Larry Bird

Larry Bird No Longer Has Active Role With Pacers

Larry Bird, who stepped down as the Pacers‘ president of basketball operations in 2017, has continued to work with the team in recent years in an advisory role, but he didn’t attend any of Indiana’s pre-draft workouts this spring, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files, who hears that Bird no longer has an active role with the franchise.

“Yeah, he’s not active,” current Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard confirmed to Agness.

However, Pritchard suggested that he and head coach Rick Carlisle can still reach out to the Hall of Famer for advice or feedback if they need it.

“Larry is a good friend of mine and he’s a good friend of Rick’s,” Pritchard said. “At any time we need help, we know where to look. He’s always available.”

Bird, of course, was a Celtic for his entire career as a player, but the Indiana native – who played his college ball at Indiana State – spent most of his post-playing career with the Pacers.

Bird was named Indiana’s head coach in 1997, resigned after three years, then was hired as the team’s president of basketball operations in 2003. He stepped away for a year from 2012-13 due to health reasons, but otherwise held his position in the Pacers’ front office until 2017. After stepping down in ’17, he held the title of advisor to the president of basketball operations (Pritchard).

According to Agness, while Bird wasn’t an everyday presence around the team in recent years, he enjoyed attending pre-draft workout in May and June to evaluate prospects and also played a role in the rehiring of Carlisle in 2021. However, Agness says he didn’t see Bird at a practice or game at all during the 2021/22 season.

NBA Reveals New Conference Finals MVP Awards, Fresh Tributes For Existing Awards

The NBA has created two new Conference Finals MVP awards to honor the best performances in each conference, as well as overhauling several of its signature postseason awards, the league announced today in a press release.

The Conference Finals awards will pay tribute to two Hall of Fame players with some of the starriest resumes in league history, who have each made plenty of appearances in the playoffs’ penultimate round.

The Western Conference Finals MVP will now be rewarded with the Earvin “Magic” Johnson Trophy. The hardware honors Lakers legend Magic Johnson, a 12-time All-Star and five-time champion with Los Angeles who advanced out of the West and into the Finals nine times during his 13-season career.

Johnson was named to both the NBA’s 50th Anniversary Team in 1997 and its 75th Anniversary Team this year. Johnson was also a key member of the 1992 Olympic gold medal-winning “Dream Team.” He went on to enjoy an incredibly lucrative career with a variety of businesses following his NBA tenure, as well as several successful stints as a league broadcaster. He had an ownership stake with the Lakers for the team’s five subsequent titles from 2000-2002 and 2009-2010. He briefly returned to the Lakers in separate stints as a coach and executive, and is currently advising Lakers owner Jeanie Buss in an informal capacity. Johnson also won another basketball title as the co-owner of the WNBA club the Los Angeles Sparks in 2016.

“The NBA Conference Finals represent the last hurdle a team must face for an opportunity to make it to the big stage, the NBA Finals,” Johnson, now 62, said of the honor. “I’m truly honored to have my name memorialized on the Western Conference Finals Most Valuable Player Trophy. This player excels on both ends of the court, makes his teammates better and leads his team to the greatest stage in basketball.”

The Larry Bird Trophy will be given to the Eastern Conference Finals MVP, in tribute to Johnson’s longtime Eastern Conference counterpart Larry Bird. Bird also made his NBA debut during the 1979/80 NBA season along with Johnson, following three years at Indiana State that culminated in an NCAA championship game loss to Johnson’s Spartans. Bird bested Johnson for the 1980 NBA Rookie of the Year award with the Celtics.

In a 13-year playing career for Boston, Bird – like Johnson – made nine All-NBA First Teams and one All-NBA Second Team. The 6’9″ forward was named to three All-Defensive Second Teams, won three championships with the Celtics, and was awarded the Finals MVP in two of those title trips. He advanced to the NBA Finals out of the East five times. Bird was a three-time league MVP and one-time All-Star Game MVP. Like Johnson, Bird was a 1992 Olympic gold medalist, though back issues limited his efficacy with the club. Bird was named to both the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams.

