Pacers Make Trade For 2nd-Round Pick Barac

Stanko Barac is greeted by NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver after Miami selected the Croatian center No. 39 overall Thursday night.
(Jesse D. Garabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)
By Conrad Brunner | June 28, 2007

Rumors of major trade talks abounded but the Pacers experienced a relatively quiet NBA Draft night Thursday. Hopeful of acquiring a first-round pick to use on Rice sharpshooter Morris Almond, the team couldn't complete that deal but did send a 2009 second-round pick to Miami for Croatian center Stanko Barac, who had been drafted No. 39 overall by the Heat.

Bird described as "bogus" the numerous published rumors linking the Pacers with a variety of potential trade partners, including a late-afternoon report that the Nets had offered Richard Jefferson, Nenad Krstic and Jason Collins for Jermaine O'Neal.

"All these trade rumors that's going on out there, you hear everybody talking about it – it's all bogus," Bird said Thursday night. "Somebody starts it and they keep feeding the fire with it. We're going to look this summer to maybe do something if we get the right deal to make us better. If not, we'll come back with what we have.

"When you're talking to other GMs around the league and you sort of ask them if they're involved in something, most of them say no. We were in a four-team deal one time and I never did talk to L.A. or Boston. I did talk to (Minnesota's) Kevin McHale, maybe he was orchestrating it, I don't know. I heard some things today about trades that were supposed to be going down and talked to the individuals that were supposed to be involved and they never even heard of it. A lot of smoke was out there this year."

With prominent names like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett on the market, not to mention the apparent widespread interest in O'Neal, Bird said he expects things to heat up soon. The NBA has a moratorium on signing veteran free agents that lasts through July 10, but trades that don't involve free agents can take place.

"I think it'll get very active from here on out, I really do," Bird said. "I think the reporters can start fresh and maybe they'll be accurate half the time now."

Barac is young, tall, slender and skilled center who was born and plays professionally in Bosnia but has Croatian nationality. The 7-1, 240-pounder will turn 21 next month and averaged 13.0 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots in 27.3 minutes for Siroki in the Adriatic League. He has three years remaining on his contract in Bosnia and likely will remain in Europe for its duration. The Pacers' 2005 second-round pick, Slovenian forward Erazem Lorbek, also remain in Europe at least one more season.

"He's a little thin right now but he's able to take you off the dribble, can shoot the ball around the perimeter," Bird said. "He's a very, very good shooter. He's got a nice jump hook around the basket and he can get up and down the court. Hopefully he can gain some weight and get a little stronger but he's got the tools. He's just a little light right now.

"When I take a European player I don't expect it to be one or two years, it could be three or four. I like to get these guys to come over here when they're about 25, 26, 27 years old. They're mature, they've been through all of it, they know what to expect and they're ready to make the jump over. A lot of young guys like to jump into the fray right away and it takes them a few years. I expect when we bring these guys over, they'll be ready to go."

Barac, who speaks little English, said he was "so excited" about being drafted and, though confident he has NBA ability, knows he needs "more powers, more strengths, I think."

Almond, the nation's No. 3 scorer (26.4) for Rice, was taken by Utah with the 25th pick in the first round.

"There was a guy we targeted in the first round and we thought we'd have an opportunity to get him but he was taken a little bit before the pick we were going to get," Bird said. "… If we could get in there and get the guy we wanted we'd be happy. It didn't happen but we're still going to have shooters and we'll get them this summer."

Asked if Almond was the target, Bird smiled and said, "That's a very good guess."

Though Almond got away, Bird reiterated his pledge to add perimeter threats to the roster.

"I didn't say we'd get a shooter in the first round," he said. "I said we will get a shooter on this team before the summer's out, maybe multiple shooters. We need shooting on this team and we will get shooters."