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View Full Version : [Star] Bird believes a team of winners will fill seats



Hicks
09-29-2008, 08:39 AM
Hey, Gnome; you're going to get one of your wishes coming true.

http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080929/SPORTS04/809290344/1088/SPORTS04

By Mike Wells
mike.wells@indystar.com

Larry Bird built a Hall of Fame career out of hard work and a nearly unmatched desire to win.

Few things infuriate him more than players who don't share his dedication, unselfishness and professionalism.

That's what made the past few seasons so difficult to stomach.

The Indiana Pacers president often squirmed in his seat while watching a poor defensive team on the court and uttered words not meant for young children after some of the things his players did off the court.

With victories and attendance declining, Bird knew almost everything had to change. No longer sharing the gavel with Donnie Walsh, he wasted little time dropping the hammer.

Bird unloaded the final two years of Jermaine O'Neal's hefty contract and acquired seven players to go with the returning nucleus -- all in a 48-hour period in late June. He drafted two college upperclassmen in the first round whose work ethic already has been applauded. He chose not to re-sign David Harrison, told Jamaal Tinsley to stay home and said he's had "enough" of Shawne Williams' antics.

He showed that "Ignite the passion. Restore the pride" is more than the team's new slogan.

"All the off-the-court problems have been a disaster for us," Bird said last week. "It's unfortunate all this stuff has happened. It's something we said we were going to clean up and we're doing that."

The Pacers, who open training camp Tuesday, hope the personnel changes and emphasis on high character will win games and fans.

They know it will take time. The Pacers ranked last in attendance at 12,222 a game last season.

"It's like a new start around here," Pacers co-owner Herb Simon said. "I feel Larry has kept us competitive by keeping our core players and going out and getting us good ones. I feel good about what has happened, but we have to show results on the court."

Winning is the quickest way to improve attendance. The Pacers, though, are several players from contending again. They hope their style -- up-tempo with a lot of 3-point shooting -- and a likeable team will entice fans to return to the fieldhouse.

"It has been challenging," Pacers Sports and Entertainment president Jim Morris said. "I think people in Indiana love the Pacers. They have a respect and affection for the 42 years of history. I think some of our fans have been disappointed the last few years. If we have a team that plays hard and gives it everything they have, they will respect and support this franchise."

Led by Morris and an increased marketing budget, the Pacers put on a full-court press this summer.

They purchased ads in local publications, including The Star, that focused on getting to know their players and officials. They bought space in Sports Illustrated and rented billboards around the city.

They held their first draft-night party at the fieldhouse, which drew about 4,300 fans. Bird invited about 800 season-ticket holders to his 350-acre estate. Simon and Morris held similar events at their homes. The Pacers are expanding their reach by playing preseason games at the Pepsi Coliseum and in Fort Wayne.

Morris said they plan to make the fieldhouse a fan-friendly venue by having high school and college bands play during games.

"We want to make this the most wholesome, upbeat, positive experience you can have in town," he said. "We're trying to strengthen our partnerships."

Morris said the team didn't lose any corporate sponsors and added several new ones.

The Pacers did not raise ticket prices, and they offer about 8,600 single-game tickets for $25 or less, more than any other team in the Central Division. Detroit, for example, has about 3,000 tickets at that price.

Still, the Pacers' season-ticket sales are down compared with this point last year. Some fans are taking a wait-and-see approach. The Tinsley saga isn't helping.

"I've talked to a lot of people and a lot of people are on the fence," Bird said. "They know we have to do some things to get this in the right direction."

How successful they'll be is unknown, but early signs of how they're being perceived have been positive.

"I believe the Pacers are taking the necessary steps to make the franchise respectable again," said former season-ticket holder Brett Parker of Indianapolis. "They've been in a bit of an identity crisis ever since the brawl in Detroit and Reggie (Miller's) retirement."

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Key questions

1. Are the Pacers good enough to make the playoffs?
The Pacers improved, but so did several other Eastern Conference teams. Seventh or eighth seed is probably their most realistic hope. Even then, it's going to take a vastly improved defense, some scoring in the post and steady point guard play from T.J. Ford and Jarrett Jack to return to the postseason for the first time since 2006.

