View Full Version : Star- Bird talks about Pacers search for a leader

09-30-2008, 03:07 AM
Bird says team poised to fill leadership void
Pacers have lacked leader -- a player who puts team first -- since Miller retired in '05
By Mike Wells
Posted: September 30, 2008

When Reggie Miller retired, the Indiana Pacers lost more than his 18 points per game and clutch shots.

They lost their leader. Team president Larry Bird has been looking for one since, even though Jermaine O'Neal was anointed with the role before being traded to Toronto during the offseason.

"Just because you make the most money doesn't mean you're the leader," Bird said last month. "A lot of guys didn't want to step on toes. Not only here, but other places I've been at. They'd say, the guy makes the most money, that means he's the leader. That's not the case. The leader comes from the guy doing the right thing, the guy that's going to be there every day at practice, the guy that plays through pain without complaining. They do the necessary things to prepare themselves.

"I think the situation you have here, you had one guy making a lot of money and everybody just took it as he's going to be leading us, and in some instances that was true. But I think more now that since it has opened you'll see a number of guys stepping up.

"Really, you just need one voice. Usually your best leaders are ones that don't say anything, they just play, prepare and do the right things."

There are several players capable of grabbing the reigns -- Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy and T.J. Ford -- but who does is anybody's guess.

Bird knows. It will be the one who puts the team first.

"You can't let your ego take over," Bird said. "It can't be about you. It has to be about the team . . . whoever it is, they will follow because they've been needing it for a long time. . . . There are a few guys down there that other guys will gravitate to."

Granger said Monday he embraced the role and increased responsibility. While he and Dunleavy are two logical candidates, the consensus during media day at Conseco Fieldhouse on Monday was that leadership will be a shared responsibility.

Somebody could emerge in camp, or it could take a couple of months.

Coach Jim O'Brien said he is counting on everyone, but he too singled out Dunleavy and Granger.

Both had career years offensively last season. O'Brien said they must do more than score points.

They'll be counted on to speak up in the middle of a five-game losing streak or if there is an issue dividing the locker room.

"I think they need to reach another level from a leadership standpoint," O'Brien said. "They're going to score a lot of points just because they know what we're trying to accomplish, because they're talented offensive players, but it still comes down to, they can be talented offensive players on a playoff team or they can be talented offensive players on a mediocre team."

Ford reached out to his new teammates by flying to New York to work out with Dunleavy and Troy Murphy. Center Jeff Foster has never been a flashy player, but he's a "glue guy" because of his work ethic, according to Bird.

"This is not something you just throw around lightly," Dunleavy said. "Quite frankly, I think it's a personal issue amongst the team and we'll work it out as the season goes along. I don't think it's something you anoint somebody or somebody comes out and says they're a leader. There's a lot of ways to get leadership. We'll work it out."


duke dynamite
09-30-2008, 03:22 AM
Discussion topic:

Does a team really need a leader? Does a team really need a voice? Their quality of play (or at times lack therof) should be the voice of the team.

What do you guys think?

I said a while back at the forum party that Mike should step up and be the leader. I really don't believe that anymore. Obviously, we have two capable players on this team that could take on a leadership role, they were mentioned above.

I do feel that we should let the scoreboard do the talking for this team. Jermaine made it a habit to do a lot of talking that really wasn't necessary let alone help the team much. I feel if we put one player in the spotlight, it will just create more problems. Don't get me wrong, it's always good for the players to have personal and team goals.

Tony Dungy (most of you guys know this already, but for those who dont...) keeps signs in the locker room for the for the players that read:

No Excuses
No Explainations

Previous iterations of this team had many of those. Injuries, suspensions, arguing bad calls with the refs, etc...

The coach of this team can do all the talking to the media. The players say what they need to do, but in a lot of cases do not produce under those self-mandated expectations (J.O.) whether it be by injuries and what-not. Until this team shows major progress, I'd let the players just do what they need to do, and let TPTB do the talking.

Now when it comes to a voice on the court, I still think it's in the coach's hands.

09-30-2008, 05:02 AM
in the late 90s it was Reggie and Mark Jackson who were the leaders. Mark was the one that led with his speech while Reggie set the tone with his game and preparation.
This team needs a one-two punch like that. Reggie and Jax were leaders in these positions because it was natural to them - they weren't force fed the position, their names weren't called to fill in the void...they took over these positions themselves and made the most out of it.
As long as we say there are 2 candidates, etc and try to pass on the torch to someone, that will not work. Let it happen naturally. Not everyone has the characteristics to lead.

09-30-2008, 09:37 AM
Personally what I think we will see is TJ Ford, acting as a leader. One that leads by example, not by his mouth. Its about what you sacrifice for everyone to take notice of. Its about other players following your lead, by trying to match the desire and passion you exude when on and off the court. I think TJ Ford will be that player and Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy and the rest of the crew will fall in line and show that same desire, especially the younger players. This is what creates a winning environment. We no longer have the bad apples that care more about themselves than winning to bring the team down with them. Its all about attitude and we have some of the best attitudes in the league now.

Major Cold
09-30-2008, 09:47 AM
Leaders are influential. Who on this team is influential with word or action?

Do we need a leader going into the season? Could one emerge through the battles of the season?

09-30-2008, 01:06 PM
I don't think that you can really hand pick a leader or force leadership upon somebody. Similarly, I don't think a player can just stand up and say "I'm the leader of this team". Leadership is about respect. To a certain extent, the best player on a team is going to be looked at as a leader, regardless of their abilities in this area. That was the problem with JO. He was the franchise player, but I don't think his teammates respected him. Foster's comments since the trade have indicated that it was obvious to anyone in the locker room that JO didn't want to be there.

Now that JO is gone, there's not a "franchise player" on the roster. There are 3 guys who are obviously a bit more talented than the rest of the team: Granger, Ford, and Dunleavy. I don't see Granger becoming the vocal leader of this team, but I do think he has the respect of his teammates. I think that guys like Rush and Hibbert can learn a lot from Danny. Like him, they were both upperclassmen with fairly well-rounded games coming out of college. They're thought to be NBA-ready players rather than huge upside players. By working hard and responding well to coaching, Granger has developed into a near all-star level player. Brandon and Roy can look at him and say, "Why can't I be where he's at 3 years from now?"

Dunleavy and Ford are more vocal guys than Danny. Dun has an opportunity to be an on-the-floor leader because of his superior understanding of the game. He's a smart guy who knows what the team's trying to do. He can be the guy who gets everybody in the right position and lets them know when they're not doing things correctly. He showed a bit of this last year. My only worry about Dun as a leader is that his corrections may come across as nagging and start to annoy his teammates.

Ford has taken steps to get to know his new teammates and to earn their respect. I think that Ford is a good guy who probably views this year as an opportunity to really become the player he was drafted to be. He's in the best situation of his career as far as the system and surrounding talent are concerned. I think he knows this and he's trying to make the best of it. Hopefully he can buy into the idea that the timeshare with Jack is for his own benefit, and his attitude problems won't resurface. I think if TJ keeps his head on straight, he's probably the most natural leader on the roster.