Game On: Hornets @ Pacers

Published: December 20, 2010

On the NBA schedule, this game simply reads as Hornets @ Pacers, but nearly every Hornet fan will be watching the battle between point guards Darren Collison and Chris Paul. To get some insight as to how DC has faired in his first season in Indiana, along with tidbits on Posey, and other insights on tonight’s opponent, I caught up with Tom Donahue of 8 Points, 9 Seconds.

Hornets 24/7: The Pacers seem thrilled to have nabbed their PG of the future this summer, yet in several games TJ Ford has been on the court in crunch time instead of Darren Collison. What has Jim O’Brian said about that and how do fans feel on the subject?

Tim Donahue: O’Brien has mentioned that Collison is only a second-year player and needs to grow into the position. He is struggling with O’Brien’s offensive system, but the bigger problems have been at the defensive end, where Ford has been clearly superior — if you can believe that.

Many fans are displeased with this development, as they feel it impedes Collison’s development. There has not been a happy history for point guards here under Jim O’Brien, and the fan base is clearly siding with Collison here.

24/7: James Posey was thought of as a throw in or a salary dump, yet he has been a key part of Indiana’s rotation. What are the feelings about Posey in Indiana?

Tim Donahue: The feelings have been mixed. He has earned praise for his defense and veteran play, but most fans view him as taking playing time away from Josh McRoberts and, especially, Tyler Hansbrough. He’s played all but about 15 minutes this at the four position and that feeds into a pre-existing prejudice against “stretch 4’s” that dates back to when Troy Murphy was here.

Overall, he has helped the defense but hurt the offense (aside from a few quarters during which he got hot from behind the arc). He’s been a good presence, but with the 2-6 start to December, he has become a target for criticism – less because of him personally and more because of the history with O’Brien and “power” forwards here in recent years.

24/7: Dahntay Jones was signed to a reasonable contract last year, and he was supposed to be a defensive stopper and key rotation piece, yet he has only gotten 56 minutes of playing time this entire season. What has happened?

Tim Donahue: Well, the defensive stopper thing was oversold – I don’t know any real defensive stopper you can get for less than $3 mil per annum – but mostly the problem is that there are three wings (Danny Granger, Brandon Rush and Mike Dunleavy) who are clearly better than him. Throw in a first-round pick (Paul George) who needs to get at least spot minutes to begin his NBA development, and there just isn’t much time leftover.

Dahntay is an OK defender, but he kills the offense. The shorthand answer around here is that he doesn’t “space the floor,” which means he doesn’t shoot threes. That’s part of it, but the bigger problem is that he’s just an inveterate ball stopper whose only offensive skill is his willingness to attack the paint like a bull in China shop — and get similar results. The Pacers offense is predicated on motion and ball movement, and Dahntay is anathema to both.

24/7: Tyler Hansbrough was a lottery pick by Larry Bird while Josh McRoberts was a 2nd round pick, thought to be a journeyman by most, yet McRoberts is starting at power forward and providing a spark for that team. Is it possible McRoberts, not Hansbrough, is the future at power forward for the Pacers?

Tim Donahue: No. Well, maybe not a definite no, but it’s really, really unlikely that McRoberts is the future at power forward. He is a good athlete and does some things relatively well, but he’s a limited player. And it’s beginning to show more and more. The big area of concern at the moment is rebounding, something he has never been all that great at.

It’s an open question as to where Tyler fits. He does some good things, and I think he’s more likely to be a bigger part of the future than McRoberts. But I’m not sure he’s ever going to be a big-time starter. The future of the power forward position is a great big question mark for the Pacers right now.

24/7: You are the Pacers GM and the Hornets are on the phone. We already made one deal this summer, make me another offer that benefits both teams.

Tim Donahue: We give you Conseco Fieldhouse to play in. We get Chris Paul. We’ll even deliver.

Other News and Notes:

– You realize how unimportant the game of basketball is on days like today, on days when tragedy strikes. Willie Green’s sister and cousin were killed in a car accident after last night’s game, driving home after watching Willie play. Horrible tragedy and I wish Willie all the best. Tragic.

– Can’t really say anything to follow that. Does anybody want to organize some kind of Best Wishes card for Willie? Post a journal on the site and we will all sign the comments section and get it to him- something like that? Or if anybody else has an idea, go for it. It would be a great way to come together as a community for a good guy who is going through hell.


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