season or if there are plans to ship him elsewhere?

A. This question came in just before the season began. Obviously, Stephenson has a bigger role this season. He, in fact, might turn out to be the only silver lining to the gray cloud that Danny Granger's injury has brought. He's getting more playing as a result of it, and taken advantage.

I don't know exactly how it is someone suddenly becomes a good shooter for no logical reason, but he's done it. He hit 4-of-35 three-point shots through his first two seasons and 1-of-11 in the preseason, but since then has been making like (fill in your favorite good shooter's name here). Through the first 11 games, he's hit 47 percent of his field goal attempst and 42 percent of his three-point attempts, along with 86 percent of his free throws. When you watch him in early pre-game warmups, before most fans arrive, he shoots well there, too. His form is fundamentally sound, so there's no reason to believe he'll regress.

He's also a great athlete, a freight train who can clear a path in the lane. He still has a lot to learn. After all, in the olden days he'd still be a senior in college. But he's looking like a keeper.

Q. Being without Danny for three months will be tough. On watching the new free agents, none are showing the promise expected. Really disappointed in Mahinmi. I always felt Pietrus was a good fit for us. Is there a chance to sign him before Milwaukee, or are you privy to this info? (Also, with Oden in the healing mode, how far along is he?)

I’m like a lot of fans that would have liked for the Pacers to have signed a free agent with more talent and immediate effectiveness and filled out the bench as the team progressed. In other words, solid 7-8 players deep. Then go from there. The three signed seem timid and lost mentally when on the court. Very ineffective in a lot of areas. With all that said, seems to me Donnie Walsh wasn’t the moving force behind these signings and I feel Mr. Pritchard should allow Walsh to revamp this bench mess. So, what are the chances of getting Hayward or Zeller or Dunleavy or........? (are there discussions that may give fans hope of better starting line-up with Danny out?)

A. I spoke with Donnie Walsh last week, and at that time there were no immediate plans to sign a free agent or make a trade. That doesn't mean it won't happen. Certainly if the current malaise continues, or if there's another injury, something will have to be done. Walsh, however, didn't become one of the most respected general managers/presidents in the NBA by making knee-jerk reactions when the Pacers were struggling. He knows it can take time for a team to come together, and always wants to make an unemotional look before making a major decision.

Walsh, by the way, has ultimate say on personnel moves, I believe. Kevin Pritchard won't “allow” him to do anything. That's not to say Pritchard doesn't have a major voice in the operations, and if there's a move he wants to make Walsh likely would let him do it unless Walsh believes it's an obvious mistake.

Pietrus is 30 years old and injuries have negated his once-impressive athleticism. He shot less than 40 percent from the field with Boston last season. At this point his reputation exceeds his reality. The same is true for nearly all of the available free agents. They're free for a reason. As for trades, I don't think Hayward or Zeller (I'm assuming you mean Ty and not Luke) are available, and not sure what the Pacers have that Milwaukee would take for Dunleavy. Still, the Pacers' front office types always have their eye out for possible deals. Walsh, Pritchard and VP of Basketball Operations Peter Dinwiddie have plenty of time to discuss ways to make the team better. The key is to not panic and do something that only makes things worse.

Q. I'm a Pacer fan from San Diego. Why not see what Ben Hansbrough and Orlando Johnson and Miles Plumlee can do?

A. At this point it's safe to say the Pacer veterans are better than the rookies, especially a second-round draft pick (Johnson) and a free agent (Hansbrough). That would only confuse matters if they were to play. They'll get a chance to prove themselves in the rare practice opportunities and in blowouts. They also are likely to play with the Fort Wayne Development League team once it begins play at the end of the month, so if they're good enough it will become known.

Q. Have you heard anything about a contract extension for David West? I have not. We need to sign him for a few more years!

A. That matter will be addressed at the end of the season. I am confident the Pacers will want to keep him if he stays healthy, but at what price?