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BASKETBALL NOTES

Pacers are shuffling deck

Indiana taking team in a new direction

On Thursday, the Indiana Pacers did not make a deal. That almost constitutes news these days.

``I feel punch-drunk from all the contracts we've done and deals we've made," said Pacers president Donnie Walsh.

Indiana has traded Peja Stojakovic to New Orleans/Oklahoma City July 12 for, basically, a $7.5 million trade exception it hopes to use to bag Al Harrington in a sign-and-trade deal with Atlanta. It traded Austin Croshere to the Mavericks for Marquis Daniels the same day . Last Monday, the Pacers traded Anthony Johnson, last seen scoring 40 points in a playoff series-ending loss to New Jersey, to Dallas for Darrell Armstrong and two others. It lost Fred Jones to free agency (Toronto) Wednesday . It bagged a couple of promising kids in the draft. It signed Maceo Baston, who has extensive international experience, Friday.

What does it all mean?

``It means we weren't pleased with the team last year so we decided to change it," Walsh said. ``We're going to change our style and try to have a different kind of team, more athletic, one that plays up-tempo. And we wanted to change the makeup."

The Stojakovic loss was viewed as a big one, given the team had traded Ron Artest for the Serbian sharpshooter. But the Pacers could get Harrington instead, which would make the thing easier to swallow, and they had a reason for not re-signing Stojakovic to a rich, long-term deal (he ended up getting $62.64 million from the Hornets over five years).

``I had made up my mind on Peja," Walsh said. ``We would have had to commit to five or six years with him and it was going to tie us up financially, giving us very little flexibility. And, in the end, we'd still have the same team. That's why we decided not to do it."

Johnson was moved to free up the logjam at point guard. Walsh said the three candidates -- Jamaal Tinsley, Johnson, and Sarunas Jasikevicius -- all felt like they should be playing. Johnson was the most marketable because Tinsley is an annual first-teamer on the All-Injury Squad (112 games missed over the last three years) and no one quite knows yet what to make of Jasikevicius. Former Celtic Orien Greene also has signed with Indy, although he did not play in the Pacers' recent summer league.

With the arrival of Daniels, Walsh withdrew his offer to Jones, making Jones an unrestricted free agent. (Teams make offers to restricted free agents, which Jones had been, to keep matching rights.) All in all, there are eight new names on the Indiana roster, including draftees Shawne Williams and James White.

``There is some youth, but it will be coming off the bench, which I like," Walsh said.

The Pacers executive also addressed a few other issues.

  • Jermaine O'Neal's status: ``We're not going to trade Jermaine," Walsh said. ``There are only a few players you would even consider [trading O'Neal for]. Big is big. Big and athletic is even better. Jermaine has been here [at the Pacers' workout site] every day and is working his tail off. He said he would do that and he's doing it."

  • Rick Carlisle's status: ``We're going to give him the security," Walsh said. ``I think he has earned that." Carlisle is going into the final year of his contract and, these days, anyway, coaches don't like to do that because it makes them appear to be lame ducks. Walsh thinks that's rubbish: ``Back when I coached [briefly, in the 1970s], if you had a year left, you coached that year or the owner would tell you to [leave]. But I understand it's different now. We'll get to this once we've finished [the personnel moves]." Carlisle drew some heat for being too rigid with the Indiana offense. You can be sure that the Pacers will want him to loosen things up with their new cast of characters.

  • Jasikevicius: He was considered to be a marquee signing last year but struggled in making the transition from international basketball (most recently at Maccabi Tel Aviv, where Baston was a teammate) to the NBA. Walsh said he almost traded Jasikevicius recently but decided not to do the deal once he found a home for Johnson. ``I don't think he showed what he can really do last year," Walsh said. ``That's because we usually walked the ball up the floor. I think up-tempo is more his kind of game. We'll see."

  • Good friend Larry Brown: ``I told him when I saw him in Orlando [at the pre-draft camp] to take a year off, get yourself straightened out, and soon they'll be lining up outside your door to have you come and be their coach."

    For sale: Philadelphia 76ers

    One of the league's true flagship franchises may be available.

    According to a usually well informed NBA source, the Philadelphia 76ers are for sale.

    The 76ers are owned by Comcast Spectacor, which also owns the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers, an American Hockey League team, three minor league affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles, the Wachovia Center (home of the Sixers) and the adjacent Spectrum (former home of the Sixers), and a regional 24-hour sports programming network.

    Another NBA source indicated many of the current employees believe a sale is on the way, although with confidentiality agreements, these things are often hard to nail down.

    The Sixers' announced attendance was down about 7.5 percent last season and the Allen Iverson-Chris Webber marriage seems to be working about as well as the Julia Roberts-Lyle Lovett union did.

  • Ed Snider, who founded the Flyers in 1966, is Comcast Spectacor's chairman and chairman of the Sixers.

