NBA Rumor: Pacers Front Office

82 rumors in this storyline

Pacers keeping GM Kevin Pritchard

The Indiana Pacers had a disappointing 20-21 season in which they fired Nate Bjorkgren as head coach after one season, but Kevin Pritchard will remain in his role running the front office. “Let me say a few things about Indiana,” said Brian Windhorst. “One, I know Kevin Pritchard, their general manager, came out and gave a press conference and made it sound like his future was in some sort of doubt there. That is no longer the case. He has been assured he will be there. I don’t think he was ever really in danger. Herb Simon, who is the owner of the team, is extremely close to him. They have an extremely close relationship. It doesn’t mean they couldn’t make a change. Without going too far, I will say Kevin Pritchard has been assured he’s going to be there.”

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President of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard deserves credit not for not bottoming out in the aftermath of Paul George demanding a trade in 2017 and keeping the team in the postseason in the years since. However, despite being part of the organization since 2011, Pritchard had never been the sole decision-maker when it came to hiring a head coach until Bjorkgren was tabbed in October. (He did have a relationship with former Pacers head coach Nate McMillan from their years together in Portland.)

Donnie Walsh retiring

Longtime Indiana Pacers executive Donnie Walsh, the architect of the franchise’s turnaround, announced his retirement on Wednesday. The 79-year-old Walsh first told The Indianapolis Star of his intention to retire. “Over my 30-year relationship with Donnie, I have been amazed to watch him help lead this organization to what it has become,” team owner Herb Simon said in a statement. “He was certainly the right leader at the right time, and the invaluable wisdom and counsel he has provided over the decades extend well beyond the lines of the basketball court.”

“Over my thirty-year relationship with Donnie, I have been amazed to watch him help lead this organization to what it has become,” Simon said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. He purchased the team, along with his late brother Mel, in 1983. “He was certainly the right leader at the right time, and the invaluable wisdom and counsel he has provided over the decades extend well beyond the lines of the basketball court. For that, I owe him an incredible debt of gratitude. While he may be stepping away, Donnie will always be part of the Pacers family and I am personally excited for him as he transitions to his next chapter.”

Paul George said he left the Pacers because they weren’t willing to spend enough. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one to feel that way. Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president in 2017, citing a desire to do more things outside basketball. Yet, he also reportedly had another reason. Jackie MacMullan of ESPN: “Indiana is a small-market team that consistently has not gone out and paid big money. We know that this was something that frustrated Larry Bird, who is a legend in the state of Indiana and elsewhere, I might add. It frustrated him enough that he stepped aside.”

“We say this a lot for young girls – how important it is to see it because once you see it, then you start thinking about it,” Krauskopf said. “I guess, for me, I hadn’t thought about it because I had never seen a female in a front office on the basketball side really weighing in on player decisions and managing your team. In some ways, it wasn’t a thought, because I just didn’t think it was a possibility. “I was so busy running my own team and doing my own thing that I hadn’t focused on it. It wasn’t necessarily something that I was 100 percent focused on like I wanted that to be my next step. When it was it was presented to me it was sort of like this lightning bolt hit me like, ‘Wow. This could be an option. Why not?’”

Pacers Sports & Entertainment (PS&E) today announced Dianna Boyce has been named Vice President, 2021 NBA All-Star, Inc. and Mariah Bird has been named Manager of Event Activations and Venues as plans begin to ramp up for the February 2021 weekend. Boyce most recently served as Senior Director, Corporate Communications at The Finish Line, Inc. and began her NBA All-Star duties last week. She will strategically lead the planning and implementation for marketing and communications as well as coordinate the operations, host committee and legacy components.

“Dianna has a proven track record in sports management and implementation including serving as a senior member of the staff for the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee,” said Mel Raines, Senior Vice President, PS&E and President, 2021 NBA All-Star, Inc. “She brings a wealth of experience with organizing multiple facets of major projects as well as engaging and activating community involvement. I am confident she will work with our Host Committee to deliver the most successful All-Star event in NBA history.” “Alongside our 2021 NBA All-Star Co-Chairs, Board of Directors and Pacers Sports & Entertainment staff, I am thrilled to take part in developing and implementing plans for 2021 NBA All-Star,” said Boyce. “With an international stage during that 2021 February weekend, our city and state will once again share our greatest strengths with visitors, the NBA and our local communities. It’s an honor – and humbling – to be part of an event that will impact and engage communities throughout Indiana for generations to come.”

