Kevin Pritchard

More Notes On Tampering Investigation

As we discussed yesterday, the Lakers were fined $500K by the NBA for tampering with 2018 free agent Paul George. Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann quickly explored the penalty in detail, noting that the league in general has a “decidedly low-bar” for the prohibited act.

Considering the wording of the league’s constitution, there is no specific means of contact that’s permissible or not. Teams are, the constitution says, “forbidden from any kind of attempt to persuade” either individuals or team personnel, emphasis mine.

Another troublesome point of ambiguity McMann highlights is the fact that there need not be any proof that the tampering attempt actually swayed the individual, it’s solely the attempt that the league is concerned about.

All told, the Lakers have little choice but to pony up the cash for the fine but McMann doesn’t think that the penalty will dissuade teams from repeating the behavior in the future.

That’s not all we have about tampering this evening:

  • If you’ve heard the Pat Riley Heat/Knicks tampering example offered up as a precedent for the Lakers’ recent situation, note that there is one critical difference. Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets that the $1MM the Heat paid the Knicks in 1995 was a settlement and not a league-enforced penalty.
  • The Lakers may have bought themselves a year of contact with LeBron James‘s agent ahead of the 2018 free agency period, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes, and all it cost them was the $18MM they committed to another Rich Paul client, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
  • Don’t expect Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard to put up a fuss about the league’s ruling on the tampering investigation. “We accept the league’s findings,” he told Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times.
  • …do expect the Indiana media. Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star suggests that the relatively small fine is but a slap on the wrist for a Lakers franchise worth $3B. The scribe offers alternative penalties that he says would have had more of an impact.

Central Notes: Irving, Drummond, Pritchard

Although they didn’t make Cavaliers All-Star Kyrie Irving‘s specifically curated list of preferred destinations, the Suns have come up as a potential landing spot for the disgruntled point guard. Details of a supposed Phoenix offer have come to light, an azcentral report writes.

The Suns are said to have offered the Cavaliers Eric Bledsoe, Dragan Bender and a first-round pick, the article says, attributing the initial report to an ESPN radio station in Minnesota.

It’s not hard to see why the Cavaliers didn’t immediately accept the offer. While Bledsoe is a serviceable veteran guard, his injury history only reduces his already limited value (relative to Irving, that is).

Further, 19-year-old Bender was quite raw during his first NBA season and wouldn’t likely impact the Cavaliers’ chances of contending with the Warriors next season.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • After a sinus operation, Pistons center Andre Drummond is breathing easier, sleeping better and growing less tired on the court. Rod Beard of the Detroit News documents the big man’s offseason, noting that the soon-to-be 24-year-old has taken trade rumors to heart.
  • When the Pacers let Kevin Seraphin go, they freed up more cap space, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. His contract would have become guaranteed on August 1.
  • Although it’s hard to truly gauge the Paul George trade, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard has had a successful offseason since, Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star writes. Unfortunately, he suggests, the franchise may have been better off temporarily bottoming out.

Cavaliers Were Close To Acquiring Paul George

The Cavaliers nearly landed Paul George in a three-team deal in late June, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Dave McMenamin and Brian Windhorst.

The trade would have sent Kevin Love to Denver and Gary Harris and other assets to Indiana, but Pacers president Kevin Pritchard reportedly backed out before everything was finalized.

Prior to the draft, Cleveland made trade offers to the Pacers for George and to the Bulls for Jimmy Butler. Once the Wolves acquired Butler on draft night, the Cavs stepped up their efforts for George, with the Nuggets agreeing to send Harris and the No. 13 pick to Cleveland, which would include those assets in a deal with Indiana. However, the Pacers put the trade on hold as they talked to the Trail Blazers about a deal to acquire all three of Portland’s first-rounders in exchange for George. Both proposals eventually fell through.

The Cavs continued to work on the trade following the draft, and an agreement was reached on June 30th. All three teams tentatively okayed to the deal on a conference call, and Cleveland began targeting free agents to fit with George. However, Pritchard changed his mind and the news broke soon after that George was headed to Oklahoma City.

The failed trade was part of a tumultuous offseason for the Cavaliers, as the ESPN authors examine in a lengthy piece. Cleveland also parted ways with GM David Griffin and was unable to land Chauncey Billups, who interviewed twice as a potential replacement. The team missed out on marquee free agents and had to settle for Jose Calderon and Jeff Green. Then star guard Kyrie Irving held a meeting with owner Dan Gilbert on July 7th where he issued a request to be traded.

