Will O'Neal, Others Get on Board?

by Jeff Tzucker
by Conrad Brunner

Friday, August 29, 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 Jermaine O’Neal’s obvious discontent over the Pacers’ decision to fire Isiah (Thomas), do you think this will affect his quality of play this year? Are there any other players who feel as strongly as JO? (From Nick in Phoenix)

A. As upset as he is about the change, O’Neal can be expected to give his usual complete effort this season. In fact, he told Bob Kravitz in today’s Indianapolis Star, “I’m going to come back, be a professional and play for the Pacers this year, and I’m going to approach this season the same way I approach every season.” While he continues to express doubts about his future with the franchise beyond the 2003-04 season, that likely hinges on the team’s success. If the new head coach, presumably Rick Carlisle, can get them to finish what they started during the first half of last season, it’s likely to soothe any lingering ill will. And at some level, O’Neal had to understand that Thomas wasn’t going to be the head coach for the span of his seven-year contract, because that kind of tenure is a thing of the past. Change at some point was inevitable.

As for the rest of the players, no one else has taken as strong a stand. Al Harrington said the move just reminds everyone that this is a business. Ron Artest told FOX Sports, “I’m looking out for the best interest of the team. I’m with the Indiana Pacers and I can’t make decisions, so I’m just trying to go out next year and have a better year.” So it appears, while everyone may not be completely happy, only O’Neal has been publicly opposed to the change.