Rich Nye/Eyewitness Sports
Indianapolis - The Pacers want to put their recent troubled past behind them, on and off the court. Training camp opened Tuesday morning with a new man in charge at Conseco Fieldhouse for the first practice of the season.
The Pacers listened intently to Coach Jim O'Brien, who takes over a team that missed the playoffs last season for the first time in a decade.
"We really do need a fresh start," says Pacers forward Danny Granger. "We've been through a lot of adversity the last three years. We got a fresh coach, a totally new staff and totally different style of playing. It should be a lot of fun to watch."
O'Brien promises a team that plays hard defense and up-tempo offense. He said the first practice was outstanding with great effort.
"We gave them a lot to think about and assimilate. But I thought they did a great job. Our veterans were absolutely terrific."
The new coach stopped practice several times to make a point. But forward Shawne Williams says the players definitely got a workout.
"I shot a couple three-pointers that were short because of fatigue," says Williams. "We've been running up and down. I did more running than we did in four practices last year. I just have to keep running and get in shape, keep my head up and be willing to get coached."
"You want to create a teaching plan where there's activity," says O'Brien. "You say what you have to say. You teach what you have to teach, and then they do it. I think players at every level like to practice as long as they feel like they are getting up and down the court."
This is Jim O'Brien's third head coaching job in the NBA. In Boston and Philadelphia, he took teams out of the playoffs back into the playoffs in his first season. He plans to do the same at Indiana.
"A lot of people are doubting us," says Pacers veteran center Jeff Foster. "The hopes aren't high. We've got a lot to prove to a lot of people. These guys are all hungry and wanting to win, and Coach O'Brien is hungry, too. It makes for a great challenge for us and a great opportunity ahead."
Training camp opens with a week of two-a-day practices, morning and night. The Pacers first preseason game is Wednesday, October 10, against New Orleans at 7:00 p.m. at Conseco Fieldhouse.
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