Hollinger's Team Forecast: Indiana Pacers

Originally Published: October 3, 2006
By John Hollinger | ESPN Insider
Go to: Offseason moves | Biggest strength | Biggest weakness | Outlook

It was a season of transition for the Pacers, as they finally gave up on the hopes that an Artest-O'Neal-Tinsley combination could make a championship run and began building toward something different.

Of course, this wasn't by design -- rather, it was forced on them by the continued insanity of Ron Artest and the physical demise of Jamaal Tinsley. The Pacers had shown unswerving loyalty to Artest despite his season-ruining suspension the season before for his role in the infamous fight in Detroit, and they expected to return to prominence with his return to the lineup.

Jermaine O'Neal
David Sherman/Getty ImagesThe injury bug hit Jermaine O'Neal and the Pacers hard.

Instead, Artest lasted only 16 games before complaining about his role and asking to be traded. The Pacers immediately put him on the inactive list and left him in exile for two months while they looked for a decent trade, finally shipping him off to Sacramento for Peja Stojakovic. While Stojakovic played fairly well as a Pacer, the saga as a whole was a crushing disappointment for the Pacers. Their title hopes were predicated on getting an All-Star-caliber performance from Artest at both ends of the floor, and that went out the window once the deal was made.