The Indiana Pacers announced Monday that Larry Bird is …

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"I felt it was time to step away in a full-time capacity," said Bird. "This has nothing to do with my health or our team. I'm 60 years old and I want to do other things away from basketball. I will do some scouting for the Pacers, NBA, college, international, do some appearances and stay in a capacity to advise senior basketball management. I love the Pacers, I grew up with the Pacers and admired them from a very young age. I want to thank the fans for their support throughout my career. I also want to thank (owner) Herb Simon for the many years of loyalty and for allowing me to stay with the team in a different role."
Added Bird, "I'm very happy Kevin is stepping in and glad another Hoosier is in line to take over this job. He has a lot of experience from the past five years as a GM and he's ready to step into a leading role. With us, he has had his own ideas on the draft, players, and now he gets an opportunity to push his basketball abilities to the forefront. His role will be no different than mine was. He will make all final decisions on all basketball-related matters. There can only be one voice and it will be his."
Bird, according to sources, was unwilling to trade George before the NBA’s trade deadline in February. With Bird no longer making the Pacers’ top basketball decisions, a trade to ensure the Pacers receive compensation for George could become more of a possibility this summer. If George doesn't make one of the All-NBA teams, he could re-sign with the Pacers for approximately $180 million over five years. In either case, he can sign with another team for four years and about $130 million.
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.
Marc J. Spears: Larry Bird steps down as Pacers president and is replaced by Kevin Pritchard, source tells @TheUndefeated. @Adrian Wojnarowski first reported.
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.”
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“I knew what the move was,” Hyland told The Denver Post last week via Zoom. “They were already contacting me before and letting me know what was happening. After the moves even happened, the coaches called me, players called me, like, ‘Time to just go out there and be Bizzy. It’s a big opportunity for you.’ And they tell me every day, like, ‘You’re going to have a big role, big opportunity, a lot more minutes, just to just go out there and be yourself.’”
If he’s going to become a staple of Denver’s crunch-time rotation, simultaneously earning trust from coach Michael Malone, Hyland knows he needs to become a more consistent two-way player. “I think it’s moreso the defensive part, but I know I can guard,” he said. “I wasn’t the player this year who got picked on. When I put my mind to it, I know I can guard. … That’s just something I gotta do and be willing to do every possession.”
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