What is Larry Bird’s legacy with the Pacers going to be? Without a doubt it has been tarnished by fans who are too emotional and analysts who are too ignorant. Yet, faced with a lose-lose situation Larry Bird has found a way, and the right way, to make his home-state team set in the right direction. It’s time to take a look back at some of the moves Larry has made and decide if he has made the right choice:
Making Jim O’Brien Head Coach: Okay, here’s a huge blemish. I know what Larry was trying to do. Bring in a Larry Brown type of coach where the players hated him, yet it brings them together. There’s one problem that Larry Legend never realized. Those types of coaches don’t work anymore. Something with the players today doesn’t respond to the constant bickering of a head coach and I can’t say I blame them. Loss.
Drafting Danny Granger: Some could say this was an easy pick. Danny dropped to the 17th pick in the draft where mock drafts had him drafted around 10th. Larry also said he loved Danny so much that he thought he was going to get picked before us and said he was going to have to trade to get him. Luckily teams picked players like Ike Diogu to make getting Danny easy. Win.
Trading Jerryd Bayless and Ike Diogu for Jarrett Jack, Josh McRoberts, Brandon Rush, and Cash: A lot of people forget about this trade. Short story, Jerryd Bayless has shown flashes in an otherwise very dim career. The aforementioned Ike Diogu who was eventually on the Pacers was shipped away. Good riddance. Josh McRoberts, Jarrett Jack, and Brandon Rush for two players that amount to about 5 great games a year between the two of them? Giant thumbs up to Mr. Bird…….. Oh and we got cash too….. so that’s nice.
Trading Jermaine O’Neal and 2nd rounder to Toronto for TJ Ford, Pick #17 (Roy Hibbert), Rasho Nesterovic: Let’s look at Jermaine O’Neal now. He’s old. He’s had a fantastic career but I doubt he gets signed to another contract after this year. TJ Ford has been somewhat of a failure in Pacers uniform. But, there is an asterisk next to his time here because him and Jim O’Brien were such a terrible pairing. Roy Hibbert is a fan favorite and will be able to hold down the paint for maybe another decade. That’s huge. Rasho is no longer in the league, but was a great expiring contract to have and was a servicable center to have in his short time here. The addition of Roy Hibbert through the draft already makes this a win. Larry turned in a car with 120,000 miles on it and got a brand new one. Chalk one up for Larry.
Drafting Tyler Hansbrough and AJ Price: I’m going to go ahead and make this public. I am so so so sorry, Tyler Hansbrough. I was one of the few people backing Larry at this time and I must admit, this pick almost made me stop. I hated the pick. I wanted Earl Clark. Yet, Tyler has been a MONSTER! He fights for everything he’s ever gotten and leaves a path of destruction with his many doubters left trying to find out what’s happened. He’s a smooth dribbling game away from being in all-star conversations. Larry, you made us all look dumb. At the same time I don’t want to overlook what AJ Price has done for us. AJ was grabbed in a draft spot that usually makes other players irrelevant. He’s now a fantastic third-stringer to have in case of injury and can be relied on to run a team.
Drafting Paul George, Lance Stephenson, and Magnum Rolle: I was jumping for joy after this draft. Paul George has the potential to be a Rudy Gay type of player. His defense in the finals was incredible. His offensive game needs work, but he is a gym rat and will make any potential he’s got come out. Lance Stephenson will not be a “middle of the pack” player. He will either be out of the league in three years or great. When I say great, I don’t mean exceptional, I mean legendary. Sadly, Magnum is no longer on the team. His unguaranteed contract made it so that he had to be cut in order for the team to get down to the 15 player limit. Hes currently overseas playing ball after a small stint with the Hawks.
Trading Troy Murphy for Darren Collison and James Posey: It still makes me laugh reading that. Larry pulled out his Jedi mind trick for this one. So once again let’s look at the player we traded away. Troy has done….. well nothing. He was sent to the Nets to possibly use as a trade peice in order to bring in a big name and that failed. Since then, he’s been a benchwarmer and hasn’t made much of an impact anywhere. On the other hand, Darren is 24 years old and has plenty of room to grow. He’s one of the fastest players in the league and was pivotal against the Bulls in the playoffs when we needed someone to go find buckets. This is Larry’s 9th symphony.
Trading Kawhi Leonard and two 2nd rounders for George Hill: Some people hated this trade. I loved it. The players in that years draft class were just awful. Second rounders are usually pretty useless anyway, so it’s basically Kawhi Leonard for George Hill. So, the Pacers are basically getting a guaranteed player who’s really young and carries leadership capabilities. He’s also from here which makes fans come back. I can’t understand why some people didn’t like this move.
The major knock on Larry was not making his team relevant for years. But, what was he supposed to do? Nobody was exactly clamoring for the contracts of Mike Dunleavy and TJ Ford. So, instead he waited much more patiently than you and I ever could. Waiting for this year when all of our bad contracts were up. Planning to swoop through free agency and to knock the rest of the NBA on its ass. It wasn’t a sexy strategy. It also wasn’t an easy one. But, it was the right one.