What's the Starting Lineup?

Monday, Sept. 15, 2003

If you'd like to pose a Question of the Day to Conrad Brunner, submit it along with your full name and hometown to Bruno's_mailbag@pacers.com

Q. With the abundance of small forwards and shooting guards, what do you suppose the starting lineup will be? Also, will Scot Pollard be in the starting lineup, or do we plan on getting a "true" center via a trade? Or will O'Neal start at center, not his natural position? Don't get me wrong, Pollard is a great, tough role player, but he doesn't put up too many points. This will allow teams to double O'Neal at will. (From Barry in Madison, WI)

A. This question is going to be one of the most interesting of training camp – and beyond. Combine the versatility of several players with the changes at the management and coaching level, and the possibilities are pretty varied. The most obvious lineup would be Jamaal Tinsley and Reggie Miller in the backcourt, Ron Artest and Jermaine O’Neal at the forward spots, and Scot Pollard at center. That is last year’s lineup with Pollard replacing Brad Miller.

But the most obvious isn’t necessarily the best. A frontcourt of Artest, Al Harrington and O’Neal offers offense and defense at all three positions. It also has Pollard, Austin Croshere, Jonathan Bender and Jeff Foster in reserve. The major hangup is wear and tear on O’Neal, who would spend most of his time guarding centers instead of power forwards.

Another combination, forwarded by many e-mails from fans, has Artest moving to shooting guard with Reggie coming off the bench as sixth man. That would put Harrington, O’Neal and Pollard up front. It’s an intriguing mix, but almost totally devoid of perimeter shooting, which translates into little room to operate for all of those big guys. As someone that has covered the Pacers since 1988, it is hard to imagine a lineup without Reggie – for both emotional and tactical reasons. He’s not only the best shooter, he’s the only reliable long-distance threat among the guards.

However the starting lineup shakes out, it can be said with some certainty that you’ll see each of the aforementioned combinations during games with some regularity. Like the players often say, it’s not a matter of who starts the game, it’s who finishes.