The Indiana Pacers announced Monday the hiring of Kelly Krauskopf as Assistant General Manager. Krauskopf, who has spent the last 19 seasons as the Indiana Fever’s top executive and oversaw the Pacers NBA 2K League team in the last year, will relinquish those duties when she starts her new position, Jan. 1. The Fever and Pacers Gaming will report directly to Pacers Sports & Entertainment President/Chief Operating Officer Rick Fuson while the organization evaluates and identifies new leadership. “As the architect of one of the WNBA’s most successful franchises, Kelly is a true pioneer in our sport,” said PS&E owner Herb Simon. “I’ve worked with Kelly over the past two decades, so I know her tremendous basketball mind, strong work ethic and proven leadership skills will continue to be of great benefit to our organization.”

MM: With Myles, he’s obviously worked hard this summer in Texas, based on the photographs he’s put up on social media. What have you heard about his summer and what are you expecting from him? Kevin Pritchard: “I think he and Domas both had a great summer in terms of changing their bodies. Domas went down to Dallas. They’ve created a unique bond. I love that. That’s super-important for us. I’ll say this. You look at Victor’s body of work … he changed his body, but the way he changed was he changed his mind. He made a decision mentally that I’m going to be the best worker, I’m going to be the first in the gym, the last in the gym, I’m going to do everything I can obsessively to have a great year.”

Kevin Pritchard: “Myles has done the first step. He’s changed his body. I have every reason to believe he’ll change his mind, that he will be the physical player we need him to be. We need him to score some, but we need him to be the defensive anchor to totally disrupt the game on that side of the ball. He really can block shots. He can be the intimidator inside with his length and his athletic ability at the rim. I still think that’s one of the most valuable tools in this league. I remember some of the elite guys in this league … Patrick (Ewing) and (Hakeem) Olajuwon and (Dikembe) Mutombo … they changed the game. You didn’t go in (the lane). I want him to have that mentality, that I’m going to be elite on that side of the ball. If he does that, everything will take care of itself.”

Kevin Pritchard: “Me, too. I don’t want to see us win 50 games and not be more prepared for the playoffs. I was very lucky. I was coached by some very good coaches … Larry Brown, Coach (Roy) Williams, Gregg Popovich … some of the great coaches. Sometimes they sacrificed some stuff in the middle of the season to make sure there was an opportunity to be right at the end of the season, which is what we’re all about. Getting to the playoffs. That’s our goal. We want to get to the playoffs, because you have to get to the playoffs to get to the second round. There are so many variables. Health. Are you clicking at the right time? It’s crazy, you look at teams that are clicking at the right time and it’s amazing basketball. Everybody is shooting the ball well, they feel good about themselves, they feel fresh at the end of the year. My goal is to get to the playoffs and be prepared to succeed in the playoffs. That doesn’t mean winning 50 games, it means getting to the playoffs.”

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.”

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.”

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.

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.

“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.”

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.”

“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.

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.

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.

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.”
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July 31, 2021 | 3:05 am EDT Update
Here’s what Wojnarowski reported on ESPN’s morning show ‘Get Up’: “Philadelphia is still asking for a lot. Teams are not willing to be strip-mined to trade for Ben Simmons. They’re going to continue to try and find a way, to see if there’s a deal here as free agency starts. You kind of get another cycle of deal-making here. But he’s four years left on his deal, they’re not going to just give him away in Philly. Whatever they get back for him, they’ve got to believe it continues to make them a championship contender. But they’d like to get a deal done before training camp.”
That pushed Hield to the forefront. But even as the possibility of a deal built around Kyle Kuzma and Harrell began to form, the Lakers kept the door open to a Westbrook deal. Westbrook asserted his voice into the conversation, and per an NBA source, the Wizards pivoted. Just like that, the pieces the Kings liked for Hield were no longer available.