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Indiana Pacers Preview - Pacers Pulse

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ind.gifThe Pacers enter the 2007-2008 season hoping to avoid their second straight season of missing the NBA playoffs. Last season they missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons and have fired their coach and acquired a few key players to help off the bench.

Indiana Pacers - Pacers Pulse
Last Years Record: 35-47 (9th in East)
Key Losses: Darrell Armstrong
Key Additions: Head Coach Jim O’Brien, Kareem Rush, Travis Diener

1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?

The biggest move of the offseason didn’t involve any players. It had to do with the man who would be in charge of the players: the head coach. The Pacers fired Rick Carlisle and hired Jim O’Brien. Carlisle called every play from the bench and wanted to slow things down on offense. O’Brien comes in from Philadelphia and Boston preaching an up-tempo offense, three-point shooting and tough defense.

The Pacers shored up the guard position. They released the 39-year old Armstrong and signed Kareem Rush and Travis Diener. Rush, a first round pick in 2002, couldn’t stick in the NBA with the Lakers and Bobcats. Rush went to Lithuania where he was the MVP of the All-Star Game. He averaged 19 PPG in the summer league for the Pacers and O’Brien expects to use him this season. "He’s not a good shooter, he’s a great shooter," said O’Brien.

Diener will also compete for playing time in the backcourt. He averaged 3.8 PPG in Orlando for two seasons and now comes to Indy to back up Jamaal Tinsley. Diener can run the second team and can shoot like Rush.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?

Depth. O’Brien announced his starting lineup as Tinsley, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger, Jermaine O’Neal and Troy Murphy. That’s a solid lineup with both size, shooting and athleticism. The Pacers have three solid backups at the guard position in Rush, Diener and Marquis Daniels. Daniels missed much of last season and the Pacer struggled terribly after he went down. Daniels brings great defense and can get to the basket. All three can spell Tinsley and Dunleavy without problems.

Down low the Pacers also have solid depth. O’Neal is a major health risk and the Pacers have solid guys that can come off the bench. Jeff Foster had 13 rebounds (9 offensive) in only 20 minutes in the preseason opener. Ike Diogu had a great career at Arizona State but has never gotten the chance to show his stuff in either Golden State or Indiana. David Harrison has very good potential if he can stay healthy.

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?

Injuries are going to play a major factor this season. Jermaine O’Neal (missed preseason opener) has played 164 games out of 246 possible regular season games the past three seasons. Daniels only played 45 last season. Tinsley is a risk- before playing 72 last season, he played 40 and 42 the previous two seasons. Harrison played the first half but missed the second half with a sprained ankle and the Pacers are waiting for a diagnosis.

If the Pacers can put together a relatively healthy season, they can be successful.

4. What are the goal’s for this team?

It’s to obviously get back to the playoffs. After missing the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, the Pacers are trying to avoid another season of falling short in the East. The Pacers have been a model and successful franchise in the past with former players like Reggie Miller, Mark Jackson, Rik Smits, etc.

But now the off-court issues have dominated the news more than the play on it. Tinsley and Daniels were involved in a bar fight. The team is still trying to recover from the Brawl at the Palace and Jermaine O’Neal has voiced his displeasure and asked for a trade countless number of times.

The Pacers need a season free of off-court issues so they can put their entire focus on the game of basketball.

5. What will be different from last season to this one?

The style of play will be much different.

Carlisle controlled the entire and play-calling; Tinsley was forced to look over at the sidelines every time down the court.

But, O’Brien is changing the style of play. He wants the Pacers to get the ball over the mid-court line in 3 seconds and he also wants the team to take 50 shots from three-point range if they have 50 good looks. Also look for a new look on defense. Daniels offers solid defensive play and the O’Brien has been working the team hard to get their stamina and durability up so they can play the game both ways and for the whole game.

Predicted Record: 43-39 (7th-8th in East)