Jan 22, 2011, 10:00 AM EDT
This is a long story, let-me-sum-up kind of weekend. Get used to it.
The short version: ESPN reports that Pacers management is unhappy with both coach Jim O’Brien and GM David Morway (you thought Larry Bird was the GM, didn’t you? Meet more Pacers fans. They’re nice.). They’re so unhappy, should the team suffer another losing season, they could both be released. Any firing of O’Brien would wait till the end of the year, as his assistants are considered unfit to take the reins. Meanwhile Kevin Pritchard is being discussed as a possible GM solution, having traveled with Bird during the team’s road trips recently, which of course Bird dismisses as just something he does from time to time.
The long version: Things are not good in Indiana. The team has the talent to lock up the seventh seed, right now. They’re a long ways away from that four seed, but the seven is not only something they can reach for, it’s something they should already have secured. Their competition in the Eastern Conference is a “hanging on by the very threads of their blanky” Bobcats, a Bucks team that is in full-on meltdown, melt-out Skiles mode, and Philadelphia, which, well, it’s Philly. But they haven’t. And as a result, O’Brien is on the hot seat.
Well, that’s not all of it. His minutes have been irregular. The team has yet to find a consistent rotation. Broussard specifically mentions the Tyler Hansbrough-Paul George complication, but the point guard situation is just as perplexing. Yes, both T.J. Ford and Darren Collison are talented (and to a lesser extent A.J. Price). But at some point the point guard question should be settled and you should have your guy. Throw in the backwards step of Roy Hibbert after an All-Star start and you have serious problems. The Pacers flat-out should be better than they are. And at some point you stop pointing fingers at youth and start blaming age.
Pritchard’s an intriguing choice, but the move would also signal a move away from Larry Bird in control. There’s very little chance of Pritchard, notoriously as proud as he is brilliant, would want to sign on to be a figurehead. He’d want power. Which means Bird would have to take a backseat, something he’s not particularly drawn to. But with Bird also getting up there in age, it’s possible that he could be looking for a younger face to take over the franchise after he steps down at the end of this contract, should he elect to.
The Pacers are in a make-or-break year. They make the playoffs and finally say they’re building on something, or big changes are around the corner.
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