NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, October 31st (All times eastern)
Washington Wizards (0-0) at Indiana Pacers (0-0), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Jim O'Brien era begins tonight in Indiana, as the Pacers welcome the Washington Wizards to Conseco Fieldhouse.
Re-building could be in the very near future for the Pacers. O'Brien, who replaced Rick Carlisle as Indiana's new head coach, takes over a club that finished 35-47 and did not qualify for the playoffs last year for the first time since 1997.
Jermaine O'Neal is still the cornerstone of the Pacers. Rumors were flying all summer of a possible trade with the Los Angeles Lakers involving the All-Star forward. O'Neal led the Pacers in scoring (19.4 ppg) and rebounding (9.6 rpg) last season, while point guard Jamaal Tinsley handed out a team-best 6.9 assists in 72 contests.
The Pacers made a big move during the 2006-07 season. On January 17th, they dealt swingman Stephen Jackson, forwards Al Harrington and Josh Powell and guard Sarunas Jasikevicius to the Golden State Warriors for Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Ike Diogu and Keith McLeod. The deal worked out for Golden State, which qualified for the postseason for the first time since 1994. Dunleavy and Murphy, who were the keys to the deal for Indiana, did not seem to get comfortable in their new surroundings.
Danny Granger had a productive sophomore season. The New Mexico product played in all 82 regular-season games, and averaged 13.9 points and 4.6 boards. The 6-9 Granger shot 45.9 percent from the floor and will be a big part of the Pacers' plans moving forward.
President of basketball operations Larry Bird was not able to make any significant moves during the offseason. The Pacers also did not have any picks in the draft and were spectators throughout draft night.
O'Brien is a veteran general who was brought in to try and keep the Pacers in the playoff hunt. O'Brien is not known for his work with younger players. He is a fit for a veteran club that has a shot at advancing to the postseason.
Indiana will host Shaquille O'Neal and the Miami Heat on Friday before going on the road to visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday at FedExForum.
Injuries killed the Wizards during the 2006-07 regular season and in the playoffs. They played the Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening round of the postseason without All-Stars Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler. The result, a Cavaliers sweep of the Wizards in four games.
Arenas played in 74 games during the regular season, and led the club in scoring (28.4 ppg) and assists (6.0 apg), while Butler averaged 19.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 63 games. Arenas suffered a knee injury and Butler was sidelined with a hand injury.
Forward Antawn Jamison, Arenas and Butler give Washington a potent threesome. Jamison ended the 2006-07 season with averages of 19.8 points and a club-high 8.0 boards in 70 games. Guards Antonio Daniels, DeShawn Stevenson, forward Darius Songaila and center Brendan Haywood form a serviceable supporting cast for Washington's trio.
Center Etan Thomas required surgery to repair a leak of the aortic valve. Thomas was not cleared to play after a routine physical revealed an abnormality. The 29-year-old Thomas played in 65 games last season for the Wizards and averaged 6.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest. He could be lost for the entire season.
Washington, which has made the playoffs three straight years, selected versatile guard Nick Young of USC with the 16th overall pick in the draft. The Wizards are hopeful that the athletic Young will be able to make an immediate impact.
Forward Jarvis Hayes and guard Juan Carlos Navarro are no longer with the club. Hayes was a free agent and signed a contract with the Detroit Pistons, while the Wizards dealt the rights to the Navarro to Memphis in exchange for a conditional first-round draft pick. Washington has held the rights to Navarro since selecting him with the 40th pick of the 2002 draft.
Eddie Jordan is entering his fifth season on Washington's bench. Including a brief stint with the Sacramento Kings, Jordan owns a record of 186-239 as an NBA head coach. He is 6-14 in the postseason.
The Wizards are scheduled to visit the new-look Celtics on Friday at TD Banknorth Garden.
Washington has won three in a row and five of its last six contests against the Pacers. The Wizards have won three straight at Indiana.
10/31 10:59:29 ET