2. Will they be better defensively?
They have to be after last season's debacle, right? The Pacers held opponents to a respectable 45 percent shooting last season, but just four teams allowed more points than their 105. Shaky perimeter defense allowed teams to basically conduct layup drills on them, prompting coach Jim O'Brien to refer to their defense as "horrible" during the summer. O'Brien tweaked his defensive system, and they're counting on Ford and Jack to supply ball pressure on the perimeter and 7-2 rookie Roy Hibbert to at least be an intimidating factor in the paint. They also need Danny Granger to re-commit himself.

3. Who is their go-to player?
Reggie Miller is still gone, and the Pacers are still looking for someone to replace him. Granger and Mike Dunleavy will get plenty of opportunities, but Granger had a tendency to settle for jump shots last season and Dunleavy has a difficult time creating his shot. O'Brien can put the ball in Ford's hands and have him penetrate to shoot or kick it out to an open teammate on the perimeter.

4. Will Granger's contract situation affect his play?
The Pacers would like to sign Granger to an extension, but can wait until next summer before giving him a new contract. It might drag on, but neither Granger nor the Pacers can afford for the swingman to get caught up in individual statistics, especially since they have a new motto of "Team Ego."

5. Who will score in the post?
Team president Larry Bird's inability to acquire the low-post scoring power forward he wanted leaves the Pacers scrambling for a big man they can dump the ball to for easy points. Bird acknowledged they need a scoring threat down low to win a championship, and they don't have that. Rasho Nesterovic and Troy Murphy, who both like to score from the perimeter, are their two best options at the moment.

6. Will the Jamaal Tinsley saga be a distraction?
The Pacers say no, but it might take giving up one of their core to trade Tinsley. Shawne Williams might be the one. He's talented, young and affordable. He's also had off-the-court issues, so moving him along with Tinsley would appease many fans.

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At least the sponsors are picking up some slack. :D

Speed
09-29-2008, 08:43 AM
So does that mean Shawne is gone too, most likely, as part of the same package?

If I was a team that hadn't been recently burned by off court stuff or if I was a GM who had a fan base who was more tolerant of off court stuff. I think those two talent-wise are a great pick up. A starting caliber Point Guard and a viable first swing man off the bench. It only takes one teams GM to think that way.

All Bird should be asking for is an expiring contract, even if it's a 2 year contract.

I know, financial wise teams don't want JT, but like I said above, if you turn an expiring contract into two rotation players, it has a really good chance to make an impact.

RamBo_Lamar
09-29-2008, 08:57 AM
So far so good - keep up the great work TPTB!


:boomer:

MagicRat
09-29-2008, 09:01 AM
"We want to make this the most wholesome, upbeat, positive experience you can have in town," he said. "We're trying to strengthen our partnerships."

"We don't want a bunch of milk drinkers." - Larry Bird
"Yes, we do." - Jim Morris

Anthem
09-29-2008, 09:16 AM
Morris said they plan to make the fieldhouse a fan-friendly venue by having high school and college bands play during games.
I love this.

BillS
09-29-2008, 09:17 AM
I'm thinking I need to explore some of the subterranean enclosures of the Fieldhouse and look for pods. That might explain this string of complimentary articles by Wells...

McKeyFan
09-29-2008, 09:36 AM
"We don't want a bunch of milk drinkers." - Larry Bird
"Yes, we do." - Jim Morris

Perfect.

Hicks
09-29-2008, 09:41 AM
Hopefully he saw the error of his ways.

Major Cold
09-29-2008, 10:41 AM
O'Brien tweaked his defensive system, and they're counting on Ford and Jack to supply ball pressure on the perimeter and 7-2 rookie Roy Hibbert to at least be an intimidating factor in the paint. They also need Danny Granger to re-commit himself.

So how is this a tweak? Is this not the original style he played? Last year he couldn't pressure the point with Travis and even Murray, especially since there was no shot blocker for safety.

