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A throng of media members besieged Indiana Pacers players and front office executives after the team’s practice today at Conseco Fieldhouse, seeking comment about the latest off-court incident involving a Pacers player. This time the focus was on forward Shawne Williams, 22. A suspect in a Tennessee murder was arrested Wednesday night while leaving Williams’ north side home. Pacers brass told Williams not to come to practice today and that he will not be traveling with the team to Toronto for a game there tomorrow. “He’s in no condition to play,” Larry Bird, Pacers president of basketball operations said of Williams. “He’s confused. He’s not all there.”
Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh emphasized that Williams was not suspended. At this point, a suspension would be beyond what the Pacers are allowed to do in accordance with the National Basketball Association’s collective bargaining agreement with players. That doesn’t mean the Pacers are sitting idly by, Walsh and Bird said. “We’ve spent an awful lot of time, especially this year, counseling our players,” Walsh told reporters after today’s practice. “When something like this happens, it reflects poorly on the player, and because the players are our responsibility, it reflects poorly on us.”
The most recent incident comes just days after a woman told police she was raped while at Pacers guard-forward Marquis Daniels’ Carmel home. Daniels is not a suspect in the case, police said. Walsh sounded concerned that the latest incidents could keep more fans away from home games. The Pacers are already last in the NBA in attendance, averaging 12,203 through the first 29 home dates. The team is attracting about 700 fewer fans per game than the next-to-last team in attendance, Memphis.
“The fact that any of our fans would stay home due to some of the things we’ve done is not good, and we want to correct that,” Walsh said. Bird sounded even more stern. But he said before final action is taken, the Pacers need to learn more about this latest incident. “We’re in a situation we’re not real happy about,” Bird said. “We want to be very clear about this, we don’t want our players hanging around murderers.”
Bird continued by saying the Pacers players need to be accountable for their actions and who they hang around. “This is supposed to be a man’s league, and [the Pacers players] need to step up and be men,” Bird said. “We need to take a look at the way things are going on around here.”