Some of you won't like this, but I love it!
Q & A with Herb Simon
Pacers co-owner: Good job by Bird, O'Brien
By Mike Wells
Posted: April 16, 2009
Indiana Pacers co-owner Herb Simon said he is "thrilled" with the team's direction, "absolutely" wants president Larry Bird to remain in control and will meet with him about a contract extension "anytime, anywhere."
Coach Jim O'Brien might have to wait, however.
Both men are entering the final year of their contracts.
Bird just completed his first season with complete control of basketball operations, during which he overhauled the roster and drafted two key rotation players while improving the team's salary cap situation.
"I would talk extension," Simon said this week during a 30-minute discussion about the team, the season and the future. "Larry is a funny guy. He knows what he wants, when he wants it. I would talk about it anytime, anywhere."
Bird was unavailable for comment. He said he will address the team's future Tuesday.
Simon said he has not discussed O'Brien's contract.
"We're very happy with coach O'Brien; he's done a great job," Simon said. "When the time comes to talk, we'll talk. We have no fears about talking."
Question: How do you feel about the direction of the franchise?
Simon: I think we've made a lot of progress this year, despite the fact we didn't make the playoffs (for the third consecutive season). We could talk about our bad breaks, but if just one player, (Mike) Dunleavy, didn't get hurt, my guys assure me we would have been in the playoffs.
Q: This is the first year Larry has had sole control. What do you think of the job he's done?
Simon: It started with the draft -- and I've been involved in a lot of drafts -- what he and (general manager) David Morway accomplished in this draft with the limited resources that we had was remarkable. Bringing in seven players, hard workers, good characters. Saving us some money as he did it and giving us some flexibility for this year, which is so important with the economic crisis. I'm thrilled with the job Larry has done this year. During the season, they've been working actively. They came close to making other deals. Just as a fan, I appreciate watching this team this year. Like never before, they work together, they always hustle. That's what it's all about. The fans get excited when we win.
Q: Larry has one more year remaining. Would you like to see him stick around and get this completely turned around?
Simon: Sure, absolutely. . . . I like my basketball operation. We're going to do everything we can to keep the basketball operation together. . . . I like what we saw, what Larry has done. This has been the best year in basketball in terms of the trading, bringing in new players, changing the atmosphere. When I tell you I'm thrilled, I'm thrilled.
Q: O'Brien is heading into his final year. What's his situation?
Simon: That's something he and Larry have to work out. It hasn't been brought to my attention. We're very happy with coach O'Brien; he's done a great job. When the time comes to talk, we'll talk. . . . I really haven't thought one thing about changing coaches or anything like that. We're very happy.
Q: What do you like about the job O'Brien has done?
Simon: I think the sense of urgency he has brought to the team. The hard work. A lot of teams quit after they don't make the playoffs. Not this team. He has the players still playing hard. That integrity is part of the coach and giving the players that feeling.
Q: The Pacers were one of two NBA franchises to increase attendance by at least 10 percent. What led to the surge?
Simon: There are a number of reasons. We spent money finding out what upset the fans. We had focus groups and everything. We tried to correct what turned the fans off. The style of play the coach has put in is something the fans like. I'd rather have 16,000 people pay a little less than 13,000 paying a lot. It's something we had to give back to our loyal fans. We want them to come as often as they can. We just felt we had to lower prices.
Q: Was there any thought of just cutting Jamaal Tinsley a check so both parties could move forward?
Simon: Let's leave that for arbitration, but we've thought of everything. It takes two parties to agree. Right now, let's leave it up to arbitration and not talk about it. The thing is it was good for both parties to sever the relationship. With his talent, we thought someone would have picked him by now. We don't want to hurt the guy, but certainly the franchise has been hurt. Let's put it that way.
Q: The franchise has made strides to clean up its image, but how long can you handle not making the playoffs?
Simon: We're bound to not only get in the playoffs, but to win in the playoffs. We have a good nucleus. People say we're pretty close to getting back to (the) playoffs. We would have made the playoffs if we had Dunleavy. We don't know what to expect next year because of his injury. When we started at the beginning of the year, we said we had a three-year plan. This is Year 1. We're on track to stop losing money and start winning games.
BREAKING DOWN THE ROSTER
The Indiana Pacers' core is under contract to return next season. The salary cap hasn't been set, but the Pacers are expected to have about $8 million to spend on free agents. Pacers beat reporter Mike Wells analyzes the roster:
Pos. Name Signed through
SF Danny Granger 2013-14
First-time All-Star finished fifth in the league in scoring.
PF Troy Murphy 2010-11
Murphy's trade value has never been higher after averaging a double-double and shooting 45 percent on 3-pointers.
SG Mike Dunleavy 2010-11
Coach Jim O'Brien said he doesn't expect Dunleavy to return from knee surgery before January.
PG T.J. Ford 2009-10, with an $8.5 million player option for 2010-11
Ford, who likes the ball in his hands, struggled grasping O'Brien's pass-oriented offense.
C Jeff Foster 2010-11
Averaged 6.9 rebounds, his lowest average since 2002-03.
SG Brandon Rush 2009-10, with team options through 2012
Averaged 15.4 points and shot 47 percent as a starter, his expected role next season.
C Roy Hibbert 2009-10, with team options through 2012
Finished second on the team in blocks, could be the low-post scoring option the team needs.
PG Jamaal Tinsley 2010-11
The Pacers are still waiting to hear from the arbitrator on the grievance filed against them in February.
Jarrett Jack, guard
Only player to appear in all 82 games. The Pacers likely will match any offer to keep him.
Maceo Baston, power forward
Played more than 10 minutes in a game just seven times; not expected back.
Josh McRoberts, power forward
Shot only 41 percent. A local player the Pacers could re-sign at a relatively low cost.
Stephen Graham, shooting guard
Averaged a career-high 13.2 minutes. Given Dunleavy's injury situation, Pacers could re-sign Graham if they don't draft a wing player.
Rasho Nesterovic, center
Averaged a career-low 3.4 rebounds. His $8.4 million contract comes off the books, which will help clear some salary cap space. Not expected back.
Travis Diener point guard
Had a 5.6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and likely will exercise his $1.7 million option to return rather than test the free agent market.
Marquis Daniels shooting guard
Averaged a career-high 13.6 points, but missed the final month with a sprained right wrist. Team isn't expected to pick up his $7.5 million option but might try to re-sign him to a multiyear deal worth less per season.