Offense Needs to Run Through O'Neal

by Conrad Brunner

April 11, 2003


ASK THE COACH
With Brendan Malone
April 11, 2003

To ask a question of coach Malone, submit it along with your full name and place of residence to askthecoach@pacers.com. Not every question will be answered, but all will be considered, and are subject to editing.

Q. I have noticed that when the Pacers are making a run in the game, Jermaine O'Neal is the reason most of the time. Why is it, then, when the Pacers get back into an offensive set, they shy away from giving him the ball every time? I realize that it's a team sport, but why not give him the rock? When he gets going, he is practically unstoppable. I know I'm tired of seeing selfish one-on-one play. Does Jermaine demand the ball enough from teammates? (From Adam in Indianapolis)

A. I think that's a great observation you're making and I think Jermaine O'Neal is wondering the same thing. In our last game against Chicago (April 8) he was hot and then all of a sudden we forgot about him. Isiah (Thomas) had to remind the players during a timeout that he was on the floor and that we should establish our offense through him. He will go to Isiah and tell Isiah to get the ball to him, rather than calling out his teammates on the floor. That's not his personality. As he matures as a person and as a player to the point he realizes he is the best offensive weapon, he will demand the ball with his voice. But that has not come about as of yet.

Q. If (Ron) Artest gets suspended again, wouldn't it be time to take him out of the rotation in favor of Austin Croshere? By the time the playoffs start we need a constant rotation and consistent play. Do you agree? (From David in Lakeville, MN)

A. Ron Artest is going to be in our starting lineup regardless because he's a vital cog on both ends of the floor. We don't have another player on our roster that can do the things Ron Artest does in terms of having an effect on the entire game. He makes the extra pass, he gets the rebound, he shuts off the opposition's best scorer and, when left alone, he can make a shot. And he's a good presence down low when we want to post him up as you saw in the Detroit game recently.

Q. While Tim Hardaway's skills and speed might not be quite what they were a few years ago, I'm sure his decision-making will be very beneficial. What immediate role do you see for Hardaway with the Pacers? Will his experience likely get him more playing time during the playoffs? (From James in Greentown, IN)

A. Yes. His decision-making is invaluable to this team. We want him to get a feel for his teammates and our offense before sending him out. You will be seeing him more and more in the final games of the season and the playoffs not only because of his decision-making but his ability to make clutch shots. When I was in New York and we had to play Miami in the playoffs every year, Tim Hardaway was the guy who broke our backs.

Q. If Ron Artest picks up a flagrant foul during the playoffs will he be suspended or is there a special way of dealing with flagrant foul points during the playoffs? (From Daniel in Silverton, OR)

A. There is a different system. Once the playoffs begin, players start over with a clean slate, meaning Ron would have no flagrant foul points. In the regular season, a player is suspended once he exceeds five flagrant foul points. In the playoffs, a suspension is automatic when a player exceeds three points.

Q. When Jamison Brewer got in a couple games he played well and received rave reviews from Isiah (Thomas). Why haven't we seen him since? (From Monte in Portland, IN)

A. I love Jamison Brewer. He's one of my favorite players on the team. He brings high energy, his shot has improved, he pushes the ball up the court better than anybody on our team and gets us into our offense quicker than anybody we have in that position. It's just a confidence and a trust level. He has improved significantly this year and I think we're all impressed with him. But it came down to a decision between Jamison and Jamaal Tinsley and Erick Strickland; then, when we got Tim Hardaway, he was kind of pushed into the background.

Q. I have been following Ron Mercer ever since his Oak Hill Academy high school days and I know the man can play. I am really wondering however, why his playing time is now down to next to nothing? (From David in Beckley, WV)

A. It's a matter of numbers. When we acquired Tim Hardaway and he started to get some minutes, the decision had to be made about who we would play as the backup 2-guard between Erick Strickland and Ron Mercer. Isiah made the decision that he wanted to go with Erick Strickland. Ron has maintained an excellent attitude and continues to work hard on his game. He's waiting for the call when it comes.

Q. I think that Brad Miller's complaining during the 76ers game (March 26) was detrimental and contributed significantly to the loss. (Jeff) Foster and Croshere held and contributed to the lead when they were in. If the Pacers are as deep as claimed then why not give these guys, and the others, playing time when one of the starters is not getting the job done or when they are distracting the team? (From Philip in Lafayette, IN)

A. Austin has been coming in to spell Brad Miller recently. Isiah has shown a lot more confidence in him. With Jeff, you know you're going to get high energy, good defense and good rebounding but when we're looking for good offense, Austin is going to get the call. Brad Miller has been struggling because of injuries to his ankle and we are not going to give up on him because he is a vital element in our offense and defense. He's an excellent offensive rebounder and works very well with J.O. in our high-low situations on offense. Even though he might lose it sometimes, emotionally, we like that part of him and we're not going to stop using him because of it.

Q. Why don't we see more of (Jonathan) Bender on the court? It seems that every time he goes out there, we do good overall. (From Jesus in Pearl Harbor, HI)

A. Isiah loves Jonathan Bender. He sees him blossoming and recently, when we have used him, he has come through for us, offensively. But the one thing I love about Jonathan Bender's game, and I wish people would talk about it more, is I think he could be a big-time shot-blocker and be a defensive stopper. I keep calling him Bill, after Bill Russell, because I don't think anybody should score a layup when he's on the floor. He has to be a little more assertive at that end of the floor and take it as an insult if somebody scores a layup when he's on the floor because he should be able to block every shot.