Conrad Brunner, a legendary Indianapolis sportswriter, is the director of and main writer for Pacers.com, the team's official Web site. He also hosts a podcast on the site and follows the team as closely as anyone.
Q: How do you assess coach Rick Carlisle's performance under adversity this year?
A: I think he's certainly had more experience than he'd like in that regard, but this is where the nature of his personality serves him well. He doesn't get emotional. He gets frustrated like everyone else, but he doesn't allow it to affect him. He stays on an even keel and stays professional. He approaches people the same way. That allows the team to move on. He doesn't make excuses. He doesn't pout and he doesn't scream. He just says, "Here's who we have, this is who we play, this is what we have to do." He takes the circumstances at hand and does the best he can.
Q: How much attention do you think the players and management pay to negative local press and the notion that the team should be dismantled?
A: It's impossible to ignore it, because it is out there. As a member of a franchise, you want to know what's being said about you. And you do care, to a certain extent, what is being said. But you certainly don't let it dictate what you do. A column or a feature story or an article is not going to dictate franchise policy. It's certainly not going to dictate something as radical as entering into a total rebuilding job. That's something that hasn't been done here in well over a decade. This is a team that went from one team to another as seamlessly, probably, as has ever been done in this league. They went from that 2000 Finals team to being back in the Conference Finals three years later with an almost completely different cast of characters - without ever falling out of contention. That's how you do things and that's how the Pacers will continue to do things. There's nothing to be gained from starting over.
Q: What are the team's prospects in the second half of the season?
A: The schedule has been very road-heavy up to this point. Starting Feb. 1, they'll play seven in a row at home. That will be a great opportunity to build some momentum, some positive vibes, coming into and heading out of the All-Star Break. Honestly, I don't know that the opposition matters as much to the Pacers as the Pacers. We've seen this year, more than any other, that it doesn't matter who they're playing. It's how they're playing. If they're playing well, they can beat anybody. If not, they can lose to anybody. Being at home for those games is a great opportunity.
Q: Tell the truth. You work for the team now after years of covering them. Do you ever pick up a ball after practice and take a couple of shots on the court?
A: I can't remember what movie Clint Eastwood said it in, but he said, "A man has to know his own limitations." If I were in my driveway with neighborhood people and some kids, I'd have no hesitation shooting. But on an NBA court, with NBA players and coaches watching. No, no, no. I'll leave that to them.