Indianapolis, July 21, 2003 -
The Pacers have several options available to them, when it comes to the center position for the 2003-04 season.
It is becoming increasingly unlikely Brad Miller will be among them.
Unable to compete with huge six-year offers from both Utah (reportedly $55 million, an average of $9.2 million per season) and Denver (reportedly $48 million, or an average of $8 million per season) the Pacers are preparing for the possibility of moving on without their All-Star center, franchise CEO Donnie Walsh said Monday.
“I don’t want to lose Brad, so I don’t want this to come out the wrong way,” Walsh said, “but we’ve had a lot of guys here that can go in there and do something. This is going to free up a lot of minutes, so those players are going to get their opportunity. They certainly are talented guys, so they ought to bring it this year.”
Among the options on the roster are Jeff Foster and Primoz Brezec, two former first-round picks who have thus far played sparingly. Jermaine O’Neal played center before Miller’s arrival midway through the 2001-02 season, but would prefer to play power forward. Though neither Austin Croshere nor Jonathan Bender is a natural center, both could play the position against certain matchups.
“I think certainly we can get by with what we have but if I can find somebody that would perform part of what Brad did, I’d like that,” Walsh said. “Eventually, I’d like somebody in there that can take the banging and that stuff to cover Jermaine’s back. That’s what Brad did, really, so that’s kind of what I’ll be looking for.”
Though several teams contacted the Pacers about the possibility of a sign-and-trade deal, the first step in that process would be to sign Miller to a contract comparable to the offers made by Utah or Denver. The second step is to acquire a player, or players, whose salaries come close to matching that contract. In other words, it would cost the Pacers just as much money as it would to retain Miller, and they wouldn’t get their center.
“Because of the amount of money he’s asking for, it makes it extremely difficult to sign-and-trade,” Walsh said. “In this case, you’re using up luxury tax money.
“When I analyze it the best I can, if we lose Brad, then we should just stay where we are, move forward, go from there and try to fill in the pieces we still need.”
Walsh said he wouldn’t necessarily regard Miller’s departure as a setback, although it was a scenario he hoped could be avoided.
“You don’t like (the situation), so that’s a negative,” he said. “It’s not a great thing. You don’t want to have that happen. On the other hand, one of our biggest problems (last season) was finding time for all these guys, so that’s where we are now.”
Walsh took exception to reports that Miller was upset with the Pacers for failing to make a contract offer.
“The thing that’s different here is his agent (Mark Bartelstein) went after just the highest bidder,” Walsh said. “Normally, when you’ve got a pretty good situation, you try to make it work here. But he didn’t. He started here on a higher number and I could never get to it.
“Mark knew that we wanted Brad back. But he knew in order to make an offer we had to do something else and we were almost every day all day trying to make deals to free up some room. And then he knew there was no way we could offer what he was asking for. It reached a point where I couldn’t do that.”
Utah’s offer represents an increase of nearly 73 percent over his reported $5.3 million salary last season.