As I have been doing recently for the Lakers games, I contacted Tom of Indy Cornrows and asked him to exchange a few questions and answers with me for the game between the Indiana Pacers and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The last time these two teams met, the Lakers lost on a last second tip by Troy Murphy. Hopefully, today’s game, includes a bit of revenge.
Either way, I sent over a few questions and received excellent responses in return. Enjoy!
LABallTalk: I saw a poll on ESPN earlier debating whether Danny Granger is a franchise player. What is your opinion on this matter? Is he going to be the primary piece that the Pacers build around?
Indy Cornrows: Granger has a ways to go before I’d consider him a franchise player although he’s certainly moving in the right direction. In the past few weeks his game has risen to a higher level, so I have to keep giving him room to develop. The missing ingredients right now are a consistent defensive effort and a nasty, killer instinct that has him demanding the ball and willing a team to victory. After signing a contract extension in the preseason he’s definitely a big piece of the Pacers rebuilding puzzle. They need more talent though and, again, Granger has some developing to do before he’s at a superstar level.
LABallTalk: How do you see the departure of Jermaine O’Neal? Has TJ Ford been what you’ve expected? Do you believe you could’ve gotten more back for him?
Indy Cornrows: Trading J.O. was critical to the Pacers rebuild, regardless of what TJ Ford or any of the other players do in a Pacer uniform. O’Neal tied up a third of the salary cap and couldn’t stay healthy, nor did he really want to be with the Pacers under Larry Bird. By trading him to Toronto, the Pacers were able to chunk up that $21 million over a few contracts giving them more flexibility this summer. T.J. Ford has been about what I expected. He runs hot and cold and struggles with bigger point guards defensively, but he’s also played a big role in a few of the precious wins the Pacers have so far. TJ’s struggling with a strained lower back so I’d like to see him healthy again with Mike Dunleavy on the floor.
The only way the Pacers could’ve done much better is if JO started the season with the Pacers and proved he was as healthy as he said he was. Obviously, we know that wouldn’t have worked out at this point, so the Pacers did fine with the trade. Again, the largets benefit was moving JO and his cap number, any positives from the players they brought in is gravy.
LABallTalk: What do you see as the realistic goal for this year, next year, and the next five years for this team? What type of moves, what position players, and what kind of contracts do you expect to see added to this team?
Indy Cornrows: Incredibly, the playoffs are not out of the question this year but there’s no playoff run in this team so, 35-40 wins at this point would be a good season. The future years depend on what roster moves are made. This year the Pacers brought in seven new players and they have a few expring contracts, including Jarrett Jack, Marquis Daniels and Rasho Nesterovic. The biggest hole right now is in the front court. Rookie Roy Hibbert has shown promise of developing into a good center but they could really use a power forward who can defend and score around the bucket. Next summer will still be tight finanacially so unless they make some trades or let all of the expiring players leave, there won’t be any drastic changes or free agent signings.
LABallTalk: Would you prefer to cut salary today and pursue a big name player in 2010 or would you prefer the 2004 Detroit Pistons approach with lots of low key guys working well together as a unit?
Indy Cornrows: I’d love to pursue a big name player but reality dictates going the route of the 2004 Pistons. Planning for a big name player in 2010 would be a big gamble not worth taking because said big name would have to want to come to Indy and the bigger markets are always a better draw for free agents. The Pacers have already developed a pretty good group of role players, so keeping the core young talent together and letting them develop as a unit is the way to go. They still need to hit it big in the lottery or have a current player make the jump in development before I’d consider the team working their way to the top of the Eastern Conference.
LABallTalk: The Pacers beat the Celtics and the Lakers already this season. What have those wins done for the morale of this team? It must be a real energy booster, but at the same time, must be somewhat depressing that they beat the great teams, and struggle against the mediocre ones.
Indy Cornrows: Those wins have really kept the season afloat because taking the whole season into account, the Pacers have struggled. But through the struggles the wins over the Lakers and Celtics and the fact that they’ve played every team tough has helped convince the players they are close and need to keep grinding. The players and coaches remain on the same page with no finger pointing or complaining, and I really think those big wins are always there to point to as an example of what the team can do when they come together and play well.