Indianapolis, July 24, 2003 - This is why Donnie Walsh always says a deal is never done until it’s done.
Two days ago, the Pacers were on the brink of losing their All-Star center with no compensation. Brad Miller was pondering huge contract offers from Utah and Denver that pushed his market value well beyond what Indiana could afford.
Rather than waving the white flag, Walsh and his staff hit the phones even harder and the result was the consummation of a three-team, five player deal that sent Miller to Sacramento and Ron Mercer to San Antonio and brought Scot Pollard to the Pacers. The deal became official at 6 p.m. Thursday.
"Everybody in the basketball department hates to see Brad Miller leave, as well as Ron Mercer," Walsh said Thursday evening. "As we went through free agency, very quickly it became apparent to me that the price was going to be awfully high for Brad. As a result, it was going to stretch us first of all as to what we could to at all, and it was really going to hurt us as far as the things we could pursue for the rest of the summer."
The sign-and-trade deal sent Miller to the Kings for Pollard and Hedo Turkoglu. The Pacers then sent Mercer and Turkoglu to San Antonio for Danny Ferry. Walsh said the Pacers have no intention of keeping Ferry, whose contract for 2003-04 is not guaranteed, making him attractive trade bait for other teams looking to clear salary space.
President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird, interviewed by NBA TV during the Pacers' summer league game against Dallas in Salt Lake City, UT, said he was frustrated by the inability to sign Miller but pleased with the acquisition of Pollard.
"Very disappointed we couldn't really afford Brad because we didn't want to go over the (luxury tax threshold)," said Bird. "But he's done pretty well. He's going to a good team. But we're very happy to get Scot to come with us. He's a hard worker, he's a gamer and that's all we ask."
Jermaine O’Neal, also in Salt Lake City to work out with the coaches and players, also voiced his opinion.
”Brad was a great piece to the puzzle for us,” O’Neal said. “Losing him is tough for us, but I’m just going to have to step it up even more. I wish the best for Brad. He deserves everything he’s gotten. Hopefully we can replace him with somebody that can step in and be a major contributor right away.”
Pollard, 28, is a 6-11, 265-pound center with a strong reputation as a defender and rebounder. He had 13 points and 16 rebounds against the Pacers in a 103-96 Kings victory in Conseco Fieldhouse on April 1. Though he missed 59 games with a stress fracture in his lower back last season, Pollard returned to play the final 18 games, averaging 15.3 minutes, 5.4 points and 5.4 rebounds.
"Scot Pollard is a player that, when you come up against certain teams he can play 40 minutes and hold his own," Walsh said. "On the other hand, when you come up against other types of teams, you can cut his time back and he’s used to that so it’s not a problem for him. In other words, he can fit into any role you want him to and that’s very valuable on this team because you need a team that can play against bigger or smaller teams. When we played Boston, it became very apparent that Brad Miller was going to have a difficult time playing in that (series). … This leaves (coach) Isiah with a good option."
Miller had been courted heavily by Utah and Denver, with both franchises offering six-year contracts. The Jazz reportedly had offered at least $55 million and the Nuggets $49 million, though there were reports Wednesday that both teams either had upped their ante or expressed a willingness to do so.
By agreeing to a sign-and-trade deal, Miller gained an additional year on his contract, making it a seven-year deal - reportedly worth up to $70 million – while moving to a top contender in Sacramento.
Mercer is entering the final year of a contract that reportedly would pay him $6.75 million. Pollard, signed through 2005-06, reportedly will earn $5.3 million next season, so the Pacers came out of the deal ahead, financially.
Sacramento, on the other hand, views Miller as the successor to 35-year-old Vlade Divac in the middle, extending the Kings' lifespan as a top contender in the Western Conference.
"We’re very excited to add an all-star caliber player in Brad Miller to our team,” said Geoff Petrie, the Kings' President of Basketball Operations. “He’s a young, versatile player who should be a great addition to our team, and our ongoing success.
“We also want to thank Scot Pollard and Hedo Turkolgu for their incredible contributions they’ve made to the Kings during their years with the team. They leave with the respect of everyone in the organization. We wish them the very best.”
In acquiring Mercer and Turkoglu, who both have one season remaining on their respective contracts, the Spurs solidify their depth at shooting guard and small forward while assuring salary cap space next summer, when they'll need to re-sign free agents Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.