MM: Speaking of Victor Oladipo, what’s the expectation for him? How much better can he be? Kevin Pritchard: “We challenged him. Victor’s not the kind of kid that when I talk to him wants to hear how great he is. He’s got an internal compass that’s a strong confidence in himself and his abilities. I never worry about that. I don’t worry about his work ethic. I don’t worry about him as a great teammate. Of any player I’ve ever had, whatever his ceiling is, he’s going to get to it. He’s obsessed with becoming a great basketball player. He’s had a helluva off-season. He’ll go through some ups and downs like every player does in this league, but I have faith he’ll bounce back quick. I just think he’ll take the baton of leadership. My challenge to him is this. I played with Larry Bird. He was the best player I had ever played with. Him and Danny Manning in college (at Kansas). And those two had one specific thing that they did that was incredible, and that’s when they stepped on the court the other four players thought they were better. When I played with Larry I was just a little bit better. When I played with Danny, I was just a little bit better. That will be his next growth. He steps on the court and the other four guys go, “I’ve got this guy in my trench? We’re going to be OK tonight.” I don’t want to put it all on him, but good players do for themselves and great players do for others. He’s got the opportunity to do that.”
MM: Given that, how hard was it to make any changes at all? You could have brought back the same team and probably been justified in doing that because you had such a good thing going. Kevin Pritchard: "It's always a balance, right? With Lance (Stephenson), we had a lot of conversations with his agent and with him during that time. There was a chance we were going to bring him back, but I think he got that call from LeBron or LeBron's agent. That was a powerful thing, and we don't blame him. It was misconstrued a little bit how I feel about Lance. Lance meant a lot to this organization. I kind of looked at it like this will be his home. Larry Bird drafted him, we spent a lot of time developing him, he left and then he came back … and with Lance, one of the great things is when you get to the playoffs, you need a little X-factor. And Lance was that X-factor. "
Kevin Pritchard: "We feel like Tyreke can do a lot of that. He's a heck of a shooter now. He's changed his game. You can't go under the pick and roll with Tyreke now. You have to go over because he's one of the elite pull-up dribble three shooters off the pick and roll now. That's a skill that's really important now. If he goes over the top and it's Domas (Sabonis) that's playing with him, that creates a lot of angles and puts the defense in tough positions. It's always a challenge. You're always looking to upgrade but you're looking for continuity. We said all along, we wanted to bring back our top seven. But we didn't have control over two of them - Thad (Young) and Cory (Joseph). Once we knew they were going to opt-in, we could be sort of calm and we didn't have to find that starting four or that backup point guard. I like our balance of youth and experience. But you're always fighting that as well. You look for guys in their prime and still playing well and not on the decline, but you fill them up with guys who are coming. That's a challenge as well."
MM: You mentioned McDermott earlier. He's the one new guy people seem to be questioning. You gave him a good contract, you committed to him. People say he's a poor defender, that he's just a 3-point shooter. What do you see in him that perhaps other people do not? Kevin Pritchard: "It's interesting because any time you look at a player … when we did the trade of Paul (George) for Victor and Sabonis, the level of their production value wasn't equal. Paul was (better). But sometimes you say, "Can we help him maximize what his talent level is?" That's what we did with Victor and I think we're doing it with Domas. For me, McDermott can be an elite player away from the ball with his movement and cutting. He's got that old school Jim Paxson kind of game, where's he constantly moving. That's an offense unto itself. In my mind, I picture him moving and occupying defenders' minds, and then you've got a two-man game of Tyreke and Domas on one side and Doug coming off screens. You have to dial into that. If you're not dialed into Doug, he's going to shoot and we want him to shoot a lot. He shot 48 percent from three with Dallas late in the season."
"I'm really proud of what Nate and our coaching staff have done," said Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard. "Nate is very deserving of this extension. We have a wonderful culture and he has been a big part of implementing that culture. He's dedicated leader, a very good coach and we're lucky to have him here with the Pacers." "I'm very appreciative of Kevin and Mr. Simon (team owner, Herb Simon) for this show of faith in what we are doing," said McMillan. "Going back two years ago when I was hired, the trust Larry (Bird) and Mr. Simon had in myself and my staff meant a lot. Now with this extension, it's an affirmation of what we all – front office, coaches, players, staff – are trying to accomplish."
J. Michael Falgoust: Pritchard avoids question about change needed to get to the next level. “I like this team. I like this team” #Pacers
Victor Oladipo’s phone buzzed Tuesday. It was Pacers President Kevin Pritchard, the executive who orchestrated the move that brought Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indy last summer. He had the honor of alerting Oladipo that he was voted an All-Star reserve by NBA head coaches. For the first time in his five years as a pro, he would participate in the game showcasing the world’s best basketball players.
