Sitting It Out In Indy

January 13, 1995|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

He hasn't always played a lot of minutes, but Duane Ferrell seemingly always has played during most of his NBA career.

But the family and friends of the Baltimore native probably were a bit disappointed a little more than a week ago when they turned on the television to watch Ferrell and the Indiana Pacers take on the Washington Bullets. Instead of seeing the small forward slashing to the basket, they saw Ferrell sitting in his sweats. He never got off the bench, a common occurrence this season -- his seventh in the NBA.

The Pacers have played 32 games, and Ferrell has played in just 20. That wasn't the way it was supposed to be this season for Ferrell, who many felt would be the first small forward off the bench, playing a pivotal role on a team that came within a victory of making the NBA Finals last season.

Thus far, Ferrell, who signed with the Pacers in the off-season as a free agent, has been patient with his view from the bench.

"When I came here I knew there was a lot of talent on this team," Ferrell said. "It's a long season. The guys ahead of me are playing well. . . . There's nothing to complain about."

But the Pacers aren't playing well. They enter tonight's game against the Bullets with two straight losses and have dropped to third place in the Central Division behind the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Charlotte Hornets.

The play has frustrated coach Larry Brown, who thought the team would be ready to turn the corner after extending the New York Knicks to an exciting seven games in last year's Eastern Conference finals.

"We've been playing terrible," Brown said. "We don't rebound, don't get loose balls, we don't run the break, we're turning the ball over. We're not getting better in any of those areas."

And that's surprising for an Indiana team that seemingly had made the right off-season moves. Many said Indiana needed a real point guard to advance, so the Pacers got Mark Jackson from the Los Angeles Clippersto replace Haywoode Workman as a starter. Ferrell was suppose to add scoring off the bench.

But the Pacers have been hurt by the injury of forward Antonio Davis, who averaged 7.7 points and 6.2 rebounds and provided muscle on Indiana's front line alongside Dale Davis and Rik Smits. Davis played only 13 games before a bulging disc in his back forced him out of the lineup. With Davis out, an overweight John Williams has been added to the Pacers' rotation.

And not Ferrell, who last season was frustrated when he sat in Atlanta. When coach Lenny Wilkens took over the team before last season, Ferrell found himself sitting more.

A steady rise in minutes over the previous three years of his career was an indication that he had arrived in the league, but suddenly with the Hawks, the Calvert Hall graduate found his role diminishing.

In Indiana, Ferrell finds himself the victim of the numbers game. It's not new to him. He was cut by the Hawks in his first season, played a year in the Continental Basketball Association, then signed a pair of 10-day contracts with Atlanta during the 1989-90 season before finally establishing a role with the team.

With his second NBA team, Ferrell still brings the same work ethic.

"Duane comes in every day and works extremely hard," Brown said. "I don't feel good about the fact that he has come here and not gotten the chance to play."

That might be changing. In Wednesday's 100-97 loss in Boston, Ferrell recorded season highs in both minutes (16) and points (eight). The night before in New York, Ferrell played 11 minutes -- the first time he had played double-digit minutes since Dec. 28.

In a season where 12 times Ferrell never got to take off his sweats, the team's recent struggles might help him gain playing time.

"[The bench players] know at some point you're going to be needed," Ferrell said. "[Sitting] is something I wasn't expecting, but I'll work with it, make the adjustment, and stay upbeat."

THE FERRELL FILE

Born: Feb. 28, 1965, in Baltimore

High school, college: Calvert Hall, Georgia Tech

Height, weight: 6-7, 215

Year, . Team, G, FGM, FGA, Pct., FTM, FTA, Pct., Reb., Ast., Pts.

1988-89, Atlanta, 41, 35, 83, .422, 30, 44, .682, 1.0, 0.2, 2.4

1989-90, Atlanta, 14, 5, 14, .357, 2, 6, .333, 0.5, 0.1, 0.9

1990-91, Atlanta, 78, 174, 356, .489, 125, 156, .801, 2.3, 0.7, 6.1

1991-92, Atlanta, 66, 331, 632, .524, 166, 218, .761, 3.2, 1.4, 12.7

1992-93, Atlanta, 82, 327, .696, .470, 176, 226, .779, 2.3, 1.6, 10.2

1993-94, Atlanta, 72, 184, 379, .485, 144, 184, .783, 1.8, 0.9, 7.1

1994-95, Indiana, 17, 14, 42, .333, 19, 23, .826, 1.0, 0.5, 3.7

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