Irving was reportedly angry that his name had been included in offers for Butler and George, and has been unhappy for some time with how much James dominates the ball. He also believes the team defers too much to James, noting that LeBron’s friend, Randy Mims, was given a position as executive administrator and flies on the team plane, while none of Irving’s friends has a similar arrangement.

The front office and the players have been aware of Irving’s intentions for two weeks, and there is confidence in the organization that the team can get enough assets for Irving to remain a contender. The Cavs have been inundated with calls from interested teams since the story broke on Friday.

Central Notes: Love, Bird, Caldwell-Pope

Matchups in the first two rounds have limited Kevin Love‘s role throughout the playoffs thus far but that could change in the Eastern Conference Finals, Tom Withers of the Associated Press writes. Currently the Cavaliers await the winner of the Wizards and Celtics.

After having averaged 19 points per game during the regular season, Love’s average dropped to 12 in the Cavaliers’ four-game sweep of the Raptors. What’s more, the power forward didn’t even play in the fourth quarter in two of those victories.

Some of it’s my fault because we haven’t really featured him a lot because of the matchups we had on other teams,” Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue said. “He has been great. His whole mindset is winning and that’s what it’s all about in the playoffs.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Although there’s been a transfer of power in the Pacers‘ organizational chart, Larry Bird remains involved in the offseason planning at the behest of newly appointed team president Kevin Pritchard, Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star writes. Bird serves as an executive advisor with the franchise.
  • The Pacers will work out a batch of draft prospects early next week, the team announced on its website, including college stars Jordan Bell and Josh Hart.
  • The Pistons are in a tough spot with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s pending restricted free agency, Bobby Marks of the Vertical writes. The 24-year-old could sign a lofty offer sheet with another organization, forcing the club to flirt with the luxury tax if they wish to retain him. Choosing not to retain him, however, won’t free up enough cap space for a suitable replacement.

Central Notes: Pritchard, Drummond, Korver, Lue

New Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard promises to bring an aggressive approach to the job, according to Michael Marot of the Associated Press. Pritchard, who took over when Larry Bird officially resigned this week, can now implement the ideas that he used to advocate to his former boss. “I think you have to be bold in this position,” Pritchard said. “I like interchanging pieces, I like moving around in the draft, I want to be aggressive, I want to make deals.” Pritchard will have to deal with the impending free agency of Jeff Teague and possibly C.J. Miles and Lavoy Allen as well. Of course, his biggest decision will be whether to trade All-Star forward Paul George, who can opt out next summer.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Pistons center Andre Drummond recently had surgery to fix a deviated septum that caused breathing problems for the past four years, relays Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. “[I’ve] been playing with my right nostril for four years because I ended up [injuring my nose] some more after my second season,” Drummond said. “I never really had a chance to really sit down and do a surgery. Last year, we made the playoffs and the year before that, I went to the Olympics. It was really tough for me to be out for six weeks and not be able to do anything.” The Pistons signed Drummond to a max deal last summer, but have reportedly been gauging his trade value because of concerns over his work ethic.
  • Kyle Korver is delivering in the playoffs the way the Cavaliers hoped when they traded for him in January, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. He scored 14 points in the Game 3 win at Toronto, with most coming as Cleveland pulled away in the second half. “When [Korver] steps on the floor, eyes have to be on him,” said LeBron James. “… Just his ability to be out on the floor just helps us all out offensively because it just creates more space. From the time we got him all the way to now, and as we continue to play throughout the postseason, he’s been huge for our ballclub.”
  • Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com examines the delicate balancing act that Cleveland’s Tyronn Lue must perform as the coach of one of the NBA’s most talented teams.

Pacers Notes: Pritchard, George, McMillan

The Pacers are transitioning from Larry Bird to Kevin Pritchard and the move could signal an active offseason for the team, Mark Montieth of NBA.com writes.

“You have to be bold in this position,” Pritchard said. “But the one thing I’ve learned from Larry is how important continuity is.

“When you say I’ve been a dealmaker, a lot of them have been in the summer, specifically the draft. I don’t mind moving up. Once I see someone in the draft that I think can really help us, I want to be aggressive that way. [Scouting director] Ryan Carr and our scouts do an amazing job identifying talent, and it’s up to me to go get them. I like moving around in the draft. That doesn’t mean it happens every time. But I want to be aggressive.”

Indiana owns the No. 18 and No. 47 overall picks in the upcoming draft and the team could have upwards of $32MM in cap space this summer, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors recently detailed.

