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Q&A With Indy Cornrows

The Celtics visit the Pacers tonight and I thought I'd continue my series of Q&As with other teams' bloggers by exchanging thoughts with Tom from Indy Cornrows.  Enjoy: 

My questions and Tom from Indy Cornrows answers.

bird.jpg 1. Lets get this out of the way first. All anyone from Boston cares about in Indiana is Larry Bird. How is he doing as a GM now that the gig is all his? He had a good team until Ron Artest ruined everything. Given that circumstance, how has Larry Legend responded?

Larry Joe Legend has taken a lot of heat over the past few years. Despite Donnie Walsh carrying the authority of final approval, most assumed LJL was to blame for not miraculously making the problems certain players caused go away without impacting the team. I see things swinging in LJL's favor now, though. For one, he went out of character and deftly played a solid PR move prior to the season, in essence announcing, this is my team now and I plan to set up the team to mirror my philosophy and preferred style.

Plus, Shawne Williams had a run in with the law in September that turned out to be nothing but traffic violation. LJL was able to seize that opportunity to prove the culture around the team would change under his watch. He suspended Shawne for three games and establish a new precedent for knucklehead-type behavior on the team. Jim O'Brien is in lock-step with LJL's vision, as the two share a desire to showcase a style of play centered around ball movement and player motion while holding players accountable for their actions on and off the court. In the end, though, LJL will be judged by how the Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley situations play out. All three of them are on their last chance. Either Tins and J.O. play well and stay around or they are moved in a way that allows the Pacers to progress toward a better future. Anything else and LJL will be heading out of town with them, which he's admitted himself.

2. Another familiar subject for Boston fans is your coach. We know O'Brien (and Harter) for very good defense, lots of three pointers, and little imagination on offense aside from that. Is that pretty much what he's doing in Indy? How's that working out for you?

Jim O'Brien is getting a lot of love in Indy right now. He inherited a dysfunctional and in some cases, disinterested rag tag group of NBA players. His success in changing the culture and bringing all of the players together, working on the same page has been staggering. His offensive philosophy of pushing the ball, keeping players in motion, and lobbing 3-balls is quite a pleasant departure from the nobody-move -until-Carlisle-calls-a-play offense of the past couple of years. The current roster is full of streaky shooters, though, so when their rolling (against the Nuggets) it's a thing of beauty and when they're off target (also, against the Nuggets) you begin to wonder about a happy medium. As the lead was slipping away against Denver, there were several possessions that were simply, quick threes (missed threes). I found myself longing for using a little clock, moving the ball around, and getting a nice two point look .

3. Jermaine O'Neal is the one you hear about in the rumor mill when people take a short break from talking about Kobe. Under what circumstances would you want to see him moved? What would you want in return for him?

I'm a big fan of Jermaine O'Neal the person, so I'll always find myself rooting for J.O. the player. I mean, anyone who brings a South Beach style ultra lounge to Central Indiana (check out Seven) is okay with me. Speaking from a basketball perspective, O'B's system doesn't require the offense to go through J.O., but his value at the defensive end is critical to the Pacers right now. But, if the Pacers start losing more than they're winning, and come January, topping 35 wins seems like a pipe dream, then I'd be all for a J.O. deal. His max contract restricts the front office and if he stays around and doesn't opt out, the team is hamstrung for another two years. Having weathered a few injuries over the past couple of years, J.O. seems to have lost some quickness around the hoop. I don't think he can be THE lead guy on a successful team. I do think he would be incredibly valuable supporting Kobe Bryant with the Lakers or a Nets team with other available weapons. As long as the Pacers gathered a solid, young big in return and flexible contracts or picks, I'd be happy. Considering the season was going nowhere with J.O., cutting their losses with 7 might be the best way to turn the thing around.

I'm really looking forward to seeing the new look C's. Not looking forward to the L, but I do like good basketball.

Here are Tom's questions and my answers.

1. I have a good friend and huge C's fan from Vermont who feels a little strange about the Celtics incredible roster and sudden status as a championship contender. He feels like the C's are trying to buy a championship and he's deprived of seeing a championship team develop over time in a more traditional manner. Have you encountered this line of thinking before? What do you think? Is this just decades of Yankee hatred revealing itself?

I have come across that a little, but mostly before the trade happened. People were still wrapped in the mindset of developing "our guys" over the long term. The problem with that is getting stuck in a rut of always developing and accepting a culture of losing. Once people got to see the three stars holding up their jerseys together, hanging out together in Rome, and finally playing well together on the court, most have accepted the fast forward approach with open arms. And as sudden as this has all happened, it actually has been in the works for several years. Danny said from the start that he was acquiring assets to use to pick up big name players. It actually took longer than he thought, but I'm happy with the way it worked out. In a perfect world we'd have superstars, depth, and a young pipeline of stars (like the Red Sox have) but given the choice between maybe developing for the next 8-10 years and going for it all over the next 3-4 years, I'll roll the dice and take the plunge.

2. Any preseason detractors of the Celtics would point to Rajon Rondo and the lack of depth available off the bench as reasons why the C's might not match expectations. With the strong start, which players included in that supposed lack of depth have been a pleasant surprise? Which player(s) have more to offer than most people think?

Well, first of all the lack of overall depth hasn't really gone away. It has been minimized somewhat by Doc's decision to play the big 3 a lot of minutes, which covers up a lot of mistakes by anyone else on the floor. Basically the big three make everyone else look a lot better.

With that said, I think most have been pleasantly surprised by the play of Eddie House. He's not a point guard, but the committee of House, Tony Allen, and Ray Allen have been getting the ball across half court and getting it into the hands of one of the stars to start the offense. And when House knocks down dagger 3's with one of the quickest releases in the game, you kind of forget about the fact that he's not a playmaking point guard and go with the flow.

3. How is the mood among the faithful regarding Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers? Both have taken (much of it earned) their share of abuse over the past couple of years. Will Doc get any credit for W's or does the roster idiot proof game management?

I'd say it is night and day with the attitude towards Danny. Many people, myself included, were getting down to their last nerve with the moves Ainge was making (or not making). We heard about his plan to land the big fish but time after time he came back with empty lines or more bait. Now we have a fish feast and he's got the early lead on Executive of the Year.

Doc, on the other hand, has been given a Get Out of Jail Free card. He still has his critics but they are being held at bay for the moment. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen would make anyone look like a coaching genius. I will maintain that Doc's role is pretty important in that he is very good at managing personalities. If he can keep everyone (in particular Pierce) happy and bought in to the program, then he deserves some credit.

With that said, the Boston fans have long memories and will be very slow to give him credit for the wins. And if the team hits a downturn or cold streak, guess who people will look to blame. The murmuring is already starting as it seems like Doc is playing the big 3 a few minutes too many for most people's comfort. If he wears them out and finds them burnt out or hurt in April, you'll hear some pretty loud complaining about Doc's game management skills. But for now, the more they win, the more rope Doc gets.

It was a pleasure talking with you Tom.  Enjoy the year and best of luck. 

You can find more Q&As with RaptorsHQ and Nugg Doctor in the NBA Section.  

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