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One-on-one

Reggie Miller, Indiana Pacers

NBA Media Conference Call: Nov.25, 1997

Q: Reggie, what types of things do you need to work on to get the team headed in the right direction?

A: There is no question that we need to work on our late-game situations. I think out of our six losses . . . they have really come in the last four or five minutes (of the game) when either we've been leading the game, or have been tied or maybe a point behind.

Q: What has Larry Bird meant to the Pacers, and what are your thoughts on his coaching abilities?

A: If anyone (on the team) is ecstatic to have coach Bird here, it's myself. He is a very demanding coach, it shows in practice. We go 21/2 hours everyday, no matter what the situation is. He is putting his all into his coaching as much as he put his all into playing.

Q: Have you learned a lot about him as a person? Is he different than you imagined?

A: To tell you the truth, one of the hardest things is separating coach Bird from the legend. Because he is running you to death in practice and he's teaching in practice and then you go home and turn on Classic Sports (Network) and there he is every single night . . . In my mind, sometimes, I get kind of mixed up because I really and truly cannot believe this guy is my coach.

Q: The Pacers have had such a great rivalry with the Chicago Bulls during the last 10 years. With what is going on with them now and the looming retirement of Michael Jordan and perhaps the departure of Scottie Pippen, will the rivalry fade?

A: Any time No. 23 (Jordan) or No. 33 (Pippen) steps onto the floor, we've got to have a type of respect for them . . . . We've had some great games in years past. They are the reigning champions, and let's face it, they are still the Chicago Bulls and Jordan is still capable of 50-point performances. In my eyes, yes, the rivalry is still there.

Q: Looking into the future, can you imagine how different the Bulls will be without Michael?

A: . . . Everyone keeps on saying, `This is his last year, last year, last year . . .' and he keeps on coming back. I'm not going to talk about the future, for us the future is right now. If you are going to win an NBA Championship, it has to go through Chicago.

Q: When you hear players like Mitch Richmond and Scottie Pippen come out and publicly say they want out of a team, what is your reaction? What does that do to team chemistry?

A: I'm sure it's tough on the rest of the players on their teams. They are individuals and they've got to speak their minds. It's unfortunate, but they are speaking their minds and they are free to do that.

Q: How has free agency affected professional basketball?

A: I think because of free agency within the last five or six years, there is a lot more parity in the league . . . .

Q: What is good about free agency, from a player's perspective?

A: I think the only (good) thing about free agency is the chance that you probably command your own price . . . . I don't like (seeing) players jump from team to team, because how do kids get a chance to identify with any of the players, when they keep hopping from uniform to uniform?

Q: In the early 1990s, the Pacers were one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Is this current team now going in the right direction to really compete in the conference again?

A: Yeah, I agree that we are headed in the right direction. I think we have a good core group of guys here. We've got players on this team who are willing to make that sacrifice to go to the next level. I feel that we can compete with any team in the league.