by Conrad Brunner
Jan. 30, 2001
Indianapolis Jan. 30, 2001
-- It appears the All-Star Weekend will be strangely quiet for the Indiana Pacers.
The Eastern Conference roster, including the seven reserves selected by a vote of the head coaches, was released Tuesday, and no Pacers were honored.
Jalen Rose is one of three players in the league to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. Reggie Miller has scored more points in his career than any active guard. Jermaine O'Neal had superior statistics to the only other center selected.
Two replacement players must be named by Commissioner David Stern, as center Alonzo Mourning of Miami and forward Grant Hill of Orlando, both voted into the starting lineup, will miss the game with injuries.
Still, that does not bode well for either Miller or Rose, because the East roster includes six healthy guards: Ray Allen (Milwaukee), Allan Houston (New York), Allen Iverson (Philadelphia), Stephon Marbury (New Jersey),Tracy McGrady (Orlando) and Jerry Stackhouse (Detroit).
O'Neal has the best chance to be picked, because there is just one healthy center (Theo Ratliff of Philadelphia) and three healthy forwards - Vince Carter (Toronto), Anthony Mason (Miami) and Glenn Robinson (Milwaukee) - on the roster. Still, O'Neal's chances appear slim.
Head coach Isiah Thomas said Monday he believed both Miller and Rose deserved to be selected to play in the NBA All-Star Game, which will be played Feb. 11 at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C.
"I think they both should be on the All-Star team," Thomas said. "When you look at Reggie's career and what he's done this year for this team, there isn't a player who's more deserving. If Reggie Miller isn't on the All-Star team, there shouldn't be an All-Star Game.
"If you look at Jalen, last year he was the Most Improved player and he came back this year and is playing better than he played last year. So both those guys, in my opinion, deserve to be on the All-Star team and I'm quite sure they will be. If they aren't, we'll be disappointed around here."
Miller, who has appeared in five All-Star Games (1990, '95, '96, 98 and '00), finished fourth at guard in the fan balloting, behind startersAllen Iverson (Philadelphia) andTracy McGrady (Orlando), as well as Tim Hardaway (Miami).
O'Neal was fourth at center behind Alonzo Mourning (Miami), Theo Ratliff (Philadelphia) and Dikembe Mutombo (Atlanta). O'Neal (13.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.7 blocked shots) has better overall statistics than Ratliff and Mutombo.
MOOD NOT DAMPENED BY DEFEATS
Though the Pacers have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak brought them to just one game below .500, Thomas said the losses to Portland and Philadelphia did not demoralize the team.
"We're pretty upbeat," he said after Monday's practice at Emmis Court. "We understand where we have to go. The two games that we lost against Portland and Philly, those are the two best teams in the league and had we played a little better, we had a chance to win both those games.
"Now, we know exactly what we have to do and how far we have to go to get to the level they're at. And quite honestly, I don't think we're that far away."
Though Thomas was upset about the officiating immediately after the loss to the 76ers on Sunday (Philadelphia out-shot the home team 31-10 at the free-throw line), his review of the game left him feeling encouraged.
"We were pleased with the overall game with the exception of the foul line," he said. "I thought we won the game in every category. Defensively, we were exceptional. It was one of the best defensive efforts that we've put up all year. Everybody was solid. We only had maybe two or three breakdowns. We rebounded the ball well.
"For the most part, our guys played well, played hard. Sometimes you make shots, sometimes you miss 'em; that comes and goes over the course of the season. But the defensive intensity that we played with was awesome."
Though the Pacers felt victimized by the free-throw disparity, they are not alone. In the 76ers' 13-game road winning streak, they have averaged 9.2 more attempts, and 6.3 more makes, from the free throw line than the home teams.
SHOWDOWN LOOMS IN ORLANDO
The Pacers head to Orlando on Tuesday night to face the team they're currently battling for the final playoff position in the conference. The Magic's record is 19-23, one-half game behind the Pacers at 20-23.
When the teams last met, Tracy McGrady scored a career-high 43 points but went one-of-nine in the fourth quarter as the Pacers won 103-93 on Christmas Day. Derrick McKey shadowed McGrady for much of that fourth quarter. Could he be called upon once again?
"When we play teams with small forwards who score a lot, or big guards who score a lot, you can put Derrick on those guys and he does a really good job of shutting them down," Thomas said. "Al (Harrington) is becoming a better defender now, where you can use Al and Derrick to double-team guys. And eventually as J.B. (Jonathan Bender) continues to develop, he'll be another guy you can add to the mix because of his length.
"Once we get our younger guys coming around more, defensively, we're going to be a very tough team to play against at the end of the year."
Bender scored a career-high 20 in that game against the Magic. Rose scored 31 and Miller 22. The Pacers haven't topped 100 points in 14 games since that meeting.
Contact Conrad Brunner at Cbrunner@Pacers.com.