The Heat lost LeBron James, but it’s the team Miami beat in the last two Eastern Conference finals that seems in line to tumble farther down the standings this year. The Pacers garnered the most votes when I asked Hoops Rumors readers last week to identify which team had endured the worst offseason so far. More than two months remain before opening night, so while Indiana probably won’t find anyone who can deliver the production of Lance Stephenson and the injured Paul George, there’s time left to tinker. Here’s the latest:
- Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird left Monday’s meeting with Shawn Marion with the sense that even though the forward remains undecided, he wants to play for a contender, as Bird said Tuesday to reporters, including Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com (Twitter link). That confirms what fellow ESPN scribe Marc Stein had been hearing and explains why the Cavs continue to be the apparent front-runners for the 36-year-old. Marion has a positive working relationship with Cavs GM David Griffin dating back to their days together with the Suns organization, as Stein also writes in his piece.
- Indiana intends to keep Donald Sloan past Friday, when his non-guaranteed minimum salary will become fully guaranteed, Bird also said today, as Stein notes (on Twitter).
- Bird reiterated that the Pacers remain steadfast against crossing the $76.829MM luxury tax line, tweets Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star. “We’ll never go over the [luxury] tax,” Bird said. “My owner [Herb Simon] has told me he won’t do that.” Indiana’s team salary is $74,810,552, according to Mark Deeks of ShamSports, leaving them $2,018,448 shy of the tax line. The Pacers are applying for a $5.305MM disabled player exception in the wake of the George injury, as Bird confirmed today, Pointer tweets, but they’d have to rid themselves of other salaries in order to use the full amount. Luis Scola and Shayne Whittington are on partially guaranteed contracts, though guaranteeing Sloan’s deal limits Indiana’s flexibility.
- Doctors believe that George will eventually make a full recovery, Bird and coach Frank Vogel said, according to Michael Marot of The Associated Press.