Miller's Shootout Absence Not a Slight for a Veteran

by Jeff Tzucker
by Conrad Brunner

February 7, 2002

If you'd like to ask a question of analyst Conrad Brunner, submit it along with your full name and hometown to Bruno'

Q. I've got some questions about my favorite player of all time: Reggie Miller. Why is it that he is not participating anymore in the three-point shootout at All-Star Weekend? This year he has been shooting around .450 from downtown and has the third most three-pointers made in the NBA coming into the Milwaukee game. Also has anybody kept track of how many four-point plays Reggie has made? By my last count it was at least 20 and I have a very strong feeling he has the all-time record. (From Chris in Cupertino, CA)

A. It's not a slight at all, it's just the way the All-Star Weekend has developed over the years. The Slam-Dunk contest rarely has the league's best dunkers, and the Three-Point Shootout rarely has the best long-range shooters, because established veterans who aren't in the All-Star Game - and thus have no other reason to interrupt their vacation plans during the break - generally don't want to participate in the ancillary events. Reggie has participated in the shootout five times, the last in 1998.

Q. I was wondering what you thought about guys like Austin (Croshere) and Jonathan (Bender) getting more minutes in Al's absence. Could this possibly be the opportunity for both of these players to really show what they're capable of? (From Sam in Columbus, IN)

A. Jonathan was already well on the way to a regular spot in the rotation before Al was injured, but his development has been further accelerated by the promotion to the starting lineup. For Austin, the opportunity for an increase in playing time certainly exists; the rest is up to him. Austin believes his play would improve if he was given more consistently long rotations. As a coach, however, Isiah's stance since day one has been that minutes are earned, not given, and Austin's performance - until the Dallas explosion - hasn't merited a promotion. But if that 32-point outburst against the Mavs was any indication, Austin appears ready to carry a heavier load over the final 32 games.

Q. With all the recent trade talks going, I feel reluctant to join these discussions. Frankly, I have serious doubts about the value of another big man or frankly, any other mutation on the roster. The way I see it, we have a great mix of young guns, who are just awaiting
their chance to explode. I mean, look at the roster, who would you trade? I can't think of any player that I'd like to see go. Sure, (Jalen) Rose is in a bit of a slump, but he's a classy player, he'll bounce back. Croshere may be overpriced at the moment, but his potential is incredible. Best is probably the best possible back up you'd find for (Jamaal) Tinsley anywhere. So no, I don't think a trade will accomplish anything. However, clearly something must be done to rework this team. We've been too fragile, too dependent of a few guys these days. ... Could a bit of a roster shake-up be the ticket? (From Ivo in Utrecht, the Netherlands)

A. If you're talking about a move prior to the Feb. 21 trading deadline - which is now just two weeks away - that looks unlikely at the moment. Because of salary cap restrictions, etc., few teams have the flexibility to make substantial moves during the season, when roster - and payrolls - is full. Once the season ends and contracts expire, the ability to make deals increases. If the Pacers are inclined to make a move, it seems much more likely that it'll come in the summer.

Q. Given the youth movement on the team and the fact that the injury bug continues to bite does it make more sense to consider trading Jalen Rose? The Pacers appear likely to be fading from contention for the playoffs, and Jalen is in his prime. Are his undeniable skills a poor match for the Pacers' needs? He is at his best as a small forward or shooting guard. Unless he is seen as the eventual replacement for Reggie Miller at two, three seems destined to be filled by Jonathan Bender and/or Al Harrington for years to come. Wouldn't it make sense to make the difficult choice to ship Jalen while his market value is at its peak in exchange for a quality big man or a younger two guard? I appreciate that Jalen serves a valuable role as a backup point guard, but the offense stalls when he is running the show. (From Kit in Indianapolis)

A. This is an argument that can be made - and is being made daily - with logic and passion from both directions. Yes, it can be said that with Harrington and Bender, the small forward position is one of great depth, which points to the possible use of Rose as tempting bait to lure a player who could fill a position of greater need - possibly a center. It can also be said that there is no stronger candidate to succeed Reggie Miller at shooting guard and by trading Rose away, the Pacers could leave themselves without a future at that critical position.