“I am very honored to have my name associated with the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals MVP Trophy,” the 65-year-old Bird said. “I know how tough it is to get to this great milestone of the Eastern Conference Finals and to be named the Most Valuable Player makes it even more special.”

Bird’s history with the Eastern Conference Finals doesn’t end with his playing career. He later served as the head coach of the Pacers for three seasons from 1997-2000, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals twice and the NBA Finals once, in 2000. Bird then moved on to become the Pacers’ team president, leading Indiana to three more Eastern Conference Finals appearances before ultimately moving to a consulting role with the club in 2017. He is currently the only person to have won the NBA MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year honors.

The NBA will also pay tribute to two other Hall of Famers with some additional Conference Championship hardware.

The league has renamed the Western Conference Championship Trophy the Oscar Robertson Trophy, named after the Hall of Fame point guard Oscar Robertson, who served a starry 14-year career with the Bucks and Cincinnati Royals. Robertson was a 12-time All-Star, a nine-time First Teamer, and two-time Second Teamer, a three-time All-Star Game MVP, a one-time league MVP, and the 1961 Rookie of the Year.

“I am thrilled to have the NBA Western Conference Champions Trophy named in my honor,” said the 83-year-old Robertson. “Several decades ago, I played in an emerging and highly competitive league with tremendous talent. This trophy represents to me not only my hard work to make the league better, but all the efforts of the future Oscar Robertson Trophy winners who make the NBA great.”

In the Eastern Conference, the championship trophy will now be known as the Bob Cousy Trophy, a tribute to the longtime Celtics Hall of Fame point guard Bob Cousy. The 6’1″ Holy Cross alum, selected with the No. 3 pick by Boston in 1950, has been named to the 25th, 35th, 50th and 75th NBA Anniversary teams. He went on to make 13 All-Star teams and win six titles with Boston. Cousy was also a 10-time All NBA First Teamer and a two-time Second Teamer, in addition to winning one MVP in 1957.

“I have been part of the NBA family since 1950 and among the greatest joys of my post-playing career has been watching the game continue to evolve into what it is today,” the 93-year-old Cousy said. “There are few greater achievements in sports than representing your conference in the NBA Finals, and I’m moved that the NBA has granted me the honor of being connected to the Eastern Conference champions for years to come.”

The NBA has also re-designed its Larry O’Brien Trophy, awarded to the winner of the NBA Finals, and its Bill Russell Trophy, given to the NBA Finals MVP.

Central Notes: Pacers, Bird, Cavs, Bell, Pistons

After suggesting recently on a podcast that former Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird stepped down from that position because of the team’s unwillingness to spend, ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan has walked back that claim.

“I misspoke when I expressed my opinion regarding the business practices of the Indiana Pacers, and inferred that Larry Bird had been frustrated during his time as team president,” MacMullan said in a statement relayed by the Pacers. “It was a careless remark, based solely on my opinion, and therefore should have never been said. Larry Bird never expressed those feelings to me, and I apologize to both Larry and team owner Herb Simon for poor choice of my words.”

Bird issued a statement of his own, further confirming that his departure from the top job in the Pacers’ front office didn’t stem from frustration about the club’s spending habits.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Bird said. “I want everyone to know I left there because it was time for me to move on from the Pacers.”

Here’s more from out of the Central:

  • The Cavaliers were upset to be excluded from the NBA’s restart because they felt as if it would cost the team a prime opportunity to develop its young players, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, who suggests those fears are now being realized. As Cleveland remains inactive, Fedor writes, young teams like the Suns and up-and-coming players like Michael Porter Jr. are getting meaningful reps and thriving.
  • Big man Jordan Bell, who signed a multiyear deal with the Cavaliers in June, expressed excitement to Kelsey Russo of The Athletic about his new team, whose interest in him apparently dates back to the 2017 draft. “When I was about to get drafted, it was told to me that the Warriors and the Cavs were two teams (that were) very interested in me,” Bell said. “So … I always kind of kept them on my radar, and obviously they kept me on their radar too … because in the league you move and you never know what’s gonna happen.”
  • Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press takes a look at how the month of August will bring at least some sense of normalcy to the Pistons, who can move forward to the next stage of their draft planning after finding out in the August 20 lottery where their first-round pick will land.

