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Austin Croshere's jersey will never hang in the rafters at Conseco Fieldhouse. He won't get a Bentley from the franchise when he retires (which is OK, since he already owns one). He just isn't that kind of player.

Here's the kind of player he is: the kind that is ready when called upon, doesn't complain when he isn't, keeps his name off the injury report, and goes about his business with a quiet, dedicated professionalism that engenders respect within the walls of the locker room.

And it just so happens he can play a little, too.

With injuries thinning the frontcourt at the beginning of the season for the second year in a row, Croshere once again has stepped into the lineup and, as usual, performed well. He carries averages of 11.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 60 percent shooting from the field into Friday night's game against New Jersey (7:00, FSN).

"Austin has been one of the most dependable players I've been around as a head coach and I've had a lot of them," said Coach Rick Carlisle. "We know he's going to be ready. We know he's going to lock into all the things we're doing as a team. He's a hard worker and hard work pays off."

There is a certain irony to the scenario. By far the name most frequently mentioned in trade rumors for the past several years, Croshere now is the longest-tenured Pacers player on the roster, in his ninth season with the team. Just four players (Reggie Miller, Rik Smits, Vern Fleming and Dale Davis) have more service in a Pacers uniform. He also ranks fourth in franchise history on 3-pointers both made and attempted.

And yet, when the NBA announced its one-time amnesty provision as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, it was widely assumed Croshere would be the player most likely to be released by the Pacers. Instead, franchise CEO and President Donnie Walsh opted to make the retired Miller the Pacers' amnesty player. At the time, the prescient Walsh said he felt strongly the team would need Croshere.

With Jeff Foster coming back from hip, back and Achilles problems more slowly than anticipated and preseason injuries to David Harrison and Scot Pollard, Croshere suddenly jumped into the lineup.

"In order for me to produce, that means nothing more than doing what it takes to win," Croshere said. "That could simply be me reversing the ball and getting it to the people who need it. In our starting group, there are plenty of guys that can score. I don't need to concern myself with that so much as being a threat to open things up for Jermaine (O'Neal), moving the ball, making teams play defense on the second side so we get easier shots, and then holding my own on defense and in rebounding."

The example he has set in terms of quietly preparing himself for whatever role awaits also has been valuable for the team's younger players. He hasn't always been able to focus through the innumerable distractions, the constant discussion linking his name to another team, but has long since developed the resolve to put it aside.

"Early on, maybe my fourth and fifth year, I kind of over-burdened myself with things I have no control over. It got me down a little bit," he said. "At some point, I stopped worrying about things that are in my control. I have control over getting here early, staying late and working hard. And in the summers, not reading the newspapers and concerning myself with trades and buyouts and all of those types of things.

"I always felt like I could help any team in this league and I just prepare myself for an opportunity when it comes. If it was going to be a trade or a buyout, then I'd be preparing myself for the next team I played with. It just kind of has happened, through injuries and suspensions, things have ended up working out for me."

Croshere was called upon last year, as well, averaging 14.3 points and 7.9 rebounds in 22 starts – his most since the 2000-01 season. With Harrison and Pollard both back on the active roster, there could soon come a time when Carlisle opts to revert to a more traditional lineup, moving O'Neal back to power forward, either Pollard or Harrison into the starting five and Croshere back to the bench.
See the rest of the article by Conrad Brunner here.
 
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