Fever Inspired by Bird, O’Brien
Aug. 30, 2007
As they prepared to embark on the penultimate step in their quest for a championship, the Fever turned to the franchise's resident expert in rare jewelry acquisition for inspiration and motivation.
With the WNBA Eastern Conference Finals set to begin Friday against Detroit in Conseco Fieldhouse, Larry Bird addressed the Fever after practice Thursday afternoon.
"It's not just the six or eight people that play the most minutes that are important, the whole team's important," Bird said. "Every loose ball, every free throw, all the little things add up to be big things. So when you're out there playing, if you have to dive on a ball, if you have to sacrifice, you do everything it takes because this is what it's all about – to try to prepare yourself to move to the next level."
This was the second opportunity for a Pacers representative to meet with the team during the postseason. Coach Jim O'Brien shared his thoughts with the Fever before they began their first-round series with rival – and nemesis – Connecticut. Indiana won that series in three games.
"I learned a lot from the greatest winner in the history of basketball in Bill Russell," said O'Brien. "He said when you go into the playoffs, you should expect the other team's very best so you have to prepare to beat their very best.
"I also told them to enjoy this playoff ride, this group of people, and to play for one another."
The encouraging words from men of such obvious prominence were greeted warmly by the Fever.
"It's a huge impact for us," said Fever forward Tamika Catchings. "We're all under the same umbrella at PS&E (Pacers Sports & Entertainment). For most of us, that was our first time meeting Coach O'Brien. Having him come in and talk about his experience and talking about Bill Russell and his motivation for helping his team, and obviously Larry telling his story about his first championship team in Boston and how he felt, other than two of us (Tully Bevilaqua and Sheri Sam were teammates when Seattle won the 2004 title) we have not had that experience.
"We haven't won championships in the WNBA; we've won them on different levels but this would be one of those things you'd never forget. Having them come and give motivational points to us is definitely something to be remembered."
Fever Coach Brian Winters also appreciated the reinforcements.
"Any time someone like Larry Bird comes in, who's had all the success he's had, all the accolades he's had, a person who's been in big-time playoff basketball, it lifts everybody's spirits that somebody of his magnitude is interested in what they do," Winters said. "And when you hear it from somebody who's been there that you've got to get every loose ball, you've got to make your free throws, you've got to keep your turnovers down, things of that nature, even though a coach says those things sometimes maybe it rings more of a bell in the players' heads about just how important those things are when it comes from somebody who's been through that situation."
O'Brien, who never before coached in a city with a WNBA team, has quickly become a Fever supporter, regularly attending games with his daughter, Caitlyn.
"She's what I could call an avid fan already," O'Brien said. "She really loves the pizzazz in the arena."
Of course having heard from O'Brien before the first round and Bird before the Conference Finals leads to a natural question.
"Who are we going to bring," said Catchings, "for the Finals?"
GRIFFIN'S DEATH STIRS MEMORIES FOR ASH
The death of Eddie Griffin in an automobile accident last week struck home for Pacers Scouting Director Joe Ash, who was with the Rockets when they acquired the talented but troubled forward during the 2001 NBA Draft.
"He was a guy I always tried to spend some time talking with because he was so quiet," Ash said. "I'm from New Jersey and he played at Seton Hall, so we talked about players from the Philly area and things like that …
"(The news of his death) is just one of those things that surprises you because it's so out of the blue."
Griffin, who battled depression and addiction, was killed on Aug. 22 when he drove his SUV into a moving train.
BARAC, LORBEK ON ASH'S AGENDA
Ash will be traveling to Spain for Eurobasket 2007, which begins Monday in Spain, in part to monitor the progress of two Pacers prospect competing for the European men's championship.
Stanko Barac, a second-round pick acquired from Miami this past June, will represent his native Croatia. Erazem Lorbek, a second-round pick in 2005, is with the Slovenian team.
Barac, a slender 7-1, recently signed with Tau Ceramica, a high-profile Spanish franchise that competes at the highest level of European basketball. The contract will keep him in Spain for at least three seasons.
"It's a step up in competition, which should be good for him," said Ash. "We're going to be continually monitoring his progress, as well as his strength and conditioning, and keeping a good relationship with him. I have a lot of confidence in his ability level."
The Eurobasket Website reported the 6-9 Lorbek also will remain in Spain for two more seasons after signing with Unicaja Malaga.
# Former Pacers guard Kenny Anderson, who's beginning his coaching career at age 36 with the Atlanta Krunk of the CBA, said he doesn't understand the spate of players considering NBA comebacks at relatively advanced ages. Reggie Miller, 42 was among them until opting last week to remain retired. "It's hard for me to understand these guys (trying to play past 40)," Anderson told the Orlando Sentinel. "It's a young man's game. I had a nice run in the league, but there comes a time to step aside. It's no fun sitting on the bench as insurance, waiting for someone else to fall out."
# Orien Greene, cut loose by the Pacers earlier this summer, reportedly will sign with the Kings this weekend. The Sacramento Bee reported Greene would sign a one-year contract with a partial guarantee in order to come to camp and compete for the job as Mike Bibby's backup.