|Pacers should be careful with offseason moves|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 20 April 2007 21:24|
Indiana dropped a lot of baggage in getting rid of Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson the last two seasons, but from a purely statistical standpoint, the Pacers have gotten the worst end of their last three major deals.
Now, after missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade, the franchise that won a league-best 61 games in 2003-04 is looking for answers. With little chance of having a draft pick, veterans O'Neal and Tinsley are the team's top commodities.
But trades haven't worked in the team's favor recently. The Pacers sent the volatile Artest to the Sacramento Kings for Peja Stojakovic last January. Stojakovic started off strong, but he got hurt, missed most of the playoff series against New Jersey then bolted for the New Orleans Hornets.
Meanwhile, a rejuvenated Artest was the catalyst in Sacramento's surprising trip to the playoffs.
The Pacers traded for Atlanta's Al Harrington to highlight a busy offseason. When that didn't help, Indiana sent Harrington, the troubled Stephen Jackson, Josh Powell and Sarunas Jasikevicius to Golden State for Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Ike Diogu and Keith McLeod in January.
The Pacers went 15-29 afterward, while Golden State reached the postseason for the first time since 1994.
Indiana finished this season 35-47 - their worst record since 1988-89 - and could have trouble making things better. O'Neal says he's not interested in being part of a rebuilding project and Tinsley could follow Artest and Jackson as players traded due to off-the-court problems.
The Pacers haven't said whether they'll keep the 28-year-old O'Neal, but if they want to shop him, they might have trouble getting equal value for him.
O'Neal averaged 19.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in one of the best seasons of his 11-year career. He's a six-time All-Star who finished third in fan voting for the Pacers' 40th anniversary team.
But he played hurt much of the season and sat out the last two games. And he says he is mentally and physically drained.
``This was probably the hardest year of my career as far as taking a physical pounding every single night from two or three guys,'' he said.
O'Neal missed 13 games with various injuries and illnesses. He tore the meniscus in his left knee and was hobbled the last two months of the season. He will have what he considers a minor knee surgery, and he expects to be fine after a month of rehabilitation.
Still, he has missed 82 games the past three seasons to injuries, illnesses and suspensions - an amount that equals an entire regular season's worth of games.
On top of that, O'Neal is scheduled to make $19.7 million next year. His salary, injury history and age could turn teams off, though O'Neal feels he's in his prime.
Tinsley had one of his best seasons and was more durable than usual. He averaged 12.8 points and 6.9 assists in 72 games, the most games he's played since 2002-03.
But Tinsley could be hard to move because he's signed through 2011, when he'll be 33. He's also been injury prone, missing 92 games the past three years.
Tinsley was booed constantly at Conseco Fieldhouse this season because of numerous on- and off-court problems. He was charged with a felony count of intimidation and misdemeanor counts of battery, disorderly conduct and intimidation after a bar fight in Indianapolis in February. He also was present at a fight at a club last October that involved Jackson.
After those incidents, Tinsley was suspended for a game due to ``conduct detrimental to the team,'' and was kicked out of a game at San Antonio for throwing the ball into the stands.
Coach Rick Carlisle has been one of Tinsley's biggest supporters, but Carlisle could be on his way out. No matter who returns, Carlisle sees brighter days ahead for the Pacers.
``This team is in reasonable health and a training camp away from being a playoff team,'' he said.