Pacers Press Conference With Larry Bird and Frank Vogel
On Tuesday morning, Pacers President Larry Bird and head coach Frank Vogel met with the media for the first time since forward Paul George sustained a right leg, open tibia-fibula fracture while playing in the USA Basketball Showcase on August 8.
The main takeaway from the press conference was that the Pacers plan to continue to compete in the 2014-15 season despite George's injury.
"My goal is to win as many games as we possibly can and to get into the playoffs," Bird said.
Re-watch the press conference below. Below the video you will find a full transcript of the press conference.
Q: Larry have you received a disabled player waiver yet?
Bird: Have not, we put in for it, just waiting for the league to make their decision.
Q: Where were both of you and what were you both doing when Paul was injured? Were you watching of doing something else?
Bird: Yeah I was watching. I don’t know about Frank.
Vogel: I was not watching. I was on vacation and my phone started blowing up with text messages.
Q: Where were you on vacation?
Vogel: St. Martin.
Bird: Must be nice.
Vogel: It is, it is.
Q: How’d that impact your vacation? How’d that impact your day?
Vogel: Well we were leaving the next day. Certainly devastating news. But thankfully everything since then has fallen in line for best-case scenarios, a full recovery is expected, and we’re wishing Paul the best.
Q: Obviously this was a bit of a baseball bat between the eyes and you guys have had to recover from it mentally. Have you been able to formulate a plan moving forward? Has the plan changed? Is there a new approach now to this year and beyond?
Bird: Well I don’t think so right now. We had dinner last night with Shawn Marion. We’re trying to gage his interest in coming here. We think he can help us. But we also know we’re not going to replace Paul. You just can’t replace Paul George. Are our expectations lowered any? I don’t think so. We’re going to compete hard. We’re going to do the best to make the playoffs. That’s always one of our goals. And just compete on a consistent basis. I can sit up here and try to sugarcoat it all you want me to, but you just can’t replace Paul George.
Q: Larry from what you’ve been told is there any chance Paul returns late this coming season, or is he definitely out for this coming season?
Bird: No one’s told us he’s going to be out for the whole year. But our conversations -- me and the coach’s conversations -- we’re sort of expecting him to be out all year. But we really don’t know. We know that a couple guys in the league had similar injuries and they came back 100%. So, if he can play he’s going to play. If he can play at a high level he wants to play. But we’ll just see how it goes.
Q: Assuming you do get the exception, are you still under the impression you can’t go over the tax?
Bird: We’ll never go over the tax. I’ve said that. And my owner’s told me that’s a place he doesn’t want to go. So we’ll do whatever we can to stay under.
Q: Really quick, is Paul back in town yet or is he still in Vegas?
Bird: Yeah, he’s here. He’s back about a week now. I think it was last Tuesday he came back.
Q: And how would you describe his spirits and everything else?
Bird: Coach has been over to see. I haven’t yet. I know the transition from being in the hospital, getting home, learning how to use crutches, and taking baths and all that, it takes time. I’ll probably get up there in the next few days. I have texts back and forth with him, but Coach has been up to see him. I’m sure he’s up and down. It’s a long process. It was a major injury. And I can’t tell over text, but he seems in good spirits.
Vogel: Yeah he’s in really good spirits. Obviously frustrated he’s not going to be able to play this year and about the road ahead. It’s going to be a tough process for him recovering from this. But I think he’s encouraged, like we’ve said, that a full recovery is expected. And it’s just going to be a matter of time and a lot of work to get back.
Q: Frank, if the roster is what it is in October, can you guess what your starting lining would be now?
Vogel: No it’s too early for that. But I’ve got a lot of good options. We’ve got a lot of good options. We’ve brought in some free agents in Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles who are starter level guys. We’re all really high on what Solomon Hill can do for us this year. Damjan Rudez, Chris Copeland are options. So we’ve got a lot of options and I’m excited to see how it plays out.
Q: Larry, you’ve talked about for a few years now about keeping your core together. This summer you’ve lost two starters, two of those core-members. How does that change the Pacers?
Bird: Obviously when you lose two key players it changes. There’s no question about that. And two very good pieces. But in Lance’s case I feel very strongly we made a good offer to him. He was a free agent and he chose to move on. It’s tough but it’s part of the business. In Paul’s case it’s something that happened that we obviously didn’t want to happen. But to break the team up and tear it down, it’s tough, it’s tough building these teams and getting the pieces you want. So when you get them, you want to keep them.
Q: Larry, as you were watching that game, did you have a sense when it happened that it would be that bad, and what were the next couple hours like for you as you tried to ascertain what happened?
Bird: Well…first of all, he didn’t give up on the play. We always say don’t give up on the play. But when he went down and I see the doctor go over and put a towel over him and when of the players walk away I knew it wasn’t good. And you really worry about the young man. You guys know Paul as well as I do. He’s a great young man, he cares, he works very hard, he cares about the city, the franchise. And when you know something like that happened, you have to take a step back and look at everything. It’s just unfortunate, very unfortunate.
