One thing I haven't come across in all of the draft/trade talk conversations surrounds something I noticed with each "proposed trade" that was made in the last couple of days.
Changing the culture.
There was common talk last season about how this Pacers team had forgotten how to win, had grown too accustomed to losing, etc.
So what did Bird do? He brought in proven winners from proven programs and got rid of a proven loser who never saw the NCAA tournament, and a flashy tweener guard full of hype who led his team to a first round exit in the NCAA tournament this year on impressive 4-10 shooting while being outplayed by no-name West Virginia guards.
On the other hand:
T.J. Ford - NCAA Tournament Final Four
Jarrett Jack - NCAA Tournament Runner Up
Brandon Rush - NCAA Champion
Roy Hibbert - NCAA Tournament Final Four
Josh McRoberts - NCAA Tournament Regional Semifinals
People may raise an argument that none of these players are proven winners in the NBA, and they aren't, YET...but, my point is, each of these guys knows what it's like to be a winner, on a winning team, in a winning culture, through a winning program. Winning is in their blood. That fire to win that each of them has felt during their successful times at each of those programs is going to drive them to win again.
One by one, you are going to see Bird pushing losers off of this team for winners.
Ike Diogu never even saw the light of the NCAA tournament. Bayless was on a 19-14 team with a first round exit in the NCAA tournament.
The reason I focus on college is most successful NBA players could do whatever they wanted in high school without any challenge, adversity or extra effort. There are no less than 50 state high school championships up for grabs each year. Most NBA athletes weren't challenged at the high school level. College is where you learn about their character, their drive and their ability to impose their will and bring their teammates up to their level to win the one and only championship available at that level.
I firmly believe that this is a big reason why Bird prefers to pick up players with college experience in winning programs and frowned on Donnie drafting players like Harrington back in the day while he was coaching. I think it's also a big reason why he went with Rush over Bayless and Hibbert over Koufos.
Need further proof...Travis Diener has a Final 4 Appearance on his resume.
Three guys who buck the trend: Tinsley (Elite 8), Daniels (Sweet 16), and Shawne (Elite 8) all have had run ins with the law and have shown character and dedication issues. Both Marquis and Shawne were guys Larry wanted at the time of their acquisition. Unfortunately, their social lives proved him wrong. Look for each of them to be moved next.
Jeff, right in line with the rest of his life, will always prove all trends and analysis wrong with hard work. Hopefully Murphy will learn something from him.
I'll take our proven winners and welcome the new culture to the Indiana Pacers.
Deep down...Larry's not as dumb as everyone thinks. You don't earn success at every level of your basketball career by being an un-talented, un-athletic idiot.