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Larry Bird says Pacers are ‘all in,’ believes they can compete for a title

Sep 25, 2013, 8:49 AM EDT

NCAA Championship Game: Michigan State Spartans v North Carolina Tar Heels Getty Images

The Pacers took the eventual champion Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals a season ago, and reloaded with plenty of reserve talent this summer.

In addition to the return of Danny Granger to the lineup, Indiana added Luis Scola, Chris Copeland, and C.J. Watson in order to solidify the bench unit for another run deep into the postseason.

External expectations for the Pacers are at an all-time high, but it’s no different within the organization. Larry Bird believes the team is poised to compete for a championship as early as this season.

From Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star:

Larry Bird doesn’t play around. He doesn’t soften expectations, doesn’t keep goals artificially low so he can say at season’s end, “See, we overachieved.” So the question was asked of the Indiana Pacers president just a few days before the start of training camp Saturday.

“Does this team have the potential to win a world championship?’’

He never blinked.

“Yes,” he said. “We’re all in.” …

“Anything less than (a Finals appearance or a conference finals appearance) would be a disappointment,” he said. “I think anything over 50 wins is a good season, but I believe we’re built more for the playoffs than we are for the regular season. Because we’re deep and we’ll have time to prepare. It’s hard to beat 10 or 11 guys.”

When Phil Jackson coached those Bulls and Lakers teams to a total of 11 NBA titles, he never coached game-to-game; he always coached each minute as if he was looking at an overview of the entire championship season.

That seems to be what Bird is suggesting here — just get through the regular season as a top-four seed, and prepare your players, schemes, and rotations for the two-month grind of the postseason.

The Granger question is the one of most interest to the Pacers entering the season. If he can coexist with Paul George and fit into Indiana’s team concept, he’ll likely stick around. But if Granger isn’t a match for a team that’s been transformed during his injury-forced absence, it’s quite possible that he could be dealt at the trade deadline for players who could immediately help contribute to Indiana’s championship cause.

  1. mitchication - Sep 25, 2013 at 9:00 AM

    It’s going to be tough with the Pacers biggest fan slash hype man, Jeff Pendergraph no longer on the team.

    • karlton3 - Sep 25, 2013 at 12:05 PM

      Jeff Pendergraph is no longer with Jeff Pendergraph.

  2. 12444uggg - Sep 25, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    Pacers are going to have a big year, it’s not unlikely that they meet the Heat in the second or Championship round again.

  3. kingwithringz - Sep 25, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    Whoever’s ready to challenge the HEAT, we’ll be ready.

  4. raycharlesj - Sep 25, 2013 at 10:32 AM

    Bird has quietly assembled a good team.

  5. jzone954 - Sep 25, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    Even as a Heat fan I totally agree. Team is really good, and well coached… pick to take the Bulls out, then get took out by Miami

  6. stlouis1baseball - Sep 25, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    Are you Heat fans trying to convince us…or yourselves?

  7. antistratfordian - Sep 25, 2013 at 2:55 PM

    “My team went soft…S-O-F-T.”

  8. imakcds - Sep 25, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    his game is not very pretty, but I’ll bet you Larry Bird is very very happy his Pacers signed Scola.

    • antistratfordian - Sep 25, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      Now Vogel will have to shut his trap about flopping. Scola is so good at flopping that he gets standing ovations from other floppers. Or as Shane Battier said, “My boy Luis Scola, he’s got that long hair and when it gets sweaty and he starts flopping and flailing, it looks like he’s getting murdered out there.”

      • badintent - Sep 25, 2013 at 11:31 PM

        To flop or not to flop. Be it more nobler to crash butt or pay big fine to NBA,or both. Or take flopping, acting lessons from Hollywood stunt man , then hookup with Lindsay Lohan for a weekend in LA

  9. metalhead65 - Sep 25, 2013 at 11:19 PM

    in Larry we trust GO PACERS!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. onlyavoice - Sep 27, 2013 at 8:41 AM

    To Many Ego’s Will Be Flying High This Season,
    A Locker Room Division About To Unrail This Team.
    Vogel Will Be Fired Next Spring.

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