Tag Archives: Larry Bird

The Ball Is In Your Court

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Larry Bird

Following the Indiana Pacers elimination in the first round the NBA Playoffs last spring, team president Larry Bird raised some eyebrows when he decided to fire longtime head coach Frank Vogel. Vogel’s 250 wins as Pacers head coach are second in franchise history to the 529 victories of Slick Leonard. And in Vogel’s tenure with the Pacers, only the Miami Heat and small forward LeBron James prevented him from getting to the NBA Finals. The Pacers missed the playoffs in 2015 as they only had the services of small forward Paul George for six games after he suffered a broken leg while playing for the United States Men’s Basketball Team in the summer of 2014. And after the Golden State Warriors would win the NBA Championship in 2015 via the “small ball” philosophy, the 2015-2016 season would the see the Pacers get on board with that notion which included George playing power forward. George did respond by averaging 23.1 points and 7 rebounds as the Pacers appeared to be building off of something. But when Bird decided to fire Vogel, the Pacers lost their soul.

Vogel would be replaced by assistant coach Nate McMillan whose head coaching record coming into this season was 478-452. McMillan was able to lead both the Seattle Supersonics and Portland Trail Blazers to the playoffs, but there appears to be a huge disconnect with him and the current Pacers team.

Last summer Bird went out to improve the talent around George by acquiring the likes of point guard Jeff Teague and power forward Thaddeus Young. However the Pacers have been unable to get in sync all season. The Pacers record of 37-40 has them tied with the Heat for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But if the season were to end today, it would be Miami that would be heading to the postseason. The Pacers were expected to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, but instead there is a possibility that they’ll be watching the playoffs from home which all falls into the lap of Bird.

Over the past few years Bird has made some questionable moves for the Pacers which included him trading the draft rights of Kawhi Leonard to the San Antonio Spurs in 2011, along with shipping longtime small forward Danny Granger to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2014. The firing of Vogel was the cherry on top and George more than likely has not turned a blind eye to all of this.

Paul George

In 2013, George signed a five-year, $90 million extension with the Pacers. At the time life was good for Indiana as they were in the midst of consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference Finals. But since then the overall production of the Pacers has declined and George is noncommittal to signing another extension to remain in Indiana. For George’s seven-year NBA career he has averaged 17.9 points per contest, while he is chiming in with a career-high 23.2 points per game this season. George is a four-time NBA All-Star and as he’ll be 27-years of age next month, he wants to win. George is under contract with the Pacers through 2019, but if Bird doesn’t want an unhappy camper on his hands, the time fix things in Indiana is now.

Bird has tried to change with the times, but the Pacers have gotten away from their identity which is playing solid defense and grinding out games. Going back to Indiana’s last trip to the Eastern Conference Finals which came in 2014, they were second in the NBA in points allowed that season at 92.3 per contest. However this season the Pacers are surrendering 105.8 points per game which is 16th in the league. Indiana is 1-6 over their last seven games as they surrendered at least 109 points in each of those. And even if the Pacers were to make the playoffs this year, they would be a one and done in the postseason as they would have to either face the Cleveland Cavaliers or Boston Celtics in the first round.

But as good as George is, he is not a player that can carry a team as he needs to play alongside another very talented player. Teague is Indiana’s second leading scorer at 15.3 points per game, while he is averaging 7.8 assists per contest, however he is not a player who can consistently get 20 points per contest. And the same can be said about center Myles Turner who is averaging 14.4 points and 7.2 rebounds this season.

