Larry Bird flew the coop in Indiana and the Pacers' billionaire owner is partly to blame
Pacers owner Herb Simon turned down the NBA legend's request to add a scorer, even after the Pacers had problems generating offense against the Miami Heat in their second-round playoff loss.
The old Celtics players network was buzzing after Larry Bird stepped down as Indiana’s president and not because Bird quit after nine seasons in the team’s front office.
Bird told some old teammates that he was actually leaning toward staying on and had indicated that in a meeting in late June with owner Herb Simon when they met to assess the Pacers’ needs. During the sit-down, Bird told Simon he liked the team a lot, but “we just need to add another piece.’’
Simon turned down Bird’s request to add a scorer, even after the Pacers had problems generating offense against the Miami Heat in their second-round playoff loss. Bird was thinking about getting into the Eric Gordon sweepstakes to make a run at the Hornets’ restricted free agent and former Indiana University star.
Between health concerns about his shoulder and back and the fact that he doesn’t see himself as a lifer like other execs, including his successor Donnie Walsh, Bird likely used Simon’s rejection as an additional reason to hang it up, one old Celtic said.
Simon, the shopping mall czar, could have easily picked up another big deal, even as the Pacers decided to re-sign point guard George Hill for $40 million over five years, and are expected to match Portland’s bloated $60 million offer sheet to retain starting center Roy Hibbert. According to Forbes, Simon, the chairman and director of the Simon Property Group, the largest publicly traded real estate investment trust in the U.S., had a net worth this past March of $1.8 billion.
But Simon is also known to oppose paying the NBA luxury tax. After leaving, Bird shed some light on what he had to put up with, when asked about making the Pacers better.
“Small market,’’ he said. “It’s tough.’’
The NBA likes its icons, as it has been working behind the scenes with Michael Jordan to try to help get his Bobcats turned around. So it makes sense that the league would want Bird to come back in the future.
“It’s got to be the right job, the right people,’’ he said about running another franchise. “I’ve got some interest in some jobs out there but whether I do it again, who knows.’’
Bird has indicated to former teammates that he’s too old to be part of an ownership group, but it’s not as if he’s a geezer. He’ll turn 56 in December.
We can see a return for Bird down the line, perhaps as a part-owner and the face of a franchise. The NBA will always welcome Larry Legend back, with open arms.