Q: Frank, obviously last year the offense kind of shifted towards Paul and Lance in terms of running things through your wings. And I guess you’re looking toward going back to smash mouth type approach. Have you sort of figured out tactically how things are will have to change?
Vogel: I don’t think we really got a lot of way from trying to play through our bigs inside. I think we had, we definitely put the ball in Lance and Paul’s hands a lot more last season because of the success they were having. But we have more than enough guys who are capable of stepping up. Now we’ll play through David and Roy probably more, but I think George Hill’s going to have a big year as well. He was asked to sort of defer a lot last year to Paul and to Lance and I think he was capable of doing a lot more than he showed. And I think he’s going to step up. But like I said we’ve got plenty of other guys. Stuckey and C.J. Miles have shown they have offensive firepower and it’s going to be a team approach.
Q: Larry, there was a report over the weekend that a trade was offered to Phoenix involving Roy Hibbert any truth to that. Is he being shopped around at all?
Bird: Like I always say, when people are 2,000 miles away and they start rumors, it’s pretty hard for me to sit here and really talk about them. I’ve never heard that one so maybe you can tell me something I don’t know.
Q: Donald Sloan’s contract is guaranteed on Friday. Have you decided with him yet?
Bird: Yeah we’re picking it up.
Q: Larry, did you come away with your conversations with Marion that he’ll have a chance to sign and without the certainty of knowing you’re going to get the player disability can you sign him?
Bird: Yeah we can sign him. What I came away with is he’s undecided where he wants to play or what he wants to do but he did say he would like to be on a contender and try to win a championship. I know he’s talked to Cleveland. We didn’t talk about Cleveland but I know he’s been there. And I don’t know who else he’s talked to. But I came away with the feeling that he wants to be a championship team, a team that’s got a chance to win it. But he knows we’re probably not going to do nothing for a while. He has a place here if he wants to come.
Frank, do you see a scenario where George Hill plays more at the 2, maybe Stuckey at the point?
Vogel: Of course, I think there’s a lot of flexibility at all the perimeter positions. I think George Hill playing the 1 gives us an elite point guard defender and helps us our defensive minded identity. But certainly he’s more than capable of playing the 2 either alongside C.J. Watson -- I don’t want to get my C.J.’s confused now -- or Stuckey. There are a lot of combinations we can use there.
Q: I’m curious for both of you: How long did it take for you to sort of get over that initial depression and upset and move into, holy crap what are we going to do now? What’s plan b?
Bird: I don’t know if we’re over it yet. But we have moved on. We know there’s a possibility he might not play all year. You never know what’s going to happen. But we’ll try to put a competitive team out there, a team that we think can play at a high level and go from there. It’s unfortunate. It’s bad enough for the franchise, but I feel sorry for Paul ‘cause I know how hard he works, how excited he was about playing for his country. It’s a great experience playing with Kevin Durant and all the guys. You get better by doing that and that’s all he cared about was trying to get better.
Q: Frank, much like we saw with Paul when Granger went down and even Lance later on could you see something with Solomon taking over as much as he could and becoming a different player…cause you both have talked about that?
Vogel: There’s no question. He’s going to get his opportunity this year, and he’s working his tail off right now. He had an unfortunate injury right before summer league but we thought he was going to be one of the best players in summer league. I already know he’s capable of being an elite defender and he’s working extremely hard on his offensive game. We have high hopes for him. I think he’s going to be a really solid contributor for us this year.
Q: Do you guys have plans to get together before the season like you did before last year?
Vogel: No we’re not doing that this year.
Q: And one other thing for Larry. Going into this season being Frank at the end of a contract, perhaps knowing what he’s getting into…thinking about…
Bird: Frank’s sitting right here. I didn’t know if you noticed. That’s something you sit down with your owner, you talk about. I never was worried about anyone going into their last year. Last year during the playoffs, they were coming out saying he was coaching for his coaching life. I didn’t buy that. But we’ll see what happens here in the next few weeks. Me and Herb have not even sat down and discussed it yet.
Q: Larry, what do you say to Pacers fans who feel like the season is lost before it has even starts?
Bird: That’s the first thing you probably think of. But we don’t really look at it that way. We’re going to put a competitive team out there. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to develop our young guys. Everyone’s going to get an opportunity to show us what they can do. I think we’ll be an exciting team. I think we got four guys we brought in that are going to help us. We picked up (Shayne Whittington) who was injured, didn’t get to play in the summer league. But we think he’s going to be a pretty good player for us down the road. We got a lot of things to look forward to. We have our draft choices this year. My goal is to win as many games as we possibly can and get in the playoffs. I know some of our fans would rather us go in a different direction, but we’re here to win and we’re going to try to win.
Q: Frank, the complexion of the Eastern Conference has dramatically changed this summer. Does that make an opportunity still there for you guys?
