INDIANAPOLIS -- New Indiana Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said telling the players what's expected of them away from the basketball court will be his first priority on Tuesday, the first day of training camp.
While most of the team was smiling for the camera Monday afternoon during the Pacers' media day, second-year forward Shawne Williams was in court pleading guilty to the misdemeanor charge of driving without ever having received a license.
Because of him, the Pacers, as usual, spent a lot of time talking about non-basketball related issues.
It's a trend O'Brien doesn't intend to ignore.
"We will address that before a ball dribbles tomorrow morning," O'Brien said.
Last year, Stephen Jackson was among those involved in a fight outside of an Indianapolis strip club during training camp, leading the Pacers to trade him to Golden State. Jamaal Tinsley and Marquis Daniels face a trial in December about a Feb. 6 fight at an Indianapolis bar.
All-Star forward Jermaine O'Neal said there will be little tolerance for the kind of mistakes that have dogged the franchise since the brawl between the Pacers and Detroit Pistons fans in Nov. 2004.
"If anybody decides to do anything extra, then they'll be left behind," O'Neal said. "We just can't afford to do it. Once you find yourself waiting on guys and making sure they're right, that's when you lose focus on the actual game."
O'Brien wants to make it clear that after his speech, he expects the focus to be entirely on improving last year's 35-47 record and returning to the playoffs after sitting out for the first time in a decade.
Team president Larry Bird sent a message by suspending Williams for the first three games of this season.
The Pacers can't afford distractions because everything is new. Gone is Rick Carlisle and his structured system. Now, O'Brien will implement a free-flowing, up-tempo offense that will emphasize 3-point shooting.
"I felt like Rick was a great coach, a great x's and o's coach," O'Neal said. "I think the difference between coach O'Brien and Rick is the ability to communicate away from basketball. I think his relationship with the players is going to put us on track this year."
O'Brien is excited about coaching again after sitting out for two years.
In Boston and Philadelphia, he led teams that had losing records before he took over to the playoffs his first season. He coached Boston into the conference finals in 2001-2002, and has a 182-158 record in five seasons as an NBA head coach.
"I really missed practices at an unbelievable level," he said. "I personally could not be more excited to walk on that court and start teaching and start helping to build a team."
Indiana ranked 23rd out of 30 teams in 3-point shooting last year and was the worst field-goal shooting team in the league. The Pacers added guards Kareem Rush, Andre Owens, Stephen Graham and Travis Diener in the offseason to help fill the perimeter shooting void.
"They're not the biggest names, but those guys are people who kind of remind me a lot of myself," O'Neal said. "Guys that have kind of been outcast and not really given the opportunity to show people what they can do, and are really, really hungry."
O'Neal's only prediction was that the team would be better than the media expects.
"You just get a different vibe," he said. "It's almost like Christmas. When you're 8, that day before, you get that feeling in your stomach that there might be something special under that tree."