Pacers' goal: 20 wins by Jan. 31

Until they return to near full-strength, the Pacers should shoot to win at least 20 games by the end of January.

Originally Published: December 22, 2004
By George Karl | ESPN Insider
It's been a month since suspensions came down in the wake of the Nov. 19 brawl between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons. That time frame provides a good vantage point to assess the state of the suspension-challenged Pacers.

The Pacers, of course, drew the longest suspensions after the brawl: Ron Artest for the rest of the season and the entire playoffs, Stephen Jackson for 30 games and Jermaine O'Neal for 25. The longest suspension for Detroit was Ben Wallace (six games).

An arbitrator ruled Wednesday to reduce O'Neal's suspension by 10 games. If the NBA recognizes the ruling, O'Neal would be eligible to play Christmas Day when the Pacers host the Pistons, the teams' first meeting since the brawl (Saturday, ESPN, 12:30 p.m ET). The other suspensions were upheld.

The NBA has filed a lawsuit challenging the arbitrator's authority, so whether O'Neal actually plays on Christmas is questionable.

As they wait out the suspensions, the key for the Pacers is to keep a positive attitude. They've gone 5-9 since the brawl, including a seven-game losing streak, but they're 12-11 overall. The Pacers are tied with the Pistons (8-7 since the brawl) for second place in the Eastern Conference's Central Division.

Even when the Pacers lose, if they're doing the right things they need to stay positive and keep their heads above water until the end of January.