Are they putting too much stock in a rookie center?

If Danny wants a contract like Iggy then he has to play better one-on-one defense.

Unclebuck
09-29-2008, 10:58 AM
So how is this a tweak? Is this not the original style he played? Last year he couldn't pressure the point with Travis and even Murray, especially since there was no shot blocker for safety.

Are they putting too much stock in a rookie center?

If Danny wants a contract like Iggy then he has to play better one-on-one defense.

I can't wait to see how it is tweaked. Bird said the same thing in his press conference last Friday about JOB tweaking the defense.

I have no idea how they changed it. I don't think pressuring the ball is a change - he always likes to pressure the ball, but just didn't have the players - but that isn't changing the system at all.

Speed
09-29-2008, 10:59 AM
On a side note: who will we hear about that has really put on muscle and/or appears to be in great shape from Media day? Murphy and Dunleavy were the guys last year, I believe?

I bet we hear how Marquis Daniels has really worked on his 3 point shot.

Hicks
09-29-2008, 11:39 AM
I bet we hear how Marquis Daniels has really worked on his 3 point shot.

We already have.

MyFavMartin
09-29-2008, 11:57 AM
On a side note: who will we hear about that has really put on muscle and/or appears to be in great shape from Media day? Murphy and Dunleavy were the guys last year, I believe?



Diener.

He's the next Hulk. ;)

duke dynamite
09-29-2008, 04:54 PM
I love this.
All of us here should get credit for this. Every time we have had a poll or discussion of how to make the games more enjoyable, almost everyone had said something about a pep band.

Roaming Gnome
09-29-2008, 05:00 PM
All of us here should get credit for this. Every time we have had a poll or discussion of how to make the games more enjoyable, almost everyone had said something about a pep band.

I'd say the focus group probably had more to do with it then us on the internet. I was on one of the focus groups and a "pep band" was really high up on both of the focus groups list of things to improve the Pacers experience.

duke dynamite
09-29-2008, 05:13 PM
I'd say the focus group probably had more to do with it then us on the internet. I was on one of the focus groups and a "pep band" was really high up on both of the focus groups list of things to improve the Pacers experience.

Sorry, I was just trying to emphasize the fact that most of us had that idea in mind. I just feel that we should give ourselves a pat on the back for a great idea, even if we weren't the ones they heard it from.

Every survey and questionaire I've been given I've stated my desire in wanting a pep band. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to that focus group meeting, since I was working that day.

Naptown_Seth
09-29-2008, 08:12 PM
I love this.
I do too, and not because of some nuts version of "moral goodness" or artificial wholesomeness. I like it just because I'm sick of the NBA-wide pre-packaged experience. I'd like to see it get back to more of a unique identity for each arena, and if not that then at least at Conseco. Retro stadium, retro experience, makes sense to me.

I hope they back off some of the blaring music. I love it cranked as much as the next guy but not when it's distorted and/or inappropriate. I don't even really like pre-game hype that's on par with post-season levels. Every game just can't be the most special thing ever, you want something different for those special nights and playoff games.

LoneGranger33
09-29-2008, 08:13 PM
Is a team of winners = a winning team?

Naptown_Seth
09-29-2008, 08:19 PM
I can't wait to see how it is tweaked. Bird said the same thing in his press conference last Friday about JOB tweaking the defense.

I have no idea how they changed it. I don't think pressuring the ball is a change - he always likes to pressure the ball, but just didn't have the players - but that isn't changing the system at all.
I'm wondering if they won't back off the high traps a little bit in order to help defend the corners. They have to know that was the weak spot. I liked that the PnR was basically shut down after the punishment we got on it the year before, but they committed so much to stopping it that it was hardly worth it at times.

I like Hibbert (thus the whole "I don't care if he flops" thing), but it's extremely doubtful that he'll defend the paint anywhere near JO's level. Of course the PG defense will be much better and when Rush is in we should see improved SG defense.

