Were O'Neal, Miller Deals Related?

by Conrad Brunner

Aug. 14, 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

QUESTION OF THE DAY I I Conrad Brunner

Q. The Pacers have had some problems this offseason with the luxury (tax). And the Pacers obviously had problems with re-signing Brad Miller. Yet they re-signed Jermaine (O’Neal) for (reportedly) $120 million. If (Donnie) Walsh would have maybe spared $20 million and not signed (Carl) English, would they have been able to re-sign Brad? (From Andrew in Whiteland, IN)

A. Because of his level of performance over the past two seasons, Jermaine O’Neal was going to get a “maximum” contract – the most allowed a player of his experience under the rules of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement - from either the Pacers or another team. Had Donnie Walsh attempted to save a few dollars on the O’Neal deal, the team’s biggest star would be with San Antonio – or some other team – right now. And since Brad Miller had said he was waiting to see if O’Neal was retained before he made his contract decision, O’Neal’s departure would’ve actually lessened the team’s chances of keeping the center. Carl English’s deal, which is relatively minimal, doesn’t factor into this equation.

Re-signing O’Neal was at the top of the Pacers’ priority list, for good reason. Re-signing both Millers was right behind. It appears Reggie will finalize his deal soon, but Brad’s price-tag escalated well beyond what the Pacers could afford. That had nothing to do with O’Neal’s contract, and everything to do with the free-agent market. Brad was the last quality center on the market, and several teams with money to spend created, in essence, a bidding war. Rather than lose Miller to Utah or Denver with no compensation in return, the Pacers made the deal that brought Scot Pollard from Sacramento. You can argue the merits of Pollard as a starting center all you want, but even the most cynical observer must admit he’s substantially better than nothing.