Enter 2007- the Pacers are a PR disaster, but they have a new coach who may be just the guy for the roster they have, and the guy with the system to really unleash the talent on the squad, and nearly every game is on tv. Ron Artest is long gone. Stephen Jackson is gone. Jamaal Tinsley is still here, and the fans are not happy about it. But, quietly the Pacers are quietly adjusting to the new system and Tinsley is the centerpiece of the team, playing up to his contract finally. Jermaine O’Neal’s purported unhappiness starts to disappear after he rests his knee for some games, and the momentum is building behind the positive play of the team, putting them maybe in position to win some fans back.
And then Tinsley, now a big leader on the team, decides to step out in the middle of a few days off to the wrong part of town. Goes with his brothers, a couple friends, and a pacers employee and Larry Bird’s friend (you think he’s not there to keep an eye on things?) to an R. Kelly Concert, watches the Mayweather – Hatton fight, and then makes the decision after midnight to head to a west 38th street club where the after party for the concert is being held. When word hits the Tinsley group that a fight broke out earlier, they leave immediately, but when they get back to their cars, some real thugs are waiting, and they want to party with the rich guys. When told they’re just heading home, said thugs are reported to have said ‘We’re going to party with you whether you like it or not.’ Words exchanged, high speed chase downtown, Larry Bird’s friend shot in the elbow. Everyone lucky to be alive.
In the aftermath, the fan base reaction has been mostly on the level of another club rio incident, when really the only thing Tinsley is guilty of is being out too late and at the wrong club. He and his group made every effort to avoid trouble, and yet is fired on by an assault rifle, but he’s ‘in trouble again’ and the fans around town who haven’t seen the turnaround this season and have their mind made up on the guy want him gone. Oh, and trade Jermaine while you’re at it! At the very least you probably won’t see any Pacers go anywhere remotely sketchy again soon, at least I hope not. For somebody who’s been won over by the team’s great effort and play on the floor, this is the most frustrating thing that can happen because it’ll keep people from tuning in to watch the turnaround. And Jamaal Tinsley did nothing illegal.
I guess all I can do is keep watching the games, and telling people how things are different this year. And watch as Jermaine O’Neal returns to form and looks like a happy player on the floor again now that he doesn’t have to carry the whole team on his back. Even Mike Dunleavy is putting up career numbers and looking like a solid player and I hated the guy last season. I guess Donnie Walsh was right to make the trade he did, the ingredients just needed a different chef. And did I mention the games are much more fun to watch now? Give it a shot former Pacer fan, tune into FSN, and read Indy Cornrows. Tonight you would’ve seen Troy Murphy get half punched in the face and also ejected, and watched the Pacers come from 16 down to winning convincingly. It’s hard not to be entertained by that.