Multiple sources close to Bird say he is turning over the franchise to General Manager Kevin Pritchard because Bird doesn’t have the patience, the will, to fight the battle that looms ahead, a battle where the first salvos will be fired by someone else.
Bird has been of the belief that George is likely to leave the franchise as a free agent after the 2017-18 season, and he wasn’t encouraged by George’s public declaration in February: “I always want to play on a winning team,” George told ESPN Radio. “It's frustrating just playing the game for stats or for numbers or to showcase yourself. Man, I want a chance to play for ... a championship.”
By all accounts, Bird’s decision to step aside has no impact on how George sees the Pacers situation. He has the utmost respect for Larry Legend, who was known to be looking to spend more time with his wife and family and will now serve as a consultant for the organization. But he knows that Pritchard is a widely respected front office talent too, having worked wonders as the lead basketball executive with the Portland Trailblazers before joining Bird in July of 2011.
A reason for Bird's departure has not been confirmed, but sources told ESPN's Mike Wells that the plan had always been for Bird to strongly suggest to owner Herb Simon that Pritchard take over as president when Bird eventually stepped down. Bird's preference over the years has been to have year-to-year contracts.
Bird leaves the franchise at a crucial crossroads, with possible free agency looming for franchise star Paul George in the summer of 2018. The Pacers will have to decide on whether to continue to work on selling George on a future with the franchise, or consider the possibility of trading him to extract maximum value before George can leave in free agency.
Marc J. Spears: Larry Bird steps down as Pacers president and is replaced by Kevin Pritchard, source tells @TheUndefeated. @Adrian Wojnarowski first reported.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Bird is expected to continue on as a consultant, working with Pritchard and the Pacers front office, league sources tell @The Vertical.
WNBA legend Tamika Catchings is making her return to Indiana as a director for player development. The star who played for the Indiana Fever for 16 years will be in charge of all three basketball teams in the Indiana area, which includes the Fever, Indiana Pacers, and their D-League affiliate the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. If you look up the word legend, Catchings would be right beside it, and even then that phrase would be considered as an understatement for her. In her 16 year career, she won an WNBA title and finals MVP both in 2012, she was a 5-time WNBA Defensive Player of the year, a 10-time NBA All-Star and Rookie of the year.
George still hopes this remade team can come together in time to influence his thinking about the future -- and help him put the past to bed. "That team is gone," George said of those old Pacers. "It happens. Players move on, organizations move on. You deal with it. You keep playing. We've yet to see what this team can be."
"This season has been a reality check," George told ESPN.com last week in New York. "You think you are gonna be in those playoff battles, playing alongside those guys forever. You have to try and recapture that moment. And that moment for us was having a strong chemistry and identity. We don't have one now. I've never been on a team without an identity -- without a toughness identity."
Meanwhile, the Lakers are integrating new front-office leadership, and Kevin Pritchard, the Pacers GM and Bird's top deputy, is working under a contract that expires after the season, sources say. It could be a wild summer. Bird is ready. "We want Paul," he said. "And we are always going to do what is best for the franchise."
Johnson beat Bird to it. The phone call lasted less than five minutes, consisted mostly of small talk and might have touched only briefly on the fate of Indiana star Paul George. “I wasn’t motivated to move Paul George at the deadline,” Bird said. “I can’t remember if it was even brought up or not. I don’t think it was. It’s all fake news anyway. You know that. Somebody’s gonna start it and [it] just was a snowball effect. [The phone call] was not about Paul George.”
His advice for Johnson is to understand that. “You can put a team together, what you think’s gonna be a pretty solid team on paper, and then when they get out there they don’t mesh well,” Bird said. “I’m sort of going through that this year. We thought we had a decent team that we thought could compete for the fourth or fifth seed. We haven’t played as well as I thought we would all year. That’s the growing pains. That’s the frustration about it.”
“I’ve been here for, I don’t know how many years, 12, 13, and I haven’t made a deal with Danny Ainge yet,” Bird said. “That should tell you something. I’ve always been closer with Danny, because I played with him for all them years, than Earvin. “Talked to Danny about a lot of trades, but never did one. I just feel it’s gotta be a fair deal for both sides and we never got there. Maybe he thought it was fair, but I didn’t think so.”
August 7, 2022 | 3:16 am EDT Update
Make no mistake, though: Much as Wood seemed to revel in the chance to take a breather and hang with young fans, he said he’s wholly focused on the possibilities that lie ahead with his tenure on the Mavs. “It’s a great opportunity for me and for this organization to try and take that next step,” Christian Wood said. “I just want to win games. My main objective is to try and get to the Finals.”
“I’m still counting my blessings and happy to be here,” he said. Specifically, the 6-foot-9 center was speaking about being a Maverick. But on Thursday, that gratitude could also extend to his time with the kids he got to work out with in Plano. “I was once that little kid that would look up to NBA players and hope that he would sign my shoe or hope that I would be able to meet him in person,” he said. “With kids, I can be myself and I can be a kid myself. So it’s fun.”
Anze Macek, the kinesiologist who has been working with Doncic for the past two years, gave some insight about the regime change the Slovenian wunderkind took this offseason. “Shortly after the end of the season, he contacted me and said that he wanted to start fitness training immediately. Together with Goran Dragic, they worked for three weeks,” Macek said to SportKlub Slovenija. “The national team action followed. When he went on vacation, he asked me for a work plan.”
“He remains active,” he said. “I am in contact with him almost on a daily basis. He keeps his shape. He will improve everything during the national team practices where he will prepare with maximum effort.” The comments about his body have no real impact on Luka, Macek says. On the contrary, they drive him forward, the Slovenian team fitness coach is certain.
“Luka is a global star. In plain sight. People follow him every step of the way, as far as possible. Therefore, evil tongues also appear very quickly. Maybe they are trying to get to him by commenting on each photo. But that’s really not a good way,” Macek explained. “He always has an answer. This only further motivates him and drives him forward.”
Clutch Points: “Memphis is going to get their reality check” – Draymond Green Grizzlies have Draymond quoted in their weight room 👀 (via tripj/TT) pic.twitter.com/JAE8jPta20