Posted Aug 18 2010 8:04AM
Larry Bird has always had a flair for the dramatic, all those last-second buckets and, of course, stealing Isiah Thomas' inbound pass at the end of Game 5 in the 1987 Eastern Conference finals.
But after a summer of lurking in the weeds, the move he and Pacers general manager David Morway pulled off to land point guard Darren Collison might have been as slick as anything Bird ever did on the parquet floor at Boston Garden.
They didn't just come out of the four-team deal with the Nets, Rockets and Hornets with an asset. They came away with the most valuable one. They didn't just come out of a summer when point guards hopped around the NBA like frogs on a crowded pond. They got the best one available.
The Pacers could have fretted when Steve Blake went to the Lakers. They could have worried when Chris Duhon went to the Magic. They could have panicked when Jordan Farmar went to the Nets and Raymond Felton to the Knicks and Luke Ridnour to the Timberwolves.
But when did Bird ever fret, worry or panic around a basketball court?
"Believe it or not, I'm pretty patient," he told the Indianapolis Star. "With all the conversations we had with other teams, you never know if anything is going to materialize. But the one thing about it is I've been very patient.
"I know this is a process and I'm going to do exactly what I said I'm going to do ... I know a lot of people get frustrated at times, but you have to be patient in this situation."
Wasn't Bird always at his clever, cagey best when the clock was running down?
He wasn't looking to make a move just to make a move. He wasn't searching for another half-measure that might help the Pacers limp through one more year. He wasn't interested in continuing the string of four straight downtrodden seasons of 35, 36, 36 and 32 wins with the offense in the hands of Jamaal Tinsley (2007), Flip Murray ('08), Jarrett Jack ('09) and Earl Watson ('10).
In Collison, the Pacers will be putting the ball and the offense into the hands of the most capable point guard to play for the franchise since Mark Jackson left in 2000. His 37-game stint as a starter in New Orleans last season when Chris Paul was injured proved that Collison has the ability to get to the basket, knock down 3-pointers and smartly deliver the ball to teammates.
"We liked him coming out of college," Bird said. "I didn't think he'd have the year he did last year. He's solid. He likes to defend. We know he can shoot the ball. He did a great job in college of putting the ball in the hole. We think he's a complete player. He's a young point guard to go with the rest of the core group we have, and we'll just keep building on it."
While there were some Indiana fans who might have preferred to keep Troy Murphy's double-double stats and expiring $11.9 million contract around until next summer and then hope that the Pacers could make a big splash, Bird was facing facts, dealing with reality and ultimately getting the best deal for his team right now.
Just look at what happened this summer to teams like the Knicks, Nets and Clippers, who had cleared out whopping space under the salary cap in order to strike it rich in free agency and wound up either twiddling their thumbs or settling for second and third choices.
The truth is, Indianapolis is never going to be one of the glamour destinations for free agents and wasn't going to be on Carmelo Anthony's radar next summer. Same goes for CP3. In fact, if he were a free agent, the Pacers likely couldn't have gotten Collison to give them a second look.
This is the way it had to be done, by getting Collison in a trade and it doesn't hurt to bring along James Posey to be a veteran presence in a locker room brimming with youth.
Without Murphy's consistent efforts and with Tyler Hansbrough battling vertigo, the Pacers do have a glaring need for a power forward. There are candidates in youngsters Josh McRoberts and Solomon Jones and veteran Jeff Foster on the roster and still the possibility of adding Magnum Rolle, who impressed at the Orlando Summer League.
Nobody's putting Indiana in the thick of the East playoff race yet. But it would appear the Pacers have finally gotten up off the deck and are moving forward by solidifying the lineup with Collison. And they still have Mike Dunleavy ($10.5 million), T.J. Ford ($8.5 million) and Foster ($6.6 million) on hand in the last year of their contracts for more room to maneuver.
"We're not done with the summer," Bird said. "We've got some work to do. ... We'll take it a piece at a time. We've got expiring contracts, some veterans here. ... We're going to get this job done and we're going to do it on time."
Patience, not panic.
Larry Bird always did his best work late.
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