Bird gets back to business
May 17, 2011
To illustrate just how different things are for Larry Bird this offseason, consider his response when asked about tonight's NBA Draft Lottery:
"I didn't even know it was tonight," he said with a laugh. " … I'm glad we're not there. "
For the past three years, the team's fortunes have focused on the ping-pong balls, as Bird made the annual trip to Secaucus, N.J., to see if luck would smile upon the Pacers. It didn't, so he has leaned on the more reliable approach of faithfully executing a solid plan, which yielded a playoff berth and a promising performance in the first-round loss to the top-seeded Chicago Bulls.
His own return secured after a meeting last week with owner Herb Simon, Bird can now get back to business in what promises to be a very busy offseason. Not only does he have ample salary cap space with which to pursue free agents to complement a young roster that reached the playoffs for the first time in five years, he must hire a head coach and make decisions about virtually every position on the basketball, scouting and training staff.
The coaching job was the primary topic of discussion at Bird's media briefing on Tuesday at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Bird called interim coach Frank Vogel a "front-runner" for the permanent job, Mike Brown and Rick Adelman as possibilities.
"I don't think we need to make the decision right away but obviously I feel Frank did an excellent job for us," Bird said. … A lot of people out there feel Frank's probably going to get the job but it's a process and we want to do everything we can possibly do to get the right guy in here."
A veteran head coach with previous stops with the Rockets, Warriors, Trail Blazers and Kings, the 64-year-old Adelman is considered one of the leading candidates to for the Lakers' job. He ranks eighth in NBA history with 945 career victories.
"I like Rick. He's done excellent," Bird said. "He had some many injuries down there (in Houston), they had a good team and he still won a lot of games. I don't know. I'll probably make a call just to see where he's at. I hear the Lakers are interested in him. Rick's a very good coach. We interviewed him last time. He's a guy that gets a lot out of his players so he could be one of the guys we call."
Brown, who was Rick Carlisle's top assistant with the Pacers from 2003-05, posted a 272-138 record in five seasons with the Cavs. Fired after losing in the second round of the playoffs in 2010, Brown served as an ESPN analyst this past season.
"There's a lot of guys under consideration," said Bird. "I like Mike. Mike did an excellent job when he was here. I thought he did a fantastic job in Cleveland but we have other guys in mind, also."
Bird addressed a number of other issues.
On his meeting with Simon: "He assured me that he wants to put the best team he possibly can on the court, he wants to do what our fans are asking us to do, get a competitive team, and do a lot of things we want our players to do in the community. Overall, I think he really liked the direction. Actually, he's all-in to get the best team he possibly can because he wants to get some excitement around here and he wants the fans to support the team."
On using the team's cap space: "You can have all the money in the world and it really isn't about the money. It's about the players you get and how they perform together. If you watch our team play you know what we need and that's what we're going to target -- needs. Big-name players are fine and dandy but they've got to fit in your system and they've got to fit in with the group we have. There's a lot of players out there we like and when free agency starts I think we'll be a player."
On trading vs. free agency as the primary vehicle for change: "Right now, we've been talking to a few teams and it seems like there's more activity now before the draft than there ever has been. I wouldn't be surprised if you see some trades around the league. There is more activity but if we can do something now, I'm all for it. … I do believe if we can get something done now it's even better for us."
On the 2011 NBA Draft class: "I don't think this is a very strong draft. There will be some players that do well in our league but there's a lot of kids that didn't come out."