If Danny could take a step forward in his awareness he could be a real threat and help cause a lot of problems by helping out. He showed last year that he could close out for blocks pretty well. He just doesn't quite ball hawk the open spots on the floor very well, he doesn't seem to see things ahead of time often enough. I think he'll benefit the most from having a 2nd year to get used to JOB's approach.

duke dynamite
09-29-2008, 09:16 PM
I don't even really like pre-game hype that's on par with post-season levels. Every game just can't be the most special thing ever, you want something different for those special nights and playoff games.

Not everyone goes to every game. They want to make it the same for everyone, I would understand. It does seem a little wasteful to hype up the crowd when we are not playing for a spot at the postseason, or to not be a spoiler team.

All in all, I say keep the pre-game banter. It is fun. (at least to me)

ChicagoJ
09-30-2008, 12:25 PM
Is a team of winners = a winning team?

Not necessarily.

A team of winners, as we'll see over the next couple of seasons, will be learning how to win in the NBA. And they'll probably lose a lot of games this season, which will really bother them as they aren't accustomed to losing.

For an analogy, its like our when we are recruiting employees right off of campus. Some of our people get fixated with GPA and want to hire everyone with a 3.9 or higher, even if they have no social skills, no proven work skills, and can't communicate effectively in English to our clients. Others of us are looking for people that have proven success even if their GPA is slightly lower because we know they will "figure it out" and be successful again.

I've always thought drafting "winners" was more important that drafting "skillz". Prior to this summer, I didn't have much faith in Larry Bird, in part because of his low non-basketball-IQ. But if he's got the common sense to build a team of winners, then I may have to revisit my very low opinion of him. Because his predecessor was always building a "collection of talent" and sometimes it morphed into a winning team.

ChicagoJ
09-30-2008, 12:31 PM
I do too, and not because of some nuts version of "moral goodness" or artificial wholesomeness. I like it just because I'm sick of the NBA-wide pre-packaged experience. I'd like to see it get back to more of a unique identity for each arena, and if not that then at least at Conseco. Retro stadium, retro experience, makes sense to me.

I hope they back off some of the blaring music. I love it cranked as much as the next guy but not when it's distorted and/or inappropriate. I don't even really like pre-game hype that's on par with post-season levels. Every game just can't be the most special thing ever, you want something different for those special nights and playoff games.

Personally, I loved the old, "no hype, we're just a bunch of folks from Indiana that want to watch a basketball game" environment at MSA pre-1994. No fireworks during the pre-game introductions. No spotlights. Don't need blaring music and noise all game long. NO RACECARS!

Without racecars, blaring music, or even dimmed lights for the player introductions, the 1991 playoffs were still louder than 1994 ECFs or the 2000 Finals.

But there aren't enough of me, and people like me, that think the actual basketball on the court is the entertainment to fill the seats. So you have to make it "entertaining" for everyone else. Blah.

And when our team of young winners starts to grow up, we'll get another "1991" moment when they are on the verge of their first playoff series win. I'm looking forward to that a couple of seasons down the road.

Unclebuck
09-30-2008, 02:20 PM
I'm wondering if they won't back off the high traps a little bit in order to help defend the corners. They have to know that was the weak spot. I liked that the PnR was basically shut down after the punishment we got on it the year before, but they committed so much to stopping it that it was hardly worth it at times.

I like Hibbert (thus the whole "I don't care if he flops" thing), but it's extremely doubtful that he'll defend the paint anywhere near JO's level. Of course the PG defense will be much better and when Rush is in we should see improved SG defense.

If Danny could take a step forward in his awareness he could be a real threat and help cause a lot of problems by helping out. He showed last year that he could close out for blocks pretty well. He just doesn't quite ball hawk the open spots on the floor very well, he doesn't seem to see things ahead of time often enough. I think he'll benefit the most from having a 2nd year to get used to JOB's approach.



That is my best guess also. Seemed like teams were good at using our defense to their advantage - mainly by stringing us out so much and having our guys raunning around all over the place. The 4th quarter of the Cavs game at Conseco was a classic example, James torched us as we sent the whole defense his way and yet he still was able to score, or pass out for easy shots.

So, I would expect to see a little more straight up defense - less stunting, less blitzing