Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Ready for departure

I don't believe Larry Bird.

I don't believe what he stood up there and said yesterday, which is that his abrupt leave-taking has nothing whatever to do with the current state of the Indiana Pacers. I don't believe that for a second.

I don't believe it because no one was ever better at seeing the floor than Larry Bird, and lord knows he has to see the floor now. The team he built when he came back to be president of the Pacers five years ago is unraveling -- and if that's largely because of market forces beyond his control, he's also not entirely blameless.

He was the one who dumped Frank Vogel because he believed the Pacers needed a new voice, then hired assistant Nate McMillan, who wasn't a new voice at all. He was the one who tried to push his star, Paul George, into a new role on the floor with which he was not comfortable. And he was the one who insisted the Pacers change the way they played.

He wanted more up-tempo small ball. And he wasn't wrong to try to remake the Pacers into that sort of team, because that was the direction in which the league was going. But the pieces he got to make it happen simply weren't working.

Now the Pacers face the unenviable task of trying to hang onto George, their one marketable superstar. They're probably not going to succeed at that. And when George goes, the Pacers -- already barely a playoff team -- will be a franchise trying to rebuild with a small-market payroll.

I don't think Larry Bird wanted any part of that. And that's why I think he's gone.

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