    The Sixers referred queries to Comcast Spectacor, where president Peter Luukko said through a spokesman via e-mail, ``We receive expressions of interest from time to time.

    ``No one has made us an offer and we're not actively selling the team."

    Will he elect to be Charles in charge?

    If you want to get first dibs at potential Alabama gubernatorial hopeful Charles Barkley, your day has come.

    Barkley, who will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame in September, will be at the Hall in Springfield Wednesday to speak on a variety of topics and then take questions from the audience.

    Sir Charles is pushing his new book, ``Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man?" According to the Hall, the book is a ``candid collection of 13 interviews by Barkley with prominent Americans like Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Tiger Woods, Morgan Freeman, and comedian George Lopez on the subject of race."

    Barkley has talked in the past of entering politics in his native state, but previously he had said he would do so as a Republican. He says now he has changed his affiliation to the Democratic party because the Republicans ``have lost their minds."

    Barkley said he believes he was put on earth to do more than play basketball and stockpile money. ``I really want to help people improve their lives, and what's left is for me to decide how best to do that."

    Etc.

    A real kicker
    Paul Pierce's new deal, which tops out at $21,513,521 in 2010-11 (his option year), also carries an 8 percent trade kicker. (In 2009-10, he will make only $204,288 less than Shaquille O'Neal, who pockets a cool $20 million.) LeBron James (15 percent), Dwyane Wade (15 percent), and Carmelo Anthony (5 percent) also have trade kickers in their new maximum extensions. Ben Wallace's four-year, $60 million deal with the Bulls starts at $16 million and, in the fourth year, drops to $14 million. Matt Harpring's new deal with the Jazz is for $25 million over four years, but in the final year, Harpring would collect only $2.5 million instead of the negotiated $6.5 million if he is unable to play a certain number of games because of a right knee injury.

    Double the threat
    Pau Gasol's younger brother, Marc, 21, may join his sibling on the Spanish national team for next month's World Championships in Japan. That would be a first; the two Gasols have never been teammates on the national squad. Marc Gasol, who plays professionally in Spain for FC Barcelona, will be competing for the final spot on the Spanish team with Eduardo Hernandez-Sonseca. The position had been expected to go to Fran Vazquez, last year's Orlando Magic lottery pick, who withdrew with a back injury. The decision should come this week after a Spain-China ``friendly" today in Valencia. Pau Gasol, 26, played a big role on Spain's Olympic team two years ago, which stormed through the preliminary rounds with an undefeated record before losing to the United States in the first game of the medal round.

    Arenas on cusp of dream
    Fourteen NBA teams are represented by the 15 players still left standing for the US national team that will compete in the World Championships. Which team boasts two candidates? The Washington Wizards, who are represented by Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas. (Phoenix would have had two, as well, Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, but Marion's sore knee kept him off the list.) ``It's a big honor -- a dream come true," Arenas said. ``As kids, we all watched the '92 Olympics with Michael Jordan and wanted to be a part of it. Now I've got my chance. One of my biggest dreams growing up was to be an Olympian. I had a poster with Michael Jordan, Magic, Bird, Barkley, Ewing . . . they're leaning over the fence and you can just see their names on their uniforms. I had a Penny Hardaway No. 6 Olympic jersey, a Grant Hill jersey . . . now it's my turn. Someone's going to be wearing my jersey." Maybe. There are still three more ``cuts" coming, although coach Mike Krzyzewski and USA Basketball consigliere Jerry Colangelo don't like to use that word because the players still remain on the roster. Asked what it's like to be ``trying out" for the team, Jamison said: ``I can't remember the last time I had to try out for anything. Here's a situation where this is the biggest stage, but I never doubted myself. There are a lot of big-time guys, like LeBron, but to be put on the stage with the best, and to come out of here as a finalist, is very gratifying for me."

    Coach K goes with the flow
    Krzyzewski artfully deflected a query last week when he was asked to name a starting five for the Yanks. (Considering how he doesn't even have a final roster yet, that question was a tad ill-timed.) ``There won't be a starting five," Krzyzewski said. ``I think it's important if we're going to play all 12 guys that the player ego of being able to play at your best has got to be high. And designating five guys? I don't know them well enough. One day, I might want to change it. What does that do? I'd rather keep it fluid. We'll have different starting lineups and we would expect that each guy that starts a quarter feels like he's a starter. Everyone's a role player. I don't want them thinking they're the 12th man. I want them thinking that they have USA on the front [of their jersey] and I want to play my butt off." In Athens, Larry Brown went with the same starting five for all eight games: Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Tim Duncan, Lamar Odom, and Richard Jefferson. The team went 5-3. Odom is the only one from that unit on the current roster, but he has pulled out of the current training sessions for personal reasons.

    Material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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