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Bird wants to add depth, scoring punch in draft

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive||

June 21, 2011

Larry Bird wants to build one of the best second units in the league, and hopes to take at least one big step toward accomplishing that goal with in the NBA Draft on Thursday.

The Pacers' President of Basketball Operations touched on a wide variety of topics -- including a trade rumor involving center Roy Hibbert and the unresolved coaching situation -- in a media briefing Tuesday at Conseco Fieldhouse while making it clear his intent was to strengthen the team's depth, preferably by adding scoring punch.

"My goal here is to try to get the best bench I can possibly get," he said. "I want 10 players I know I can depend on every night and be consistent. I want to improve our bench and I want to have one of the best in the league and hopefully we can go out and get better players. That way we can move some of our starters back to the bench and make us stronger."

With Jeff Foster, Josh McRoberts, Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford and Solomon Jones all free agents, there could be plenty of holes to fill in the second unit. Bird has the 15th and 42nd picks in the draft, roughly $21 million in salary cap space with which to maneuver and a number of attractive young assets that could be used in trade packages as avenues for upgrading the roster.

"We're young and you always try to get better players but we're in a position now hopefully in free agency we can go out and plug some holes," he said. "We won 37 games last year. That's not acceptable. I think we're capable of winning more. If we get in free agency and get a good draft pick I think we can bump that up a few notches."

Trade report nixed but Bird says no one untouchable

One trade Bird shot down was the report that had the Pacers sending center Roy Hibbert and the No. 15 pick to Minnesota for the No. 2 pick with an eye on drafting Arizona forward Derrick Williams.

"No, we're not doing that," he said. "I'm not interested in trading Roy. Roy's one of our core-group guys. The draft is a good draft, not a great draft. If there was somebody at two that we were really targeting that I think would make us a lot better, then you have to do it but I believe in Roy.

"I think he's going to continue to get better. He's one of our hardest workers and as of right now -- you never say you won't trade anybody because you never know what's going to happen in the next couple of days -- but we will not trade Roy today, or tomorrow probably, or Friday."

Bird did say, however, that he does not consider any of the players on the roster to be untouchable.

"I used to say that but if we can make this team better we've got to take a hard look at it," he said. "There's some guys I would have a hard time trading but there's no untouchables. I do like our core group. I like the way they perform most of the time. Obviously they've got to get better but if we can make a trade with a player or two players and our pick to get a real good player that we know is really going to help us, we know we've got to take a look at it for the franchise's sake."

Bird targets scoring punch as priority

As for who the Pacers might be targeting in the first round, Bird said the team had identified a group of four preferred prospects and expect at least two of those to be available. He would not identify the four, however.

"We need help in a lot of areas and I'd like to get a player that can step in and play right away," he said. "Even though he's a rookie, whoever we take is going to have an opportunity to play and help us."

Regardless of position, Bird said the biggest need was to add offensive punch.

"We need some scoring and hopefully in the draft we can get it," he said. "You'd like to get it down low because that's the closest to the basket. We think Paul George is going to continue to get better and better and he's our two-three.

"If you look at our bench, we need more scoring from different areas. It really doesn't matter the position. Yeah, you'd like a solid big man that can come in and get you 12-14 points a game right off the bat, or if it's a two-guard. Anywhere you can get scoring is going to help. There's a lot of guys out there that maybe aren't great scorers but they're very, very good defensive players and we need some of that, also."

Vogel interviewing assistant coach candidates

Bird continued to indicate Frank Vogel, who posted a 20-18 record as the interim after taking over for Jim O'Brien last season, was the leading candidate for the head coaching job but that no decision was imminent.

"We're talking," Bird said. "Frank's doing all his work and he's out talking to lead (assistant) guys. Just as soon as we get that clarified we'll sit down with Frank and the assistant coaches and talk to 'em and see what direction they're going.

"I've had multiple conversations with Frank. I think Frank deserves a chance. He'll get the first and last interview but I've been talking to other people and we have a lot of interest in the job. Frank's going to get every opportunity to have this job. What we're doing now is going through the process and hopefully it won't take more than a week or two."