Bird is a very competitive person as we’re talking about a man who led the Celtics to three NBA Titles, while he was also a three-time league MVP. Bird is going to give it everything that he has in order to turn things around for the Pacers and even if that means parting with McMillan in order to appease George, then so be it. The Pacers already have more than $80 million committed to player salaries for next season, while the trade route is also an option for Larry Legend in order to make his team better. Bird did some pretty amazing things on the parquet floor of the Boston Garden during his playing career, and he’ll need to once again be crafty if he wants to keep George in a Pacers uniform.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

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Building Around PG-13

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Paul George

After failing to make the NBA Playoffs last year, the Indiana Pacers rebounded this season for their fifth postseason appearance in the last six years. The Pacers had a healthy Paul George in their front court this year which greatly changed the dynamic of this team. For the third time in the last four years, George led the Pacers in scoring, but he did it in a new role. We all know that George is the leader of the Pacers, but he was able to make a flawless adjustment as team president Larry Bird has decided to play more “small ball”. At 6’9″, George has the height to play power forward in the NBA, but his weight of just 220 lbs., makes him rather slender for the position. However in Bird’s system, George primarily played power forward this season instead of his typical small forward position for Indiana, and he held his own by averaging 23.1 points and 7 rebounds as he made his third NBA All-Star Game appearance. Led by George, the Pacers would finish seventh in the Eastern Conference, and they gave the Toronto Raptors all that they could handle in their first-round playoff series before bowing out in seven games. George is a bona fide star that has already helped the Pacers make the Eastern Conference Finals twice. George is only 26-years of age, and as Bird doesn’t want to waste the prime years of his NBA career by just making the playoffs, this summer will be critical as far as putting a championship caliber team around him.

Frank Vogel

Since the Pacers season ended this past Sunday night, Bird has not been fully committed to retaining head coach Frank Vogel. Vogel replaced Jim O’Brien as Pacers head coach midway through the 2010-2011 NBA season, and he has guided Indiana to the postseason in all but one year. However, Bird views the Pacers offense as stagnant being that they have never finished higher than 13th in the NBA in points per game under Vogel. Under Vogel, the Pacers have been one of the better defensive teams in the NBA which includes them being eighth in the fewest points allowed per game this season. But if Bird does ultimately decide on not retaining Vogel, you will definitely hear the name of Mark Jackson mentioned as far as succeeding him.

Mark Jackson

Jackson played 17 seasons in the NBA, with six of those years coming in a Pacers uniform which was highlighted by him helping the team reach the NBA Finals in 2000. Most recently Jackson compiled a record of 121-109 in three seasons as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, and he has been credited with laying the ground work as to what the team has become. And if Bird wants to continue revamping the Pacers philosophy which could result in bringing in a new head coach, he is going to have to look long and hard at his roster as well.

Monta Ellis

After George averaged 23.1 points per game this past season, the next closest Pacers player in points per game average was shooting guard Monta Ellis at 13.8 points per contest. Ellis and the Pacers came to an agreement on a four-year, $44 million deal last summer, but after 11 years in the NBA, he is no longer a player that can consistently put up big numbers. Point guard George Hill has been with the Pacers for the past five seasons. With Indiana, Hill has averaged 12.3 points and 3.9 assists, and although that he is serviceable, he is not a quality floor general which is something that the Pacers need. Last summer, the Pacers did draft power forward Myles Turner who as a rookie averaged 10.3 points and 5.5 rebounds as he showed signs of being the athletic big man that Bird wants to play in his system. But for the Pacers to get back to that level of being among the elite teams in the NBA, they are going to need another quality perimeter player to compliment George.

Next month’s NBA Draft will be loaded with wing players that will fit into this system which means that Bird should be able to come away with at least one player that could make an immediate impact. A potential free agent, who isn’t a superstar, but does fit what the Pacers are attempting to do is current Boston Celtics swignman Evan Turner as he is a perimeter player that can defend as well as handle the basketball. However the Pacers had Turner in 2014 and they underutilized him which led him to signing with Celtics. But would Bird now have a change of heart and attempt to lure Turner away from the Celtics and his former teammate in general manager Danny Ainge?

Larry Bird

It will be very interesting to see the moves that Bird will make over the summer as we are basically assured that this will be a different Pacers team that takes the court in October for to start the 2016-2017 NBA season as he knows how to put a quality team together.

