By Conrad Brunner
and John Clayton
Indianapolis, Jan. 27, 2004
The notion of playing with a finger or two taped up is nothing new to Ron Artest. This is a guy who’s used to playing with so much tape on his hands, they look more like those of a linebacker than a small forward.
For the time being, the tape will remain a way of life for Artest, who has been diagnosed with a sprained left thumb. Artest was in New York on Monday to confer with the doctor that performed surgery on the thumb prior to his sophomore season at St. John's.
“My fingers were taped up last year so it’s back at that stage, just playing taped up,” Artest said. “You make sure you protect yourself and just play the game.”
Artest suffered the injury against New Jersey and in the last five games, including that one, his statistics have slipped: 14.8 points, 25 of 80 shooting (.313), 2 of 16 from the 3-point line (.125).
“I think it affects his shot an awful lot,” said Jermaine O’Neal. “I think he was 3-for-18 against Houston and we lost by (four), so obviously him not being healthy and not shooting to the point he’s used to shooting, it’s going to hurt us. He’s a big part of what we do. He’s our second-leading scorer. I think he’s going to be like that for a while. So we need to figure out a way to step up our games a notch or two more to pick up some of the slack while he’s hurt and figure out a way to win games.”
Though Artest was not listed on the team's official injury report for Wednesday night's game against Phoenix, coach Rick Carlisle said he expected it would be a game-time decision.
“It’s affected his shooting but I’ve seen signs the last couple of games that he’s making adjustments to his game to be able to play with it,” said Carlisle. “It’s not an ideal situation but it shows you the kind of courage the guy has and it shows you how much he wants to win. And those are all great things.”
The schedule works in favor of Artest, and the Pacers. There are just seven games in the next three weeks leading into the All-Star break. That offers Artest more than the usual amount of time to recover from game-to-game, not to mention practice time to determine what adjustments he’ll need to make in his game.
“Even though I’m right-handed, I’ve probably scored most of my buckets with my left hand,” he said. “I’ve gotten most of my steals with my left hand. I want to see if I’m able to do that.
“I won’t have to modify (his game) too much. Injuries come up. You twist your ankle and you get back out there and play. You have back spasms and you get back out there and play. It’s a matter of having fun playing and not worrying about the injury.”
Anderson healthy, waiting for opportunity
Carlisle states unequivocally that he still believes in Kenny Anderson – that he believes that Anderson is still a starting point guard in the NBA.
But that doesn’t mean Anderson, who said he is fully recovered from a strained calf he suffered at Houston on Dec. 23, will return to the starting lineup or even be removed from the Pacers’ injured list immediately. Carlisle said last week that Jamaal Tinsley will keep the job as starting point guard with Anthony Johnson as his backup, despite Anderson’s return to health.
“(The coaching staff) is kind of in ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,’ mode,” said Anderson. “I’ve got to suck it up and be a professional, do my job and just wait.”
Anderson, who is averaging 6.5 points and 3.1 assists in 28 starts this season, was chosen as the starting point guard out of the preseason over Tinsley, even though Anderson missed nearly the entire preseason due to injury. Anderson had hoped to be a major contributor to the Pacers after a couple of frustrating seasons spent bouncing in and out of lineups in Seattle and New Orleans.
“This is my 13th year in the league and the last two have been up-and-down, just crazy,” he said. “For 10 years of my career, I’ve played 35 to 40 minutes, so two years of this, I’ve just got to be strong and accept it. Be strong. Be a leader. I have to stay in shape and stay ready. I still love the game. I want to play and I love it here, so I’m in a situation where I’ve just got to sit back and wait.”
If the first half of the season is any indication, Anderson may not have to wait long. The point-guard position has been decimated by injuries at different times and all four on the roster – Anderson, Tinsley, Johnson and Jamison Brewer – have all started games and made contributions.
Pollard feeling better
Scot Pollard has returned to practice after missing two games and several days due to a stomach virus.
Pollard started feeling ill less than 24 hours after the Pacers defeated visiting Detroit on Jan. 20. Pollard had played 13 minutes and blocked three shots in the 81-69 victory. He said he didn’t leave his house again until Sunday.
“Thursday, I just called (Carlisle) up and said I can’t leave my house,” said Pollard. “And I didn’t until (Sunday). I just stayed in my room and I watched more TV than I have in years.”
He was also forced to watch the Pacers broadcasts as the team faced Houston on Friday and Washington on Saturday – both losses. The timing was frustrating for Pollard whose adjustment to a new team and new style of play since arriving this offseason in a trade from Sacramento has been slower than expected. Pollard had started to carve out a niche in Carlisle’s rotation before getting sick.
“We’re going against a team with (Houston’s) Yao (Ming), so I said, ‘Hey, even if I’m not getting consistent minutes, I’ll play against that team because of Yao’,” Pollard said. “It was just the worst timing.”
Though admittedly still a bit weak, Pollard participated in practice Monday and Tuesday, but appeared slightly thinner than he was prior to becoming ill.
“It’s good that we don’t have another game until Wednesday so that I have another day to get that good feeling back and start looking like I’m healthy again,” he said. “Everybody’s making fun of me about looking sick, too. I guess I kind of look sick most of the time.”