Vogel: Of course. Obviously some teams on paper look to be near the top when you look at what Cleveland’s doing and what Chicago’s doing. But like I said, we have a winning culture here and an approach that comes to bringing it every single night, be the hardest playing team in the NBA. And I think we’re going to surprise some teams. I think those fans that think the season is over before it started are very wrong. And I think they are going to be pleasantly surprised with the grit and toughness that we play with this year. And I think we’re going to be able to compete with the best.
Q: Larry other than perhaps using a disabled player exception or filling Paul George’s spot, do you feel like you’re done, or are you still out there exploring potential moves?
Bird: You’re always looking, you know? We’ve pinpointed some players we’re looking at, even for next year. Our work is never done. We’re always looking for players. If we can improve the roster, we will try to do that.
Q: Has there been any discussion, you said there’s a chance he could be out for the year and you don’t really expect him, but if he did, in April, May, March, somewhere in there, have you talked about a plan to try to bring him back at that point or do you just let him sit out?
Bird: I think that’s up to our medical staff, our doctors, and probably Paul, you know? He’s going to be out of shape. He’s got to get in shape. We would never put him in a position where he didn’t feel comfortable. And Paul knows his body better than anyone. And we’ve got a great medical staff, a great training staff. And it would probably be up to them, more so than me and Coach. Because I’ve been in that situation, how tough it is to come back when you’re out for a long period of time. But if he can play and he’s healthy enough to play, he’ll play. That’s how we do things here. But if our doctors think he’s going to play at 60, 70 %, then no we won’t do that.
Q: Larry, I know international basketball has been important to you. A lot of people are saying now they wouldn’t want their players in international basketball. What are your feelings now about guys playing FIBA ball?
Bird: Personally, I think that it is good for these young men. They’re a brand now. And they get an opportunity to showcase their talents all over the world. I think it’s a great opportunity to play for your country. I think anytime you’re called upon and you have an opportunity to do that, you should do it. I support USA basketball, always have, always will. But I also understand the other side of it. And it’s unfortunate that this is going to bring everything to the forefront again about USA basketball. And it’s not a good situation but it happened and move on. But I support what Jerry Colangelo is trying to do. We send our best and I like that. You send your best players to play in the Olympics and the World Cups and everything else. If you are going to play in them send your best if you can.
Q: Larry, Frank, both, in the process of doing what you have to do this year to make the best of it, will you also keep an eye, how much of an eye will you keep on ’15, ‘16 when Paul comes back and making sure you have pieces then when you can sort of be whole again?
Bird: Well you’re always trying to put the best product you can out there. We have a lot of guys whose contracts will be up. There’s some guys who can opt out. You never know what’s going to happen. But we’re starting to look at all that right now. We’re always looking ahead. We always try to look 2 to 3 years down the road. Whatever happens we’ll be competitive. We know that. But losing a Paul George is definitely going to hurt you for a while. But when he comes back you want to make sure you have the pieces around him.
Q: Are there any plans to wear a patch or anything like that during the season… to honor him?
Bird: A patch? He’s still alive. (Laughs). I don’t think we’re going to do that. We’ll just pat him on the back every once in a while.
Q: Larry, can you give us…so Paul is home now? He’s not in a hospital?
Bird: No, he’s home.
Q: Can you give us just, I know you guys aren’t doctors, but can you give us some sort of medical update? Is he in a hard cast? How long is he going to be in a hard cast? Anything you can tell us medically?
Bird: I think he’s in a splint.
Vogel: Yeah he’s not in a hard cast. He’s getting around on crutches okay. He’s ready to play the waiting game.
Bird: Is Paul going to speak this week? (We are hopeful heard in background).
Q: Have either of you guys talked with or met with the other players to sort of let them know that the message is what you’re telling us today to encourage most of them to lift their spirits?
Vogel: Of course, especially the guys that are going to get more opportunity. I reach out to those guys. You never want an injury, but you’ve got to make the best of any situation. There are going to be some guys that able to develop more because of this much like Paul and Lance were able to develop when Danny was out. Those guys will make the best of it and we’re certainly maintaining a message that we’re competing to win this year.
Q: Frank, you sort of answered a little about what I want to ask you about, but do you have to go into this season, because it was such a visible injury to such a top player, kind of worrying a bit more about guys’ mental psyches. I don’t mean that as a rip, just it’s a pretty traumatic thing to go through.
Vogel: No, I don’t think you can ever worry about playing not to get hurt. I think that’s when you get hurt. I think guys are going to come out and compete and play and not think about it.
Q: Larry, also, besides the fact the horrible injury and the impact it has on Paul, from the franchise’s standpoint, could it have happened at a worse time in regards to get ready for this season?
Bird: Exactly. The timing was not good.
Vogel: Never a good time for this.
Bird: No, never a good time. But especially, I guess it was early August, yeah it makes it more difficult. There’s no question. Because everyone’s got their team pretty well set right now. There’s not a lot of talk going on around the league that we’re hearing. But we’re still making calls and doing things and trying to be active.
Bird: Thank you.
Vogel: Thank you guys.