It was the best of time, it was the worst of times…
Well, mainly it’s been the worst of times. If not for Danny Granger falling to 17, this would be the worst franchise in the league. Clock is ticking. The sun could be setting on the Larry Legend era with the Indiana Pacers.
Imagine this, you come into work tomorrow morning and your boss says look you have 1 year to be significantly more productive or we’ll have to go in another direction. We’ll give you one year to get this right. Let me ask you this, do you care about 5 years from now? Hell no, you care about the next 12 months. So what do you do? You exhaust every asset you have to get to the best possible position in 12 months. This is why I think one of the greatest “players” of all time will go for broke in the next 8 months and you’ll see major, major moves made for your Indiana Pacers.
First though, let’s take a quick look back on the Bird era. I’m not going to break down every Yesthecabbageis or Shawne Williams move and just take shots at the Legend. What I will do is point to two things, Bird got paid millions of dollars to do On the Job Training. OJT is fine when you’re paid a minimum wage job as a kid, but as a guy in control of a major corporation, that’s a tough way to go.
Bird is a straight talking guy who doesn’t waiver in his beliefs, some say stubborn or arrogant, some think steadfast and strong. This can be a good quality if you’re say the Colts Bill Polian who’s done this work for decades. You’ve been around the block, you understand what’s worked. During Bird’s OJT he was in a position of power, which is fine you want one decider or one voice, but sometimes it can backfire. Problem was Larry Bird made decisions and when the circumstances changed, he didn’t, until it was too late.
Case in point, acquiring Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson. With a chuckle, Bird and Carlise say, well we don’t need milk drinkers. Where was the middle ground here for Bird, where was a non yes man to say, well maybe your right, but you do need chemistry, let’s not forget that. Bird realized this, but it was too late. We all know what happened that November. OJT lesson #1.
The past can be painful, to remedy the Milk Drinker mistake, they decided to trade for guys who were Milk Drinkers, but weren’t as good. This was actually the harder lesson to learn, since it’s still impacts the team now in the 20 million dollars tied to Murphy and Dunleavy that honestly would have been nice to have to get an impact Point Guard in the building. OJT lesson #2.
Expensive training for the Legend. First thing people will say is well Donnie Walsh made many of those decisions or give Bird a pass because of Donnie’s presence, maybe, but really do you believe Donnie decided to do these deals or do you think maybe he just signed off on what Bird’s grand scheme was?
Enough of the world’s most expensive internship. What about now? Well now you have Crunch time, it’s 2 weeks before the draft and you have a sub .500 team with approximately 43 million dollars of expiring contracts, an all star in his prime, an improving true center, and the #10 pick, that’s the asset side of the ledger. The debit side is too long to do a laundry list, but it starts at point guard and it ends with needing a legit 2nd best player on a good team.
It is crunch time, this is where we know Bird understood the stakes as a player, what’s he got now? The main thing is he won’t leave any bullet in the gun. He’ll try to make every move possible, likely starting on June 24th with the draft. For those who think he’ll trade down get a couple of picks or just draft at 10, I’d guess there’s about a 2% chance of either, why? He has 8 months to keep his job, what does he need a rookie for?
I would guess his mindset is completely to sell out and that no one is safe. I think you’ll see not just 1 slight move, but a flurry of drastic moves. Who knows when the smoke clears and I am sure Simon has to sign off on things (his money), but what I do believe is Bird will try to trade with everybody and often.
Lastly, Bird knows success, he understands basketball. You hope that he can transfer just an inkling of that clutchness to his decisions now. What you don’t hope is it becomes desperate moves that damage the long term health of the franchise and therefore jeopardize the future of the team in Indiana. How ironic would it be that the best player to ever play as a native Hoosier would have the potential to kill professional basketball in his home state. Scary. Regardless, the next 8 months will tell more about what happens for a franchise, but also a Legend.