Brawl at Palace changed everything for Pacers
Old 11-20-2009, 10:54 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Brawl at Palace changed everything for Pacers

I can't believe five years have already passed since it happened.

“It really hurt us in so many ways,” Walsh said. “We had a championship-caliber team that year. Then, for the next few years, our guys had to go to court, had to deal with the legal stuff. That fractured the organization.”

Walsh made trips to New York to appeal for leniency from the commissioner. There was none forthcoming. “I thought we were singled out,” he says now. “No other team got punished. But they said they had to come down hard on us. And they did.”

Bird said through team mouthpiece David Benner that he would prefer not to revisit the moment. “We’ve moved on,” he said. Who can blame him? Carlisle (Dallas) and Walsh (New York) have moved on as well. Artest (three teams), Jackson (two teams) and O’Neal (two teams) have moved on, too. It’s Bird’s baby now, and he is trying to rebuild the team, brick by brick, starting with the public image and extending to the actual performance on the court.

But as he said to Yahoo! Sports last winter, “I knew it was going to be long time [to recover]. The problem for us here is we lived it every single day. Other teams, they saw it and then went about their business. It didn’t affect them. They forgot about it. But we didn’t. We couldn’t. It hurt this franchise big-time.”

The Pacers had hoped for a seamless transition the following season, with everyone back. Bird posed with Artest for a Sports Illustrated cover piece. But Artest, who had been publicly backed by his teammates, soon was demanding a trade. “That was it,” said Walsh, who basically benched Artest for a month before shipping him to the Sacramento Kings for Peja Stojakovic(notes). “That really bothered me.” O’Neal returned and promptly got hurt – again. He would miss 83 games – more than a full season – over the next three years before being traded to Toronto. Jackson returned and lasted only one more full season before being traded to the Warriors. He was dealt to the Charlotte Bobcats earlier this week after, yup, demanding to be traded.

And as the players went, so, too, did the franchise’s image and sustained record of excellence. In Carlisle’s penultimate season, the year after the incident, the Pacers finished 41-41 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. That was the year of the Artest trade, the year that O’Neal could go only 51 games and the franchise’s first season since 1987-88 without Reggie Miller, who had retired. That season marked the 16th time in 17 years Indiana had qualified for the playoffs, highlighted by the 2000 trip to the NBA Finals. The Pacers haven’t come close to the postseason since, winning 35, 36 and 36 games the last three seasons.

LINK - Yahoo!
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Old 11-20-2009, 12:11 PM   #2 (permalink)
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LOL, I can't believe we're still talking about it. Yes, things weren't the same after that but I seriously think a lot of those issues were coming regardless.
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