Pacers head to remote locale for exhibition game

Friday, October 22nd 2004, 8:59 pm
By: News On 6

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ One of the many perks of playing in the NBA is the chance to travel to exotic locales throughout the country like Miami, Los Angeles, New York and Bismarck, N.D.

Wait a minute? Bismarck?

That's exactly where the Indiana Pacers are headed for a preseason game Saturday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

That information was news to Pacers forward Ron Artest.

``That's the name of it?'' Artest said when asked if he had ever been to the capital of North Dakota.

The game is considered a home game for the Timberwolves, who are trying to expand their fan base to a state that does not have a professional franchise in any sport.

This will be the New York native's first trip to Bismarck, but he said he is looking forward to seeing what North Dakota has to offer.

``I like these,'' Artest said of playing exhibition games in smaller towns. ``You get a chance to go places that don't have NBA teams. It gives people who like the NBA a chance to see some of their favorite players.''

Artest said his basketball career has taken him to some unique places over the years, but ``this might be the oddest.''

It's all part of the NBA's quest to draw more fans to the league and the games, which is just fine with coach Rick Carlisle.

``These trips to remote sites are important for our league,'' Carlisle said. ``It gives people a chance to see our game in person and our players in person. That's important to continue to promote the game.''

The trip also marks the beginning of a particularly tough stretch of five games in seven nights. After playing the Timberwolves in Bismarck, the Pacers head to Denver on Sunday, then host Memphis on Tuesday, Chicago on Wednesday and the Nuggets on Oct. 29.

Carlisle's management skills will be tested as he continues to deal with injuries to his front court.

Jonathan Bender (knee) and David Harrison (shoulder) will not make the trip, and Jermaine O'Neal (foot) could be held out until the regular season opens on Nov. 3. Center Jeff Foster (hip) did not practice on Friday and probably will not play on Saturday, Carlisle said.

To bridge the gap, free agents Randy Holcomb and John Edwards will see more playing time, as will second-year forward James Jones.

``We need guys to maintain or increase their level of conditioning, but we don't want to wear anybody out,'' Carlisle said.