Pacers need growth spurt

The Pacers will finally mature into a true East title contender if Al Harrington and Jonathan Bender grow up.

Updated: October 20, 2003, 1:56 PM ET
By Chad Ford |
Editor's note: Here's a glimpse of the good -- and the bad -- that could happen to the 2003-04 Indiana Pacers.

Rick Carlisle
Rick Carlisle, right, won't treat Jamaal Tinsley and Indy's young talent like kids.
Best Case Scenario
Three things need to happen for the Pacers to compete for the top seed in the Eastern Conference this season.

1. The team finally grows up. Isiah Thomas used the "we're the youngest team in the league" crutch until it got old. Anyone could see the potential. Their 37-15 start last season reminded everyone that the Pacers had arguably the most talent of any team in the East. Their 11-19 finish highlighted just how immature the team still was. One of the reasons Larry Bird and Rick Carlisle were brought in was to infuse some maturity and tough love in this team. If it works, there's no reason they can't sustain the clip they were on during the first half of last season.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer