O'Neal Producing in the Clutch

by Conrad Brunner

February 5, 2003

ASK THE COACH
With Brendan Malone
February 5, 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 in some of the games Jermaine (O'Neal) scores a few points in the first half and when the second half comes he explodes and gets more touches and is more aggressive on offense. Is that by design or is that just a coincidence? (From David in Los Angeles)

A. Jermaine gets his shots within the flow of the game. When we run our Quick offense, it's an equal-opportunity offense but when we're going down the stretch we make a conscious effort to get the ball inside to Jermaine and he's been coming through for us all year. That's why he's an All-Star.

Q. Of all the players on the Pacers roster, Ron Mercer seems like the only one who can truly create his own shot. While Jermaine (O'Neal) is nearly unstoppable in one-on-one situations, I still feel Mercer is quick enough and accurate enough to garner that honor. I was curious if any of the coaching staff felt the same way? (From Quinn in Fishers, IN)

A. Ron Mercer showed in the New Jersey series last year that he was the one guy on our roster who could put the ball on the floor and penetrate their defense off the dribble. Ron and Jamaal Tinsley are the two guys on our team who have the best chance of breaking down a defense off the dribble.

Q. What position does Al Harrington mainly play, is he almost to full strength and what is the biggest asset he gives to the team? (From Tim in Mitchell, IN)

A. He's a three or a four, depending on what we need him for. He can play the four and bring his power and post-ups. Defensively, he can defend both positions. The thing he brings to us is his enthusiasm and energy on the floor; that really helps us out. And because he can shoot the ball from the outside, he really gives us an inside-outside presence. Physically, he's coming along at probably a more accelerated pace than we thought in recuperating from his knee surgery last season. He's rounding into shape but he's not quite 100 percent yet.

Q. I have noticed that the team is using a 3-man rotation for the center and power forward position. Why is (Jeff) Foster still preferred over (Austin) Croshere? (From Payam in New Brunswick, NJ)

A. Austin had surgery on his foot during the summer and it took him a long time to rehab to get back into shape. And then when he did get into shape and was starting to play well, he hurt himself again with the rib injury. So he's never really gotten into the flow of our rotation because of injuries. We go to Jeff Foster because of his energy, his defensive ability and his rebounding. Jeff is a better defender, Austin is a better offensive player and we use them in situations that require either defense or offense.

Q. Do you think that because Ron Artest shows so much emotion when he plays that it could be a reason why the officials call flagrant fouls on him? (From Alia in Newark, NJ)

A. I think officials officiate personalities. What's happening with Ron Artest is the officials meet before the game, they talk about our team and they say 'This is what you've got to watch out for.' I think Ron is a victim of circumstance and reputation and they pre-judge him before he even starts to play.

Q. Does Reggie Miller get the credit he deserves around the league as being one of the best finishers on the break and around the basket in the NBA? And do you think the fact that he is not a perennial all star might negatively affect his chances of becoming a first ballot Hall-of-Famer? (From Don in Los Angeles)

A. I think without a doubt Reggie Miller is a Hall of Famer. His record speaks for itself. If you look at highlight films of all the pressure shots in the last decade and you're going to see Reggie Miller or you're going to see Michael Jordan. Reggie has been an All-Star five times, and he's a guy who is always making dagger shots. He has an uncanny ability to use his body to get in and not only finish, but get to the foul line.