Here’s more from Indiana:

  • Owner Herb Simon may be willing to pay luxury tax under the right circumstances, Montieth adds in the same piece. “I don’t like talking about a small market; we are a market,” Pritchard said. “We’re given every opportunity to succeed. Going into the tax will be challenging, but I’ve never heard Herb say, ‘Hey, listen, we can never go into the tax.’ If you’re on a timeline where you’ve got good players and you want to win, you’re on the cusp of moving up, I don’t think there’s a doubt he would take a look at that.”
  • Paul George told Pritchard that he wants to remain with the Pacers, though it must be a winning situation, Monteith relays in the same piece. “The one thing Paul realizes is, the Indiana Pacers drafted him, developed him, gave him an opportunity to succeed. He talked about how much he enjoyed getting to the Eastern Conference Finals. He wants to win. The Pacers want to win. We’re on the same page,” Pritchard said.
  • The Pacers might be better off moving on from Nate McMillan, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe argues. Washburn cites Indiana’s first-round matchup with the Cavs where Tyronn Lue seemingly outcoached McMillan.
  • Bird will stay with the organization as an advisor and the Hall of Famer doesn’t believe his move will have any impact on George’s future with the team, as we passed along earlier today. “Paul is going to do what Paul wants to do.”

Larry Bird Explains Decision To Resign

Larry Bird made the decision to step down as president of basketball operations for the Pacers before the season began, tweets Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports.

Speaking to reporters today in Indianapolis, Bird said he informed team executives Kevin Pritchard and Peter Dinwiddie that this would be his last season in the position. The move wasn’t health related, Bird said, adding, “It’s a pretty easy decision … It’s just time to go.” (Twitter link).

Bird will remain with the organization as an advisor to Pritchard, the new team president. He plans to do some scouting for the Pacers — at the NBA, college and international levels — and will be a consultant to the upper management team when asked. “The one thing I don’t want to do is get in Kevin’s way,” Bird said. “That’s the last thing I want to do.” (Twitter link)

Bird touched on several other topics during his press conference:

  • He doesn’t believe his decision will have any effect on Paul George‘s future with the team. “I don’t think it should impact it at all,” Bird said. “Paul is going to do what Paul wants to do.” George has a player option for 2018/19, which means he has one more season before he can become a free agent. A Los Angeles native, George is widely believed to be headed to the Lakers as soon as the opportunity arises. Pritchard, who also spoke at today’s event, said he talked to George about his future for nearly an hour last week (Twitter link). The new president said “in every scenario he talked about being here.” (Twitter link).
  • The team’s financial picture didn’t influence Bird’s decision. Indiana heads into the summer with approximately $22MM in cap room and could have about $9MM more if C.J. Miles ($4.77MM) opts out and the team declines its option on Lavoy Allen ($4.3MM). “We’re going to have a better budget, we’re going to be able to do more things,” Bird said (Twitter link). He also praised owner Herb Simon for being committed to building a winner, adding “After looking at next year’s budget, I almost want to stay.” (Twitter link)
  • Bird also had kind words for his successor and jokingly wished Pritchard “good luck” as he took his place at the podium. (Twitter link). “The one thing I always say about Kevin is that you’re going to have a lot of deals on the table,” Bird said, “and you just have to decide which is best.” (Twitter link). Pritchard said his immediate goals are to add toughness and more energy to the team. “I want to get more physical, I want to get tougher,” he said. “I want guys who are completely high energy.” (Twitter link). Pritchard also expressed loyalty to Nate McMillan, who just completed his first season as head coach (Twitter link).

Larry Bird Stepping Down As Pacers President

MAY 1, 9:37am: The move is official, the Pacers announced on their website. Bird will hold a press conference later today to address his decision.

“I felt it was time to step away in a full-time capacity,” Bird said. “This has nothing to do with my health or our team. I’m 60 years old and I want to do other things away from basketball. I will do some scouting for the Pacers, NBA, college, international, do some appearances and stay in a capacity to advise senior basketball management. I love the Pacers, I grew up with the Pacers and admired them from a very young age. I want to thank the fans for their support throughout my career. I also want to thank (owner) Herb Simon for the many years of loyalty and for allowing me to stay with the team in a different role.”

APRIL 28, 11:32am: Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird is stepping down from his current role with the team, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (Twitter link). According to Wojnarowski, Indiana general manager Kevin Pritchard will assume control of the basketball operations department.Larry Bird vertical

While Bird will no longer be the Pacers’ president, he’s expected to continue to work with Pritchard and the front office as a consultant to the franchise, per Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

[RELATED: 2017 Offseason Salary Cap Digest: Indiana Pacers]

The news comes as a bit of a surprise, as there had been little indication that Bird was considering leaving the Pacers. However, on the heels of a disappointing 2016/17 campaign and a quick playoff exit, changes of some sort were expected in Indiana. The front office shakeup could significantly change the outlook for the Pacers going forward as the team begins a crucial offseason.

