Pacers Usually Quiet at Trade Deadline, But Pritchard Isn't
The Pacers have rarely been active at the NBA trade deadline. Then again, Kevin Pritchard has never directed their personnel decisions until this season.
Those conflicting historical elements make the Pacers' activity, or lack thereof, difficult to predict as Thursday's 3 p.m. deadline approaches. The Pacers aren't eager to make changes to a roster that has exceeded expectations so far this season, but nobody can predict what might become available from another team.
Donnie Walsh, who was in charge of the Pacers' basketball operations for about 20 trade deadlines, always preferred to conduct business during the off-season. But he made exceptions. When a season was going poorly, he was willing to make a major change in February.
"If I had a particular need I might do a trade in the midterm, but usually I had most of the positions covered, and I wanted to keep the chemistry I had if we were going good," Walsh said. "You had more time to think it out (in the summer)."
The Pacers could be described as "going good" now, with a 30-25 record heading into Wednesday's game at New Orleans. That doesn't mean Pritchard can't find a transaction that he believes improves the team, but it lessens the likelihood of a deal, particularly a major one.
The Pacers have made just five trades at this time of year since the deadline was enacted in 1987. Walsh was responsible for the first four, and Bird for the latest one, as follows:
Feb. 20, 1989: Traded Wayman Tisdale and a second-round draft pick to Sacramento for Randy Wittman and LaSalle Thompson. Waived John Long.
Feb. 21, 1989: Traded Herb Williams to Dallas for Detlef Schrempf and a second-round draft pick.
Feb. 20, 1997: Traded Jerome Allen to Denver for Darvin Ham. Traded Vincent Askew, Eddie Johnson and two second-round draft picks to Denver for Mark Jackson and LaSalle Thompson.
Feb. 19, 2002: Traded Jalen Rose, Travis Best, Norm Richardson and a second-round draft pick to Chicago for Ron Artest, Ron Mercer, Brad Miller and Kevin Ollie.
Feb. 20, 2014: Traded Danny Granger and a second-round draft pick to Philadelphia for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen.
Walsh never made a deadline deal when the team had a winning record. The Pacers were 11-38 when he made the trades for Schrempf, Thompson and Wittman in 1989. They went 17-16 the rest of the season, then went 42-40 the following season and made the playoffs.
Trading Tisdale for Thompson and Wittman was done to improve chemistry and add a physical presence in Thompson. Trading the 30-year-old Williams for the younger Schrempf was simply a no-brainer in Walsh's mind.
"I would have traded for him no matter what time of the year it was," Walsh said.
Schrempf was voted Sixth Man of the Year in 1991 and '92, and became a starter the following season, before he was traded to Seattle for Derrick McKey shortly before the 1993-94 season.
Walsh made another mid-season trade in 1997, Larry Brown's last as coach, when the Pacers were 24-27. It turned out to be a vital element to the teams that reached the Eastern Conference finals the following three seasons under Larry Bird.
Walsh had executed a major trade with Denver the previous June, with the principals being Mark Jackson, who went to the Nuggets, and Jalen Rose, who came to the Pacers. The following February, Walsh traded two backups, Vincent Askew and Eddie Johnson and two second-round draft picks for Jackson and LaSalle Thompson.
Essentially, he got Jalen Rose for the price of loaning out Jackson to the Nuggets for 52 games. Rose became an important backup the next two seasons, and was a starter and the leading scorer on the team that reached the NBA Finals in 2000.
Rose, however, became the centerpiece of another deadline deal in 2002. The Pacers' roster was in transition, with Jermaine O'Neal, Al Harrington and Jonathan Bender showing varying degrees of potential. Rose, who had signed a max contract after the Finals run, was not fitting in as well as he had with Bird's teams, and therefore becoming expendable.
The Pacers were 26-27 when the trade – the largest in franchise history at the time – was made to acquire Artest, Miller, Mercer and Ollie. Artest and Miller became All-Stars with the Pacers and Mercer and Ollie were contributing players on a team that finished 16-13 the rest of the season and took eventual NBA Finals runnerup New Jersey to the limit in the first round of the playoffs, losing the fifth and final game in double overtime.
The common theme of those transactions was the Pacers' losing record, and Walsh's sense that a fundamental change was needed to bring progress.
"I was trying to change the teams in all those situations," he said. "The more I think about it, a couple really did change. Each one of those (acquired) guys fit into what we needed."
It wasn't until 2014 that the Pacers made another deadline transaction, this time under Bird. The team had reached the conference finals the previous season and was 41-13 at the time. Granger's rehabilitation from knee injuries wasn't going as well as hoped, as he was averaging 8.3 points on 36 percent shooting.
Philadelphia was in full tank mode, looking to unload its better players and bigger contracts to position itself in the draft for higher picks. Turner had been the second pick in the 2010 draft and was averaging 17.4 points but was available. He averaged just 7.1 points off the bench for the Pacers, but did score 17.8 points per game in the six he played 25 minutes or more.
The deal was made 20 minutes before the deadline after Philadelphia dropped its request for a first-round draft pick, but didn't work out as well as the Pacers hoped. They wound up reaching the conference finals again, then lost again to Miami.
The Pacers haven't made a deadline deal since, but Pritchard brings greater odds of one. He made a relatively minor one each of the four seasons he ran Portland's basketball operations, as follows:
Feb. 22, 2007: Traded Juan Dixon to Toronto for Fred Jones and future considerations.
Feb. 21, 2008: Traded Taurean Green to Denver for Von Wafer.
Feb. 18, 2009: Acquired Michael Rufﬁn in exchange for Ike Diogu as part of a three-team trade involving Chicago and Sacramento
Feb. 16, 2010: Traded Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw and cash to the L.A. Clippers for Marcus Camby.
Pritchard and his staff have spent countless hours on the telephones discussing possible deals in recent weeks. If they don't execute one, those conversations aren't necessarily wasted.
"I always got on the phones," Walsh said. "It helped me to know who wanted to trade. It gets you into a dialogue with a lot of teams."
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