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The Pacers Found Out How Small Title Windows Can Be

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Midway through the 2010-2011 NBA season Frank Vogel replaced Jim O’Brien as the head coach of the Indiana Pacers. In Vogel’s time with the Pacers he has led the team to the postseason every year while also upping their win total in each campaign. In the last three seasons the Pacers have been knocked out of the playoffs by the Miami Heat including the Eastern Conference Finals in the last two years. This past season the Pacers had the best record in the Eastern Conference, but it wasn’t enough for them to get by the Heat in the playoffs. The Pacers were hopeful that the upcoming season was going to be the time when they would be able to win their first NBA Championship. But Indiana is currently dealing with a bad case of Murphy’s Law.

Paul George

Small forward Paul George is the Pacers franchise player as he has led the team in scoring in the past two seasons. But the Pacers will now be without George for the upcoming season after he fractured his leg during a Team USA scrimmage last Friday night in Las Vegas. George’s injury is just the latest stroke of bad luck for the Pacers.

 

Indiana Pacers

Just prior to last season’s trade deadline in the NBA, Pacers president Larry Bird traded small forward Danny Grnager to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for swingman Evan Turner and power forward Lavoy Allen. Bird did this due to the fact that Granger had become injury prone and George had taken his spot as the Pacers starting small forward. After the season Turner became a free agent and he signed with the Boston Celtics. Shooting guard Lance Stephenson was also a free agent for the Pacers and he signed with the Charlotte Bobcats. For the upcoming NBA season the Pacers will now be without two of their top three scorers from last year’s team while they currently don’t have anyone on their roster that can provide what George did from the small forward position. George could score from the perimeter, attack the basket, defend, and rebound. George’s talent on the defensive end will be missed for the Pacers as he averaged 1.9 steals per game and this past season and he was also a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive First-Team. George’s defensive prowess is needed for the Pacers in order to for the team to hang with dynamic small forwards in the East such as LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks. The Pacers have won the Central Division in the last two years, but it will be tougher now that James is returning to the Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls are also hopeful that point guard Derrick Rose will be able to return to the form that made him the NBA’s MVP in 2011.

With George expected to be on the shelf this season the Pacers have now gone from being a top-tier team in the Eastern Conference to a team that will have to scrap in order to secure a postseason spot. The style of play that the Pacers have been accustomed to will change drastically as power forward David West and center Roy Hibbert will undoubtedly become the go-to-guys in Indiana in George’s absence..

 

Roy Hibbert

For his 11-year NBA career, West is a two-time All-Star, but he will be 34-years of age at the end of this month. Hibbert is due to earn nearly $15 million in the upcoming season, but he has never been a dominant center. For his six-year NBA career Hibbert has averaged 11.2 points and 6.7 rebounds. At 7’2″, Hibbert has the size to dominate, but I am not sure if he is dialed in mentally to take over. Hibbert would also benefit from playing with a dominant point guard which is something that the Pacers currently do not have.

As an organization the Pacers were able to win three championships in the American Basketball Association, but that success has never been able to follow them into the NBA. Since joining the NBA in 1976, the Pacers have always been a bridesmaid, but never a bride. From 1990-2006, the Pacers made the postseason 16 times. The Pacers would make the Eastern Conference Finals four times in the 1990’s but they lost each time including three times in Game 7. The Pacers finally made the NBA Finals in 2000, but they had to witness a dynasty in the making as the Los Angeles Lakers knocked them off in six games. Heading into the 2004 Eastern Conference Playoffs, the Pacers had the best record in the East, but they were unable to get past the Detroit Pistons in the conference finals. The next year the Pacers were one of the favorites to win the NBA Championship, but the “Malace at the Palace” early in the season ended that.

Now Bird and the Pacers must once again put on their thinking caps. The Eastern Conference is still a bit weak so the Pacers will still be able to contend, but it will be much harder. Due to George’s injury the NBA is expected to give the Pacers the largest salary exemption as possible in order to cushion the blow of his loss for the season. Being that George’s injury happened now the Pacers have unfortunately missed out on the big wave in free agency this summer. Bird has always been creative in putting a team together which will really be put to the test now.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

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