For one, Pritchard was believed to be drawing some interest from the Magic as a potential replacement in Orlando’s front office for Rob Hennigan. Given his increasing role in Indiana, Pritchard now appears unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon. As for Bird, Wojnarowski tweets that the Magic’s search firm has been asking around about him as a possible candidate for team president, but the Hall-of-Famer plans to stick to consulting for the time being.

Bird’s departure may also have an impact on Paul George‘s future in Indiana. Reports around the trade deadline – and before that – suggested that the team president was strongly in favor of retaining George and doing everything he could to lock up the star forward to a long-term deal with the Pacers. It’s not yet clear if Bird’s resignation makes an offseason trade of George more likely, but that will be a very interesting situation to monitor moving forward.

Bird had been the Pacers’ president of basketball operations since 2003, with the exception of the 2012/13 season, which he took off for health-related reasons. The team made it to the postseason nine times during that stretch, including three Eastern Conference Finals appearances. Bird also won the NBA’s Executive of the Year award in 2012.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Reactions to Larry Bird’s Resignation

Larry Bird’s surprise announcement that he is resigning as president of the Pacers has raised a lot of questions about the future for both him and the organization. Here is a sampling of the reaction from NBA columnists:

  • The move feels like a surrender, assesses Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star, who adds that someone else will be left to work out the complicated situation with Paul George. Bird has been trying to rebuild the Pacers into a serious contender in the East since 2014 and has a non-playoff season and two first-round ousters to show for it. According to Doyel, Bird has been convinced for more than a year that George will opt out after next season and leave in free agency. The Pacers listened to offers for George before this year’s deadline, and the pressure to deal him will increase next season before he leaves with no return.
  • Bird’s decision is the first in a “seismic” offseason for the team, writes Nate Taylor of The Indianapolis Star. Bird won’t address the situation with reporters until Monday, but the move has already been made, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Taking over as president will be Kevin Pritchard, whom Bird recommended to owner Herb Simon. The organization’s main priority this offseason will be deciding how badly it wants to keep George. If he is voted to an All-NBA team, the Pacers can offer him an extra year and $75MM more than anyone else in free agency. But Taylor states that some people in the organization don’t believe George is worth that much.
  • The move wasn’t health related, Taylor notes (Twitter link). He adds that players weren’t warned about Bird’s possible departure in their exit interviews (Twitter link).
  • Bird’s exit signals the start of the rebuilding process, claims Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report. That process starts with the return for George, and Ding says the Lakers and Celtics should both get their bids ready. The Pacers also must decide what to do about free agent point guard Jeff Teague, who would limit Indiana’s other options if he is re-signed with a hefty raise.

Eastern Rumors: Rondo, Bosh, Waiters, Magic

It was an up-and-down first year in Chicago for Rajon Rondo, who found himself in the starting lineup at times, and on the bench at other times. However, with the Bulls in the playoffs and holding their own so far against the No. 1 Celtics, Rondo said today that he hopes the club picks up its option on his contract for next season, according to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune.

“I like where I’m at. I think we have a really good team,” Rondo said of the Bulls. “We made a big trade halfway through the season. All the things this year with 45 different lineups, we still made it to the playoffs.”

Rondo’s deal calls for a salary worth more than $13MM next season, but currently only $3MM of that figure is guaranteed. As Johnson notes, the veteran point guard said today that he’d like to be back with the Bulls even if Dwyane Wade opts out of his contract this summer.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Appearing on Larry King Now on Sunday, Heat big man Chris Bosh – who missed the entire 2016/17 season due to blood clot issues – reiterated that he hasn’t closed the door on attempting an NBA comeback. Bosh also said that he doesn’t have any real interest in coaching basketball after he officially retires as a player. Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel has the details and the quotes from Bosh.
  • James Johnson referred to Miami as “home” on Monday, and the Heat‘s other key free agent, Dion Waiters, also also expressed a desire to stay put this offseason, as Shandel Richardson of The South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. Still, Waiters acknowledged that he “can’t predict the future,” so it remains to be seen what his free agency holds.
  • Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders examines the Magic‘s search for a new general manager, noting that current Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard and former Pacers exec David Morway have both been mentioned by league sources as possible candidates for the Magic. Orlando head coach Frank Vogel worked with both Pritchard and Morway in Indiana.
  • Asked by Raul Barrigon of HoopsHype about his upcoming free agency, Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko suggested that he’s “not closing any doors,” but he isn’t sure yet what his future holds.
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