Larry Bird Rumors
Last April, Copeland suffered injuries to his abdomen and left elbow in a stabbing attack outside of a New York City nightclub. The incident left him briefly hospitalized and effectively ended his season. Though Copeland apologized for “bad choices” – the attack occurred in the wee hours of a game day – it would stand as the last significant event of his Pacer career as he entered the summer as an unrestricted free agent. Still over the offseason, Copeland remained in Indianapolis for physical rehabilitation with the Pacers’ athletic staff. “I was just blessed to have guys like Larry Bird and the training staff who stuck with me way past when they had to,” Copeland said. “Legally by July 1 they’re not obligated to do anything but those guys took care of me. They did more than they needed to that’s why I’m forever in their debt. I appreciate the type of people that I was (around) for the last two years.”
The obvious answer is Laettner, but Jordan’s fomer Bulls teammate Dennis Rodman, a Hall of Famer in his own right who also won titles with Thomas in Detroit, disagrees. He says that … wait for it … Larry Bird should’ve been left off the Dream Team. Here’s what the Worm had to say during a recent interview on Sirius XM’s “NBA Today”: “I just think the fact that — I don’t know the issues of Michael (Jordan) and Magic (Johnson) and whoever, (Charles) Barkley, and stuff like that, if they didn’t like Isiah. But for me, I felt Isiah should’ve been on that team because of the fact that he deserved it,” Rodman said.
“I think that the fact that, even though a lot of people will try deny it or try to correct me when I’m wrong, he should’ve been there instead of Larry Bird. Because Larry Bird was hurt, injured, he could barely play, and he was on that last leg of his career. “I understand, again, the presidential treatment, because he did so much for the game, but I just think for Isiah, I think they should’ve put him on that team without Larry Bird, and that’s my opinion.”
When I returned the following year [after the brawl] in Indiana I was causing problems in the locker room, and eventually I requested a trade. So Larry traded me to the Kings. When I got to Sacramento I told Rick Adleman, “Look I don’t think I can give you anything.” He said “Ron, we’re going to go as far as you can take us.” I immediately went to the media and told them “We’re going to make the playoffs.” Everybody laughed. We were in last place. But we made it to the playoffs, and almost beat the Spurs that year. Rick Adleman changed my life. But it took awhile. I was still destructive and unstable. But I was getting better and better.
Larry Bird was in my corner 150% through that. But I was very disloyal to Larry, being an egotistical kid and whatnot. Even if you put the ego thing aside, I was still disruptive, dysfunctional, and mentally unstable. That’s a bad mix right there, and that’s what Larry Bird had to deal with. Larry took time out of his day to come down every day and work with me. The year I averaged 25 points per game had a lot to do with Larry. I was working with him every day. Every single day. But I still wasn’t ready mentally for the NBA. I was so caught up in myself. I’ve tried to get back to Indiana a couple times over the last few years, to play for the Pacers. But there was so much damage I had done there that I didn’t think Larry would want to take another chance on me. At this point I wish that I had done things I’m doing now when I was younger. I think, ‘If I had been more focused back in those days, been more mentally stable…’
Can you win a championship in the NBA today without superstars? “No,” said Bird. “It all comes down to how much you’re willing to spend for players. If you get the right superstar, will other players come and play with him? It’s the same old thing. “The draft has a lot to do with it. You have to hope that if you have a high draft pick, one’s going to become a so-called star. You’ve got to have the players. It’s always been that way. Whoever’s got the better players is going to win.’’
Celtics coach Brad Stevens brings a college mentality to the pro game and tries to make his team play hard for the full 48. Is this realistic in the NBA? “That’s the only way you get better,” said Bird. “I think the players understand that. I don’t know much about Brad Stevens even though he’s right here in Indiana, close to us. I think I just met him one time in Orlando at Summer League. I know he did a good job here at Butler, so you got the right coach.’’