Today's latest drivel about how we will take the long steady turtle approach while letting the rabbit wear himself out.
Dear God I've seen this interview so many times over the past few years I could quote it by memory, only this time they are inserting the name Bird where Walsh was. I love the part that Bird told Donny not to panic, sure Larry I was afraid that Donnie would make a knee jerk trade because we all know he love's those.
So to all you Artest fans out there, I say be of good cheer. Your boy is a Pacer & no matter how much I (or maybe even a few others) hate it, he will be next year as well.
Detroit fans you have no idea how good you really have it.
From today's star:
Bird plays waiting game
Pacers president refuses to overreact to current struggles; says Artest will return a changed man.
By Mark Montieth
January 31, 2005
In 1978, the Boston Celtics were coming off a 32-50 season and had the sixth pick in the NBA draft.
The easy and popular thing to do would have been to take the player most able to bring immediate relief to a troubled franchise and its impatient fan base. General manager Red Auerbach, however, had a grander vision. He selected Larry Bird, who still had a season of eligibility at Indiana State, and waited.
Auerbach's reward was a Hall of Fame player who led the Celtics to championships in 1981, '84 and '86. The lesson was just as obvious.
"Let me tell you something," Auerbach would tell Bird years later. "A year is not very long. It goes by like that."
Bird will keep that lesson firmly in mind this month in his role as the Indiana Pacers team president. The team has been butchered by suspension, injury and illness, and takes a four-game losing streak and a 20-22 record into tonight's game at Philadelphia. With phone lines starting to hum in anticipation of the NBA's Feb. 24 trade deadline, Bird could easily be tempted to punch a panic button.
Like Auerbach, however, he believes projection is more important to a franchise's well-being than reaction.
He and CEO Donnie Walsh don't just see a battered team with an identity crisis. They see a team that also was among the NBA's elite in the nine games leading to, and including, the one at Detroit on Nov. 19, when a historic brawl disrupted their season.
They don't just see a team that needs a small forward to replace the suspended Ron Artest. They see a team that will have Artest back next season -- a new and improved Artest, they believe.
"I keep telling Donnie, we can't panic in this situation," Bird said. "We have to stay together."
Walsh already knows, having been through trying periods before. In the early 1990s the Pacers were still struggling after accumulating high draft picks. There was pressure to trade Rik Smits, whose career started slowly, but Walsh held firm. In 1999, after the team Bird coached lost to New York in the Eastern Conference finals, pressure mounted to break up a veteran team. Walsh held firm again and the Pacers reached the NBA Finals the following season. Smits retired after that season as the franchise's No. 2 all-time scorer behind Reggie Miller.
"I always think long-term," Walsh said.
That's not to say Bird and Walsh don't listen to and initiate trade conversations, or that they don't see room for improvement in their roster and payroll structure.
Their second- and third-highest paid players, Austin Croshere and Jonathan Bender, combine to earn nearly $15 million but don't start. They see a gaping hole at small forward left by Artest and a shaky backcourt, where injuries and illness have taken their toll on point guards Jamaal Tinsley and Anthony Johnson.
"If there's a deal out there where we think we can better our team, we will do it," Bird said.
Such a deal, however, almost certainly won't include Artest despite widespread assumptions and opinions. It's virtually impossible to make a good trade for an All-Star player whose salary is "only" $6.1 million and whose reputation around the league has hit rock-bottom because of his suspension. But there's also the growing feeling that Artest should benefit greatly from his seasonlong suspension.
Does Bird expect Artest to return a changed man?
"Oh, yeah," he said, smiling. "Oh, yeah.
"I've said that to other teams, too. They call about Ronnie and I say, 'Hey, man, we're over the hump now. We get through this year and we're over the hump.' "
Artest has used his time off to improve his mind and his body, engaging in private workouts on and off the basketball court and meeting with counselors. The franchise keeps the specifics of his personal work private, but people are sensing a new outlook from him.
"I think things that bothered him in the past won't bother him now," Bird said.
"Ronnie was always one of those guys who'd say, 'I don't need this; I can always go back to where I grew up and hang out and play ball.' That's over with. He realizes he loves this league. He's like everybody. He took it for granted and now he doesn't have it.
"It's not just the money part, but the actual basketball part. The competing. When people retire the thing they miss is the locker room and the competition. That's what he's finding out."
The Pacers, meanwhile, are finding out how badly they need him on the court. And if they have to endure a difficult season to get back a 25-year-old All-Star, Bird knows how quickly it will be forgotten in the grander scheme of things.
He knows the rewards of judicious patience, too.