Indiana Pacers History
The Indiana Pacers had a roller-coaster season last year experiencing numerous problems affecting the team’s gameplay. Despite finishing the regular season 41-41, the Indiana Pacers were able to make the NBA playoffs. In a division in which all teams made the playoffs, the other teams being the Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavs, Chicago Bulls, and Milwaukee Bucks, critics believed the Indiana Pacers were an NBA championship contender. However, with injuries and an angry star player, the Indiana Pacers were barely able to make it out of the season.
After publicly criticizing the Indiana Pacers and demanding he be traded, Ron Artest, was traded to the Sacramento Kings for sharpshooter, Peja Stojakovic. Artest was usually the center of attention in Indiana being suspended numerous times. His most famous suspension is likely the time when he missed most the 2004-05 season because of his involvement in a brawl with Detroit Pistons’ fans.
Artest is considered one of the top defensive players in the NBA. He won the Defensive Player of the Year Award in the 2003-04 season and was voted to the First Team All-Defense this past season.
The arrival of Peja Stojakovic for Ron Artest took away Artest’s negative locker room presence and gave the Indiana Pacers the perimeter attack they’ve needed since the departure of Reggie Miller. Stojakovic averaged nearly 20 points a game in the 40 games he played for the Indiana Pacers. Peja has expressed his interest in staying with the team and finishing his career there. Reports say he feels comfortable and believes the organization can build around him and center, Jermaine O’Neal.
The Indiana Pacers first need to re-sign Stojakovic who opted out of the last year of his current contract. Team president Larry Bird has said he hopes a deal is worked out quickly. The acquisition of Stojakovic has added some parts missing to the Indiana Pacers game, but the loss of Artest was the loss of the Indiana Pacer’s defense. The vital loss of a perimeter defense allowed opposing players to dribble and penetrate forcing the Pacer’s big men to help out, usually leading to foul trouble. They didn’t play so well either. Centers O’Neal and Harrison are considered to be quality shot blockers but it didn’t seem so this past year.
Finally, the possible key in being successful next season, something Larry Bird has publicly expressed, is the conduct of the players on the team. Bird wants all players who do not want to be in Indiana to either, “leave, or shape up their game”. Numerous players have expressed the team underachieved, but the actions on and off the court shown by Stephen Jackson was an example of unruly players affecting the team.
Jackson was a constant problem in the locker room and was part of the unforgettable brawl between Indiana Pacer players and Detroit Pistons’ fans. He criticized teammates for their sloppy play and even had to be separated once from Jermaine O’Neal. Larry Bird wants him to stay with the team but says that decision is completely up to Jackson.
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