Wednesday , Nov , 24 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Pacers have heart

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Indiana Pacers players have shown that
they are not throwing in the towel, even though they lost their three best
players for extended time because of their despicable actions during the
November 19th game in Detroit.

All-Star forward Ron Artest is gone for the rest of the season, while fellow
All-Star Jermaine O’Neal will miss 25 contests and swingman Stephen Jackson
will not suit up for Indiana’s next 30 games. O’Neal will be able to rejoin
the club on January 15, 2005 when the Pacers host the Orlando Magic, while
Jackson can return to the Indiana bench on January 26th at Boston.

The NBA players’ union has filed an appeal on behalf of Artest, Jackson and
O’Neal. All three players were suspended for their roles in brawl with
Pistons’ fans. The union requested that an arbitrator decide whether there
should be reductions in the suspensions that were handed down by NBA
Commissioner David Stern.

Just one day after the incident in Detroit, the Pacers returned home and were
defeated by the Orlando Magic, 86-83, at Conseco Fieldhouse. It was the first
contest of a four-game homestand for Indiana, which fell to 7-3 after the loss
to Orlando.

With the horrific events of November 19th four days old, the Pacers returned
to the court against Boston. Without Artest, O’Neal and Jackson, Indiana needs
its reserves as well as its remaining starters to step up in a big way if it
hopes to stay in the hunt for a decent seed in the postseason.

The Pacers did not disappoint their home crowd against the Celtics, as they
knocked off Boston, 106-96, in front of 17,135 supportive fans at Conseco
Fieldhouse. Forward James Jones, who started for just the second time in his
brief two-year career, scored a career-high 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds
for the victorious Pacers, while starting point guard Jamaal Tinsley, who did
not play against Orlando because of an injured wrist, finished with a game-
high 29 points to go along with a team-best six assists.

Jones, who played 43 minutes and ended with 12 points and 12 rebounds against
the Magic, logged a game-high and career-best 44 minutes against the Celtics.
The 6-8 Jones played in just the 14th game of his career.

“That was an inspired effort by our players and an inspired effort by our
crowd,” said Indiana head coach Rick Carlisle after the win over Boston. “That
showed why our fans are so special. A lot of fans come to see the stars; but
our fans come to see a game. No doubt in my mind, the crowd helped our effort.
It’s always important to win; but it’s important for our fans. I thought our
players did our franchise proud and did themselves proud.”

Twenty-five-year-old guard Fred Jones, who made his seventh-career start
against Boston, also took advantage of his opportunity to play significant
minutes against the Celtics. He played 42 minutes and finished with 16 points,
10 boards and four assists.

“Winning is the only reason we’re here,” said Carlisle. “If you keep having
great efforts and come up short it can be defeating. ”

Indiana got a big boost as 29-year-old center Scot Pollard, who had not played
in two weeks because of a back injury, returned to the court against the
Celtics. He contributed 12 points and six rebounds in 25 minutes of action.

“The big shot in the arm was getting Jamaal Tinsley back and I thought Scot
Pollard played a sensational game at both ends,” said Carlisle. “He (Pollard)
does a number of things that don’t show up in the stat sheet.

“We didn’t know Jamaal was going to play until 30 minutes before game time.
This morning at shootaround he could barely hit the rim from 15, 16 feet. He
really led us tonight. I thought James Jones played another great game. You
get two double-doubles in a row in this league, that’s something special.
There were a lot of courageous things going on out there.”

Veteran forward Austin Croshere scored 14 points and pulled down eight boards
in 38 minutes of action against the Celtics, while rookie center David
Harrison finished with six points and four rebounds in 26 minutes.

Because of a terrible incident, players like Fred Jones, James Jones and David
Harrison have been given a chance to show what they can do. Their efforts are
being used not only to show off their talents, but to help the Pacers pick up
some wins and get through a very difficult time.

“The game is all about opportunities,” said James Jones. “You must put
something in it to get something out of it. And when I say get something out
of it, I mean wins. We came together (against Boston), played together and won
the game. We can do more of this. We must just continue to work together and
get the results for our fan base. We can and will continue good basketball.”

The Pacers have already found out that their fans are going to support them
through this tough time. Indiana management will learn a lot about the players
on its roster who would not normally get the playing time that they will get
now. So far, Indiana has to like what it has seen in James Jones.

“James Jones has just been fantastic,” said Pollard. “I’ve been at the end of
the bench as a veteran, James has been there as a rookie and a second-year
player. Opportunity came and he answered the bell. We are going to go out and
play to win every night until we get the other guys back. The fan base has
just been fantastic.”

The Indiana players are showing that they are capable of winning games even
without the three best players on the roster. They are not only putting their
talents on display, but they are showing that they have a lot of heart.