INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -The most visible Indiana Pacers from the past three years were nowhere to be found Monday on the team's media day.
Jermaine O'Neal was traded to Toronto in the offseason. The Pacers have said Jamaal Tinsley will not play for them again after his on-court antics and off-court problems damaged their reputation. Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson have been gone for a while now, traded in the Pacers' effort to rid themselves of malcontents.
Jeff Foster and Austin Croshere are the only players left from the team involved in the brawl with Detroit Pistons fans in 2004, and Croshere was a recent addition who is not promised a spot on the team. After two draft-day moves and the Croshere pickup, eight new players showed up for Media Day. The Pacers hope the changes help the franchise start winning again, project a more wholesome image and improve last season's league-worst attendance.
all team and our franchise.''
Team president Larry Bird got busy after the team went 36-46 and missed the playoffs last season. The Pacers had one of the best offenses and worst defenses in league last season, prompting Bird to add speed at the guard spots and size in the post.
The team appears to be building around a mainstay, fourth-year forward Danny Granger. He averaged 19.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range.
O'Brien knows Granger can score. Now, he wants to see him become a dominant defensive player.
``I would hope he impacts it from a leadership standpoint at the defensive end more than any other area,'' he said.
Mike Dunleavy is coming off a breakout season. The shooting guard averaged 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game last season and he believes he can be better this year.
O'Brien applauded Granger and Dunleavy for their production last season, but said gaudy statistics won't matter if the Pacers miss the playoffs again.
``Danny and Mike put up big numbers, but everybody in the league will say people don't pay attention to big numbers if they come on a mediocre basketball team.''
Granger said he knows the Pacers are an afterthought without the big names from the past.
good thing.''
The key pickup was point guard T.J. Ford, who likely will replace Tinsley, who remains on the roster but isn't expected to play. Ford averaged 12.1 points and 6.1 assists per game for the Raptors last season before coming to the Pacers in the O'Neal trade.
Granger is excited to have Ford as the point guard, and compared him to San Antonio point guard Tony Parker.
``He's incredibly fast,'' Granger said. ``He's a pass-first point guard, and he can score the ball.''
Granger, Dunleavy and Ford are among those expected to fill O'Neal's leadership role.
``I think it's going to be a bunch of guys,'' O'Brien said. ``The best teams I've ever been around have had a bunch of leaders who feel comfortable leading and very comfortable in allowing other people to lead also.''
The Pacers also added point guard Jarrett Jack in a trade with Portland. Jack is expected to play both guard spots and push Ford.
O'Brien said Troy Murphy is the favorite to start at power forward. He averaged 12.2 points and 7.2 rebounds last season.
The battle for the starting center spot likely will be the most contested. Jeff Foster remains, but the team added Rasho Nesterovic and draft pick Roy Hibbert in the trade with Toronto.
t whoever gets that job will be toughened by his teammates.''
Another player to watch is Brandon Rush, a rookie who helped Kansas win the college national championship last season.
The new-look Pacers expect to make the postseason this season.
``That's the only way I can look at things,'' O'Brien said. ``If we get accomplished team leadership, team ownership for defense, absolutely, we'll be in the playoffs.''

Top NBA Public Bets

#1 709 Utah Jazz  88%
#2 501 Toronto Raptors  81%
#3 508 Boston Celtics  79%
#5 510 Houston Rockets  70%
#7 711 Charlotte Hornets  67%
#8 511 Miami Heat  63%
#9 706 Chicago Bulls  63%

NBA Top Stories

Thumbnail Timberwolves vs. Kings Prediction Will the Kings cover as a home underdog tonight when they host the Timberwolves at 10:30PM ET?
Thumbnail Pacers vs. Rockets Prediction Are the Rockets a good bet to cover as a double-digit home favorite tonight when they host the Pacers at 9:30PM ET?
Thumbnail Heat vs. Mavericks Prediction Will the Heat knock off the Mavericks as a small road favorite tonight when the two teams meet at 8:30PM ET?
Thumbnail Hawks vs. Celtics Prediction With the Celtics playing on tired legs, will their matchup against the Hawks tonight fall under at 7:30PM ET?
Thumbnail Warriors vs. 76ers Prediction Will the 76ers cover as a home underdog versus the Warriors tonight at 7:00PM ET?

NBA Team Pages