OK...there aren't too many of you out there...
but if you're old school, perhaps you'll enjoy tonight's pre-season game...if you can even watch it.
"Slick" returns to bench in Coliseum tribute
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has declared Wednesday "Pacers Blue and Gold Day" to support the team's preseason opener in Pepsi Coliseum against New Orleans. Another pattern might've been just as appropriate: plaid.
That's because Bob "Slick" Leonard, who coached the Pacers to three ABA titles while they called the Coliseum home from 1967-74 will serve as the team's honorary coach for the first quarter against the Hornets. The idea came from Coach Jim O'Brien, who thought the gesture a fitting tribute to the man whose career victory total – 529 – hangs from the rafters of Conseco Fieldhouse.
"We're getting back to Pepsi (Coliseum) and Slick is an important part of this organization and tradition," O'Brien said. "I just thought it would be great to have him coach the team and go back to the old days. I just thought it would be fun -- and another way of saying to a guy that's been so important to our tradition that we remember all he's done for us."
Leonard was known for his flamboyant wardrobe, fiery temperament and on-the-fly coaching style during his heyday. He coached the Pacers for more than seven ABA seasons and the first four in the NBA. No other Pacers coach has reached even half his career victory total.
"He's used to winning in that building and since there’s a little bit of nostalgia going back to the Pepsi Coliseum we thought it would be a great idea to have Bob coach," O'Brien said. "It’ll be fun. Guys on the team know. … Our guys love him and it’ll be fun for him to coach them."
The game will mark the Pacers' first return to their original home since leaving for Market Square Arena for the 1974-75 season. They moved to Conseco Fieldhouse beginning with 1999-2000. When the game was first announced, veteran Jeff Foster said he had some misgivings because he wasn't sure how ABA legends like Leonard and Mel Daniels would react.
"At first I had some hesitation about it because I was talking to Mel Daniels and Slick and asking them their memories about it, and how they felt about us going in there playing because they were the last team to play there," Foster said. "They were wondering about it but I think they're excited for us to get in there and kind of experience what the ABA guys experienced back in the day. So we're all excited about it."
Foster, however, was surprised to learn he'd have the pleasure of playing for Leonard, who normally serves as the Pacers' radio analyst. The news was broken to him by the media after practice Tuesday.
"Are y'all being serious? No he's not. Wow. I thought you were joking," Foster said with a big smile. "This is awesome. Slick's coaching the first quarter tomorrow? This is awesome. Awesome. What's he wearing? Does he have to wear polyester? Is that the deal?"
Probably not, but O'Brien is considering it.
"I am wearing a plaid leisure suit the second, third and fourth quarters, absolutely," he said.
O'Brien experimenting with starting lineup
With two starters out, O'Brien is taking the opportunity to experiment with different starting lineup combinations early in the preseason. T.J. Ford, Marquis Daniels, Danny Granger, Austin Croshere and Rasho Nesterovic will start against the Hornets – but not Friday against the Bulls in Fort Wayne, Ind.
O'Brien said he would "change the starting lineup up every preseason game" and that veterans would be limited to 24 minutes of playing time, but not rookies.
"Nobody is going to play any more than 24 minutes," he said. "A lot of guys will pay lesser minutes but we’re going to try to get our rookies during the preseason a lot of playing time. When I say no one is going to play more than 24, they (rookies) might play more than 24 if I can get them on the court.
Projected starters Mike Dunleavy (sore right knee) and Troy Murphy (sore left ankle) won't play. Neither will reserve Travis Diener (sore left foot).
"I want to see different combinations of guys, when they start, when they come off the bench," O'Brien said. "And we don’t have a set lineup right now, clearly, because we have some key guys that are out.
"The bottom line is when we keep score we want to win. Whatever we’re doing from a standpoint of developing young guys and seeing where we are offensively and defensively as we grow as a team, we still want to be on the positive side of the ledger at the end. So we’re looking at combinations. We’re looking at rookies. We want guys to grow, especially rookies and Josh McRoberts, see how they do with NBA officials and against NBA talent."
Fast breaks …
In declaring Wednesday "Pacers Blue and Gold Day," Ballard encouraged local residents to wear the team's colors and attend the game to show their support. "I am so proud that the Pacers organization calls Indianapolis home," Ballard said in a prepared statement, "and I encourage all citizens to show their support for the team in their upcoming game by sporting their blue and gold."
Dunleavy, Murphy and Diener are all expected to miss Friday's game in Allen County War Memorial Coliseum against the Bulls, as well. The Pacers have four preseason games next week, beginning Monday in Memphis. They play at Conseco Fieldhouse Wednesday against Dallas and Friday against Memphis before hitting the road for their final three preseason games.
The Hornets are coming off a 56-win season and a playoff run that extended to Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against San Antonio. Point guard Chris Paul will offer a strong early measuring stick for the Pacers' improving perimeter defense, while explosive forward David West will challenge the frontcourt.