Larry Bird Rumors
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. “
In addition to Catchings, three other basketball icons with ties to Pacers Sports & Entertainment were emblazoned in bronze. Hall of Fame sharpshooter Reggie Miller shares a statue with Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster Bobby “Slick” Leonard, a fitting tribute as Leonard’s “Boom Baby!” call after a Pacers 3-pointer became synonymous with Miller, who made 2,560 threes in his 18-year career. Another statue features the great Larry Bird, who starred at Indiana State before going on to a Hall of Fame career with the Boston Celtics, then later returned to his home state to coach the Pacers and later lead the front office. To date, Bird is the only person in NBA history to win the Most Valuable Player, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year awards. “It’s a remarkable day,” Pacers Sports & Entertainment President/COO Rick Fuson said. “To see these great likenesses of all these friends that I’ve known over the years, it’s heartwarming for me.”
Does it frustrate you, not getting kind of credit and respect you deserve? Dominique Wilkins: It’s frustrating at times, but the thing that really satisfies me is that my peers know what I’ve done. The guys like Larry Bird and Dr. J and Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler and Magic Johnson, they all know and they’ve all said some wonderful things. And I’ll tell you one of the guys who has too is Danny Ainge. Some of the things he’s said recently shed a lot of light on what I did. But when you don’t win a championship . There are a lot of guys who didn’t win a championship, but does that diminish how great they were? No.