“Fitting that he would call me first,” Victor Oladipo said Wednesday morning. “It’s awesome. It was a great moment for me. It was just special, just hearing from him and hearing his words and everything like that was a special moment – something I’ll never forget.”
Paul George said the Pacers’ success has given him closure and made him feel better about how he handled his exit by informing the front office of his desire to play elsewhere and giving Indiana the chance to get something of value in return. He didn’t give them a half-hearted eighth season and leave them empty handed. But the timing of his decision still has some Pacers fans salty, because George waited until days before the NBA draft and gave “gut-punched” team president Kevin Pritchard little time to find a package that could’ve given the franchise the picks and prospects that All-Stars usually yield in deals. Pritchard is finally starting to get recognition for swinging a quality deal under the circumstances, especially with Oladipo playing as if an All-Star appearance and NBA Most Improved Player award are within his grasp. “[Victor Oladipo] is the face of Indiana. Vic is the future of Indiana. I’m along with Indiana on this Victor wave,” George said. “Let’s put all this to rest for what it is. I had an amazing seven years here. I was blessed to play in front of a great Indiana fan base, which as you saw tonight, they showed up and showed out. I’m grateful. I’m grateful to play in this organization. But ultimately I didn’t achieve what I wanted to do here and I moved on. Both sides moved on, and let’s all move on.”
Tania Ganguli: Pacers triggered the Lakers tampering investigation, so I asked for their comment. From GM Pritchard: "We accept the league's findings."
Kevin Durant is quite familiar with Oklahoma City, and the Warriors forward appeared on "The Bill Simmons Podcast" to talk about the NBA offseason frenzy (the episode will be released on Monday, but a partial transcript can be found on The Ringer). When it comes to George, it appears that Durant is just as confused as the rest of us. "I think Paul George is so good. A lot of people disrespect him. Because I play against him and I respect my position," Durant said. "So that was shocking because Indiana just gave him away. And I ain't think OKC would even think about giving up anything to trade for him. I didn't think they would do it, but that was a ballsy move."
Indiana Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard announced he has named Chad Buchanan as General Manager. Buchanan replaces Pritchard, who in May assumed his current role. Pritchard also announced that Vice President of Basketball Operations Peter Dinwiddie has been promoted to Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations. The 44-year-old Buchanan joins the Pacers after spending the last three seasons as assistant general manager for the Charlotte Hornets. Prior to that, Buchanan was with the Portland Trail Blazers for 10 years, serving as a scout, acting General Manager in 2011-12 and director of college scouting.
Mark Murphy: Source added that Pritchard's last demand was for next year's Nets and Lakers picks, plus starting player(s).
George hasn’t requested a trade before he can opt out of his 2018-19 contract, but did have his agent, Aaron Mintz, tell new Indiana president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard that he wanted to be forthright on his plans and spare the franchise any confusion about his intentions, league sources told The Vertical. George can sign a four-year deal worth as much as $130 million with Los Angeles next year. George is a Southern California native and playing for the Lakers would represent a homecoming for him.
Marc Stein: The Indiana Pacers have received permission to interview Hornets exec Chad Buchanan for a spot in their front office, league sources say.
“I think picking up Lance late in the year made us a better team, got us into the playoffs,” Pritchard said. “Lance’s energy, and having two unique athletic wings in this business is a luxury, and I think we can build on that. “We all know Lance is crazy. But Larry and I talked about it a lot. We knew him coming in could go a lot of different ways. He was so appreciative to be back in a place where he had success. I think everybody felt the lightning bolt that came back into the arena when he stepped on the court. As he gets more healthy, as he gets better in shape, we’re going to ask more of him.”
“I don’t believe in tearing it down, because then you can tear down your culture,” Pritchard said. “You can’t teach guys how to win. Some teams are out of the playoffs seven, eight, nine years. We don’t do that.”
As for his coach, Pritchard solidly backed Nate McMillan despite criticism he received during the regular season when the Pacers almost missed the playoffs. Pritchard said the team’s struggles during McMillan’s first year as coach could be a blessing moving forward.
Pritchard talked as if he wants to reshape the makeup of the team somewhat. Last season, Bird made moves to player smaller and faster and try to score more. Pritchard indicated a desire to return to a more physical team, such as the ones the Pacers had when they reached the conference finals in 2013 and 2014. "I'd like to have a tougher team," he said. "We won at home. What it takes to win on the road is a whole new ballgame. You have to be able to play physical, you have to be tough and you have to amp up your game. "We used to be a hard hat and a lunch pail kind of team. I'm not saying get back to that completely, because it's a very skilled league, too."
Scott Agness: Kevin Pritchard was not informed he'd be taking over for Bird until last week. He has not yet decided whether he will fill his previous role
The Indiana Pacers announced Monday that Larry Bird is stepping down as President of Basketball Operations with current Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations/General Manager Kevin Pritchard assuming Bird's position. Bird will remain with the team in an advisory role.
"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.
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