Following their worst regular season mark in 8 years, Indy have determined they cannot fire Jermaine O’Neal 12 players, and have punished Rick Carlisle, instead. From the Indianapolis Star’s Mike Wells.

Team president Larry Bird announced the decision during a 2 p.m. news conference at Conseco Fieldhouse.”It’s time for a new era. We shouln’t point fingers at anyone,” Bird said.

“We’re all at fault. If you want to blame somebody, you have to blame the people at the top. I understand that. It™s part of the business.

œThere were a lot of things that went on here in the last three years that were embarrassing. It hurts, being from Indiana. I had a major problem with a lot of it. And we can™t have that.

œSo we™re going to get the right players with skills and the right players to build our community. And we™re going to build from that.

Bird said he and Carlisle, old friends even before working together with the Pacers, agreed it was time to part ways.

œThe truth is, we sat down, I asked him and he said, look, maybe it™s time for me to go. And we went from there.

Bird said he wasn™t surprised.

œI know Rick. I think in the last few years, everything that™s happened, it wears on you, he said.

œAnd I think after time it just gets to the point where (Carlisle thinks) ˜Maybe I should move on, maybe you guys should go in a different direction.™

Can you imagine what Dave Feschuk would’ve written about Sam Mitchell had the Raptors lost Game 2?

As Leandro Barbosa continues to expose Smush Parker, the Arizona Republic’s Ed Bickley is a tad giddy over the Suns’ scary 126-98 win over the Lakers last night.

How interesting that the Suns have taken over the first two games with Nash, their two-time MVP, on the bench. And both times, it was Barbosa who breached every line of Lakers defense.

Quickly becoming a one-man fast break and a cult hero in Phoenix – this year’s version of Raja Bell – Barbosa has made the Lakers look slower than the lunchtime crowd at the YMCA. By halftime of Game 2, Barbosa had 43 points in 49½ minutes of total action. By contrast, Bryant had 52 points in 64½ minutes.

“Barbosa seems to be the key right now to what we have to do defensively,” Jackson said.

Imagine that. Then again, the playoffs barely have started, and it is amazing how quickly the landscape has changed. It wasn’t long ago that D’Antoni was ripped for not resting his star players in the last two regular-season games, a strategy employed by both Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Mavericks coach Avery Johnson.

Well, San Antonio already has lost home-court advantage, and in Dallas, where the best team in basketball is adjusting to a No. 8 seed, the tension is thick, and Johnson faces myriad problems.

Johnson chose to sit his key performers in a road game against the Warriors, even though a victory could have helped eliminated Golden State from the playoffs. Remember the bravado back then, how Johnson claimed he would fine Dirk Nowitzki if his MVP candidate even showed up at the airport?

That bravado has disappeared. It seems to have resurfaced in Phoenix almost overnight. Not that anyone is complaining.