January 7, 2006

Bird expects to trade with 1 team
Pacers president thinks deal for Artest most likely will bring 1 or 2 players

By Mark Montieth

Larry Bird was cool in the clutch as a player and dramatically dispassionate as a coach. It shouldn't be surprising, then, that he's not panicking as a team president.

While trade speculation involving Ron Artest swirls through the NBA, Bird and Indiana Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh calmly work the phones. They plan to make a deal someday, but can't say when someday might come. The Pacers have gone 7-6 since Artest last played Dec. 6.

"We're talking to teams, but to say we're going to put a date on it, we're not," Bird said in a telelphone interview Friday. "We're getting some good offers, but we're talking about an All-Star player.

"We'd like for it to be over with so Ron can get back to playing and we can get going. But from the beginning our strategy has been that a trade has to be right for our franchise. To me it's like Ronnie's injured."

Bird said he's open to trading for a player at any position. The most likely scenario is obtaining one or two players for Artest, as opposed to a larger deal involving other Pacers. Bird doesn't rule out any possibility.

"What's interesting is that you'll be talking about the Ronnie trade and (other teams) bring up other players," Bird said.

"I can't guarantee all our guys are going to be here, but the way we've been talking it seems like it will be a one-player-for-one or one-for-two trade. We'd like to keep all of our players."

Bird and Walsh believe their options will improve as the Feb. 23 trade deadline approaches, as teams get a better handle on their prospects for this and future seasons.

"This is what I expected," Bird said. "It could take a lot longer. Once you get to February, teams know what they're going after."

Like I've been warning those with no patience, expect a deadline deal.