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Time for 'Larry Legend' to fly the coupPosted Monday, January 7, 2008, at 8:32 AM
I had a long discussion with a friend recently regarding one of my favorite topics.
The Indiana Pacers.
I have long been a fan of the Pacers. Simply love(d) watching them.
When they were at their peak.
However, things have changed dramatically in recent years.
The luster of watching the team either live or on television just isn't there anymore.
In recent years, since the brawl in Detroit, the Pacers have been on a slide. The Pacers were beloved by all in Indiana just a few years ago.
Then came the brawl.
Then came the retirement of Reggie Miller, Indiana's adopted son.
Then came all the melee with Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Jamaal Tinsley, etc. The list just keeps growing, which is truly sad.
Currently, the Pacers are sitting at 16-19, 10 1/2 games out of first in the Central Division of the Eastern Conference.
If the playoffs started today, Indiana would be on the outside looking in.
How the might have fallen indeed.
Sure, the Pacers are relatively young. But there is still a lot of experience there.
Think Jermaine O'Neal, who has been in the league for 11 seasons. Tinsley has been there for six. Jeff Foster has been there for eight. Troy Murphy has been there for six. Mike Dunleavy has beenthere for five.
Kareem Rush and Marquis Daniels have both been in the league for four seasons.
But there is still something missing.
This is not the same organization that was proud just a few years ago.
The Pacers have become what the Portland Trailblazers were in the Western Conference just a couple of years ago. A complete joke.
I don't think fault lies at the feet of current head coach Jim O'Brien. This is, after all, only his first season with the team.
Nor do I think fault lies at the feet of the players on the current roster.
Rather, fault lies at the feet of one of Indiana's greatest basketball players and one of the best to ever suit up in the NBA.
I hate to say this, because I'm quite sure I'll make some enemies, but fault should lie at the feet of the team's current President of Basketball Operations, Larry Bird.
Sure, I realize he's a legend. In the minds of some, Bird can do no wrong. He is, after all, a legend. There's a reason that's his nickname.
But the down fall of the Pacers has happened during his watch.
Take a look at the team's current roster. O'Neal is supposed to be the franchise player.
From day one, however, it never appeared to me that he was the type of player to build around. Rather, he has always seemed like a complimentary player, and a good one at that.
There really is no one player to build around.
I hope that Danny Granger develops into that, however. He is a class act. At least, he appears to be.
Not that O'Neal isn't a class act. He's a great player. It's just that he is on the downside of his career, unfortunately. His best seasons were marred by injury, and fault there lies at the feet of Bird as well. He never managed to find that player to compliment O'Neal and, as a result, the forward has suffered through several injury-plagued years.
There are other players on the roster that have bright futures as well. Take Ike Diogu, for example. He could be a great player. The monster in the middle.
But that's about it.
Since Bird came back to the organization, the once-proud Pacers haven't been the same.
No longer is there a player worth rooting for, although Granger has the ability, he's just not there yet.
Bird has failed.
The Pacers' slide began a few years ago in Detroit. This is a team that just a few years ago, had the best record in the league. The slide, however, hasn't stopped since and it doesn't appear that it will get any better soon.
With this in mind, I think it's time for the Pacer brass to consider the following.
It may be time to tear apart this team. O'Neal, unfortunately, is about the only player on Indiana's roster that could be traded for either future draft picks or other players.
It's time to tear it down. And it's also time to say goodbye to the legend. Nothing that has happened on Bird's watch (with the exception of drafting Granger) has been good enough for this franchise.
Remember when the Pacers were grabbing all the headlines because of their play? Now, they only grab headlines because of their off-court ignorance.
The Pacers -- at one time -- earned more headlines and press than the Indianapolis Colts. Now, that seems like a distant dream.
All the more reason for Bird to fly off into the sunset.
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