In a surprising turn of events Pacers’ President Larry Bird has stepped down from his role with the team. Let’s take a look at five reasons why the Pacers might be better off without Bird.
Every time the camera panned to Larry Bird sitting in the stands during the NBA Playoffs, the Pacers’ President looked unsatisfied, always shaking his head in disbelief at Indiana’s performance. Even for the casual fan, you could tell that Bird didn’t like what he was seeing.
But no one thought it would lead to his resignation. Bird, 60, joined the team in 2003 as their President of Basketball Operations. He retired for one season in 2012, but returned immediately to run the day-to-day operations of the Pacers.
Under his watch, Indiana has had some talented teams, but none of them were serious contenders to ever win an NBA Championship, at least not while LeBron James still played in the Eastern Conference. His best chance might have come in 2011-12, when his Indiana Pacers fell to the Miami Heat in the playoffs. He ended up winning Executive of the Year for his role in their success that year.
Since that point in time, Bird and the Pacers have routinely found themselves eliminated from the postseason by LeBron teams and battling for relevancy in a weaker Eastern Conference.
The Pacers have big decisions to make this offseason, as franchise leader Paul George seems unhappy and is just a year away from a free agency. They also have a lot of aging veterans on the roster that might have peaked.
With Larry Bird stepping down, it only magnifies the importance of this offseason for the Pacers. Let’s look at five reasons why the Pacers could be better off without their ex-President.
5. Convincing Paul George
The path to a championship as a small-market team, like Indiana, is plain, although difficult. Draft a superstar, surround him with complementary stars and ride them to a ‘ship. Big free-agents don’t typically sign with teams in small markets during free agency.
So if you’re Larry Bird, you’ve done a great job in identifying talent though the draft and taking Paul George. The No. 1 offseason priority for the Pacers and Bird’s replacement, Kevin Pritchard should be to find George the help he needs to compete for championships. The Pacers need to keep him and the way Bird included him in trade talks this year seemed to have created a rift. It seems like George wants out and it became glaringly obvious in the playoffs as he kept blaming his teammates after every loss.
It’s not that George and Bird had a poor personal relationship, in fact, George looksedup to Bird as a player and professional. It’s due to Bird’s inability to build a championship roster that may have had George thinking again.
George wanting to come home to Los Angeles is a great story, but if Indiana was competing for titles consistently, the Pacers’ forward wouldn’t ever leave them. Bird’s draft picks and veteran free-agent picks haven’t helped convince George that he can go toe-to-toe with LeBron and the Cavaliers and that’s Bird’s biggest knock.
The Pacers still might lose George, but without Larry Bird at the helm, there’s a better chance now that they can convince the Pacers’ superstar to sign a long-term contract there.