INDIANAPOLIS -- After a disappointing loss to the more experienced Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals, Indiana Pacers coach Rick
Carlisle said he expects some changes to be made.
"Right now, I don't think this team will be back in its exact form next year," Carlisle said Thursday. "There will be some changes, either through
free agency and the draft or the possibility of trades. There's going to be some things that are going to be different."
Exactly who stays and who goes remains to be seen.
The biggest speculation centers on forward Al Harrington, who had a breakout season as the Pacers' top reserve and sometimes starter. Harrington,
though, has expressed a strong interest in being a regular starter and may be reluctant to accept a similar role next season.
Carlisle said he may be consulted in that and other personnel decisions, but ultimately it's up to team president Larry Bird and CEO Donnie Walsh.
"If there is the opportunity for him to be a starter here, that would be great," Carlisle said of Harrington. "And if there isn't, then it may be time
for him to move on to another team. Those are decisions that are going to be made by Larry and Donnie."
Bird and Walsh met with players individually Wednesday to discuss their situations with the team.
After Tuesday's loss in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, Bird said he and Walsh would take some time to evaluate the team before making any
moves via trade or free agency.
Harrington's youth, affordable contract and considerable talent make him an attractive commodity that could yield the outside shooter or big man the
Pacers covet. Moving him also would help alleviate a surplus of small forwards -- including Harrington, Ron Artest and Jonathan Bender -- on the
"This has been kind of an unbalanced roster," Carlisle said. "There's a glut of guys at the small forward spot and there haven't been a lot of
Backup point guard Kenny Anderson is expected to head elsewhere for more playing time and Carlisle said he wants Jamison Brewer, the team's only other
free agent, to return.
Jermaine O'Neal, who will skip the Olympics in Athens to allow a slightly torn ligament in his left knee to heal, said after the loss to Detroit that
he expected some changes.
"It's a strange world in professional sports," O'Neal said. "Teams make changes. I've learned to handle what I can handle and that's just basketball.
I'm going to let Larry and Donnie and our owners handle the movement part."
The first opportunity for the Pacers to add to the team comes on June 24, when they will have the 29th pick in the draft.
In addition to any roster changes, Carlisle also views this summer as important for the team to continue the momentum of a successful season that
included a franchise-record 61 wins.
At a news conference Thursday, it was clear that Carlisle has a sense of urgency heading into his first summer with the Pacers.
"We're going to be very proactive with really attacking this summer to get ourselves as ready as we possibly can for next October," Carlisle said.
"That's where our next opportunity begins, officially."
But if you ask Carlisle, preparation for redeeming themselves and making the next step to the NBA Finals has already begun.
"The work started yesterday," Carlisle said. "It's going to be a busy summer."
[Edited on 6/3/2004 by Ben]