Front Office Transition Tips Off Active Summer for Pacers

The Pacers have already had an active offseason, now that Kevin Pritchard has taken over the team presidency from Larry Bird.

More than likely, it will get much busier from here.

There is, of course, the "Paul George issue" that is foremost on so many minds, as well as the draft and free agency. And with Pritchard in charge, moves are more likely than ever to be made.

Beyond that, owner Herb Simon apparently is loosening the strings on the team's budget, therefore enhancing the possibility of changes.

Pritchard comes to the Pacers with plenty of experience, having served as Portland's general manager from 2007-10. He was mysteriously let go on the afternoon of the draft in 2010, although he still ran the Blazers' draft that night, and joined Bird's staff with the Pacers in 2011.

During Pritchard's time in Portland, the Blazers made dramatic improvement from their "Jail Blazers" era, and not by sitting still. He made two deals in 2007, including one that sent four players — including Zach Randolph and Fred Jones — to New York for Channing Frye, Steve Francis, and a second-round draft pick. He made six deals in 2008, including one with Bird that sent Jarrett Jack, Josh McRoberts, Brandon Rush, and cash to the Pacers for Ike Diogu and Jerryd Bayless. He made three moves in 2009 and three his final year with the Blazers.

"You have to be bold in this position," Pritchard said after following Bird to the microphone at Monday's press conference at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. "But the one thing I've learned from Larry is how important continuity is.

"When you say I've been a dealmaker, a lot of them have been in the summer, specifically the draft. I don't mind moving up. Once I see someone in the draft that I think can really help us, I want to be aggressive that way. (Scouting director) Ryan Carr and our scouts do an amazing job identifying talent, and it's up to me to go get them. I like moving around in the draft. That doesn't mean it happens every time. But I want to be aggressive."

Bird, who said he made the move to spend more time with his family, will remain with the Pacers as a consultant. He plans to continue living in Indianapolis and maintain an office in Bankers Life Fieldhouse or at the St. Vincent Center (the new practice facility), but not be involved in day-to-day activities. He in some respects is exchanging positions with Pritchard, shifting from taking advice from him to giving it to him, although he won't be involved as intensely as Pritchard has been.

Pritchard said he has not decided who, if anyone, will fill the general manager's position he is vacating. Former team president Donnie Walsh will remain in his current consulting position.

"The one thing I don't want to do is get in Kevin's way," Bird said. "This is Kevin's team, he's going to make the decisions based on the way he feels he wants to build the team. If he's got a question or wants some help on certain things, I'd be glad to do that."

Pritchard expects no issues in the transfer of power.

"He worries about stepping on toes," he said of Bird. "I do not.

"He's got one of the best basketball minds that ever lived. He and Donnie have unique perspectives. I see Larry as a guy who sits in meetings and says, 'Hey, Kevin, what do you think about this?'"

Bird indicated Pritchard will have more financial flexibility to make changes to the roster than he had in the past.

"After looking at next year's budget, I almost wanted to stay," Bird said. "We're going to have a better budget, we're going to be able to do more things. It's exciting.

"Next year's budget will be a lot better than this year's budget."

The Pacers have traditionally avoided paying the luxury tax, but have usually spent whatever necessary to keep free agents if they were able to avoid paying the tax. Pritchard said Simon might be willing to pay the tax under the right circumstance.

"I don't like talking about a small market; we are a market," Pritchard said. "We're given every opportunity to succeed. Going into the tax will be challenging, but I've never heard Herb say, 'Hey, listen, we can never go into the tax.' If you're on a timeline where you've got good players and you want to win, you're on the cusp of moving up, I don't think there's a doubt he would take a look at that."

One immediate challenge for Pritchard will be dealing with George, the four-time All-Star who can opt out of his contract after next season. George would be in position to earn far more money if he is voted to one of the three All-NBA teams, and that could be a major factor in his decision. The voting is expected to be released before the NBA Draft on June 26.

Pritchard conducted the exit interviews with players last week while Bird was in New York presenting the Pacers' bid to host the NBA All-Star Game.

"Paul and I talked 45 minutes to an hour," Pritchard said. "We talked about a lot of different things. In every scenario, he talked about being here. Him wanting to be here is important. He kept coming back to one statement that hits me hard, he wants to win. Picking up Lance (Stephenson) late in the year made us a better team.

"The one thing Paul realizes is, the Indiana Pacers drafted him, developed him, gave him an opportunity to succeed. He talked about how much he enjoyed getting to the Eastern Conference Finals.

"He wants to win. The Pacers want to win. We're on the same page."

Pritchard talked as if he wants to reshape the makeup of the team somewhat. Last season, Bird made moves to player smaller and faster and try to score more. Pritchard indicated a desire to return to a more physical team, such as the ones the Pacers had when they reached the conference finals in 2013 and 2014.

"I'd like to have a tougher team," he said. "We won at home. What it takes to win on the road is a whole new ballgame. You have to be able to play physical, you have to be tough and you have to amp up your game.

"We used to be a hard hat and a lunch pail kind of team. I'm not saying get back to that completely, because it's a very skilled league, too."

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