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Larry Bird: Frank Vogel’s job safe, don’t expect changes to core of team

Jun 2, 2014, 3:49 PM EDT

Larry Bird Larry Bird

When the Indiana Pacers take the court next October, they are going to look a lot like the Indiana Pacers that were the second best team in the East this season — a team that seemed to take a lateral step this season, even a backwards one the second half of the year.

Larry Bird is counting on growth from his core — maturity that comes from painful lessons learned this season combined with consistency. Things are not getting blown up.

Bird, the Pacers team president and the guy making the calls in Indiana, was unequivocal in his end-of-season press conference Monday (streamed on the Pacers’ Web site). Like when asked about coach Frank Vogel’s job being safe despite rumors he was coaching for his job these playoffs.

“There was never any doubt. When the media 800 miles away or 1,000 miles away just writes a story and everybody gets all excited about it, it doesn’t make no sense to me. If you had come and asked me I would have told you, I did tell you, his job was safe….

“His job was never in jeopardy.”

If no changes are coming to the coaching staff, what about to the core of a roster that has struggled to score enough offensively even when things are going well?

“I don’t think so. I like the attitude of our guys, they’re great people, great to be around. As far as the bench, Frank and I will sit down and Kevin (Pritchard, team GM) and talk about it. Last year we went out and changed our bench again, they were up and down.”

Even changing the bench in a big way will be easier said than done — even without re-signing Lance Stephenson the Pacers are over the salary cap. They are not going to be able to spend big on free agents, and it’s going to be hard to move any contracts — they don’t want to move Paul George, Roy Hibbert is owed $30.4 million over the next two years (and can opt out after next season, making it scary for any team that trades for him) and George Hill has three years, $24 million left on his deal.

If you want to know where the Pacers trade assets went, remember that they traded Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee and their 2014 first round pick for Luis Scola. That move did not work out like planned. At all.

Is Lance Stephenson going to be back in Indiana next fall?

“Well you don’t know, he’s a free agent and can do whatever he wants. But obviously we will talk about it the next week or two, of our game plan… He’s a free agent, he can talk to any team he wants, and when it comes down to it, it comes down to whether he wants to be here or not.”

Does Bird want him back?

“I always want him back. You just don’t let talent like that walk away if you can help it.”

Indiana is following the model that other teams — notably the Memphis Grizzlies, not to mention San Antonio — have tried to use, which is that keeping a core team together for an extended period and let them grow together.

There is something to that, so long as that core does not have an obvious and exploitable flaw. The Pacers inability to create shots the second half of this season could be that. But Bird thinks by adding some more depth, with some tweaks and growth they can overcome it.

  1. antistratfordian - Jun 2, 2014 at 3:57 PM

    Nothing wrong with safe. Maybe they hope the Heat will break up after this season and LeBron will go to the Western Conference.

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:19 PM

      The Pacers are a LOT younger than the Heat…

      D Wade is aging in dog years and could go at anytime…

      And if the Pacers don’t get by them next season, it gets easier the year after etc… as the Pacers core is MUCH younger than the Heat’s…

      I’m sure you’ve heard of Father Time and I’m also sure you realize Father Time is UNDEFEATED…

      Yes, the Heat HAVE gotten the better of the Pacers for the past 3 to 4 seasons…

      Hat tip to the Heat for being defending champs and going to the finals again… but they are aging…

      I bet the Pacers will do better than the Heat from 2016 to 2019, 2020 time frame…

      • beach305 - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:57 PM

        The problem with hoping that youth will prevail after a few years is that anything can happen to derail those plans. Players get injured, Traded, Cap issues, Other Teams get better.

      • k3nn3k - Jun 2, 2014 at 5:41 PM

        This has been the same argument against the Spurs for the last, I don’t know, 20 years or so. Yet they stay prevalent even with all of that “age”. The Heat and Spurs are very similar, the hope that the Heat team is blown up this Summer or next is a lot of wishful thinking from other teams trying to stir up the pot.

        Wade is probably the closest one out, and honestly, out of the big 3 he is the easiest one to replace.

      • k3nn3k - Jun 2, 2014 at 5:44 PM

        And by “easiest to replace” I mean it is easier (not easy, but easier) to find a dynamic point/shooting guard than it is to find another Lebron, or a really good stretch 4 like Bosh.

  2. cbrown386 - Jun 2, 2014 at 5:06 PM

    I think he’s absolutely correct. How many 23 year olds are there around the league with the all-star level talent of PG and Stephenson? Both of whom are getting better and better. Sure, Stephenson has some character issues and PG isn’t as consistent as he needs to be, but how many talented players at that age are?

    The team could definitely use a true point guard to facilitate the offense, but at what cost? Remember, this was the team that a lot of people, this site included, was predicting to go all the way for the first half of the season. I certainly don’t think it’s time to panic.

    • metalhead65 - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:56 AM

      it may not be time to panic but after yet another year losing and learning from it they need to make some changes. the players need to grow up and act like the professionals they are paid to be. trades are part of the game no matter how nice a guy he is the bottom line was granger was doing nothing for them on the floor where they needed him and was not going to be resigned after the season. it is part of the game and if he was the great leader you say he was then he would have told you to keep playing as hard after the trade as before it. maybe he did and you did not listen, then you need to grow up! the coach needs to make some changes to his system to fit the players he has whether he wants to or not. that means you give guys playing time so they can do what they were brought in there to do. copeland was brought in for his scoring yet pretty much sat on the bench all season, maybe it was his lack of defense but we don’t know because he did not play! turner was brought in as a scorer but did not fit vogel’s defense first philosophy so he sat and everyone used the trade as an excuse as the reason the team collapsed. while most of the blame goes to the players vogel needs to take some heat to for refusing to adapt to the players he was given. everyone praised the moves to strengthen the bench before the season so not using them properly or at all is on him. they need to think about that before making moves to upgrade it this off season.

  3. misterdreamer119 - Jun 2, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    the players suck.

  4. jimeejohnson - Jun 2, 2014 at 5:56 PM

    Larry Bird knows what it takes to win in this, the premier basketball league in a world filled with them. The question is will his players ever know. I hope they figure it out before their window closes. Same for OKC.

  5. nsideindy - Jun 2, 2014 at 6:39 PM

    If Stephenson leaves, you almost have to make some major changes. Not sure that he’ll be worth the money that he gets…but if he does leave, they certainly won’t be any better than they were this year.

  6. metalhead65 - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:53 PM

    sure redo the bench and sign a couple guys who can come in and score a bunch of points then watch them sit on the bench because their stubborn coach refuses to use them. it is nice they play great defense but you can’t win without scoring more points than the other team. copeland was signed for his scoring and then never used because he did not fit the system, turner was acquired and not used for the same reason. how about you loosen the strings and let the guys run some more plays than the ones that have them standing around waiting for George to get open then chucking up 3’s as the shot clock expires? offense is part of the game to.

  7. 1historian - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:38 PM

    The Pacers are at home watching the Finals because they lack one essential piece to the puzzle – the go-to-guy. Hibbert? No. Stephenson? No. Anybody? Not yet.

    ALL winning NBA teams have that player – the fate of the universe is on the line, the MAN steps up and does his thing, and voila …..

  8. imakcds - Jun 4, 2014 at 9:22 AM

    so this would put the onus of the Pacers’ blow up as a championship contending team to a discombobulated mess on Stephenson rather than Vogel.
    The coach’s responsibility is to unite all the talent, and Vogel FAILED.

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