Central Notes: Thompson, George, Pacers, Valentine

Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson wasn’t happy about the fact that a report surfaced last week anonymously quoting three of his teammates who were critical of John Beilein‘s head coaching style. Thompson came to Beilein’s defense over the weekend and fired back at the teammates quoted in that report, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

“Y’all better find them names ’cause I’ll pull up on ’em right now,” Thompson said. “You can’t do that s–t. At the end of the day if you’re going to build a culture and a family, you can’t have that Chatty Patty s–t going on. That s–t is whack to me.

“Everyone’s got to look in the mirror, there’s only so much coach can do and there’s only so much we can do,” Thompson continued. “Do we have the best roster in the NBA? No. But we’re going to go out there and compete every night. Guys got to look in the mirror. So I hope whoever reported that was just bulls——g and blamed it on a player.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • After getting a rough reception from Pacers fans on Sunday, Paul George said he’s not the one those fans should be booing. What exactly did he mean? “The belief in Indiana is that he’s referring to Larry Bird,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said this week on an episode of The Jump (video link). Bird, now an advisor in Indiana, was formerly the team’s president of basketball operations and pushed George to move from small forward to power forward, something PG13 didn’t want to do, as Windhorst details.
  • Speaking of the Pacers, they look like they could become a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference once they get Victor Oladipo back in their lineup, writes Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer.
  • It has been up-and-down season so far for Denzel Valentine, who was out of the Bulls‘ rotation until late November. As Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago notes, Valentine has been playing his best ball of the year recently, making at least three 3-pointers and scoring in double-digits in each of his last three games. The 26-year-old shooting guard will be a restricted free agent at season’s end.

Pacers’ Pritchard Talks Matthews, Roster, More

While Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard makes the final call on the team’s personnel moves, a pair of Indiana’s former heads of basketball operations remain very much in the loop, Pritchard tells Steve Aschburner of NBA.com.

According to Pritchard, he works with advisors Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird on a “daily basis.” Calling both men “true mentors,” Pritchard notes that Walsh is on the office every day, while Bird gets “very involved” in the summer and fall.

Within his conversation with Aschburner, Pritchard touched on a number of other subjects, discussing the Pacers’ approach to free agency, the excellent job head coach Nate McMillan has done with the club, and Victor Oladipo‘s rehab, among other topics. For Pacers fans, the conversation is worth reading in full, but here are a few highlights from the team’s president of basketball operations:

On the sales pitch that allowed the Pacers to land Wesley Matthews last month:

“He saw opportunity, right? We needed a starting two. And there was continuity with just knowing Nate and how he coaches, his style [Matthews and McMillan were together in Portland for a season and a half]. And from what he’s told us, he saw us, he played against us and he liked the way we play. But it became a recruiting process, for sure. He had a lot of options.”

On what the Pacers have gotten out of 2018’s free agent signees (Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott, and Kyle O’Quinn):

“They fit in nicely. They all made it clear that they wanted to come in, play a role and do it as well as they possibly could. Kyle is a great backup center, and we’ve asked him to be the third center. We’ve needed him, because Sabonis is going to be out for a little bit. McDermott, as he gets comfortable here and learns to seek out his offense, the better he’s going to be. And Tyreke, he’s had some ups and downs. But when he plays well, we’re a different team. We need that punch off the bench, and that’s something we focused on when he got him.”

On the impact of having so many free-agents-to-be on the roster:

“It’s good in that guys are pretty motivated. I’ve believed in this team. We’re going to be challenged in the playoffs and it will be fun watching them, but we’ve got to get there first. I don’t want to look too far in the future. We know we’re going to have some tough decisions this summer. But I believe 40% of the league will be free agents, so it’s not only our issue. It’s a league issue and an opportunity.”

On the Pacers’ long-standing aversion to tanking (Indiana hasn’t won fewer than 32 games in a season since 1988/89):

“You’ve got to give [team owner] Herb [Simon] a ton of credit. He’s not the kind of guy who says, ‘Let’s tank and look to the future in three years.’ We’re not about that. “

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.

And-Ones: Scola, Gay, India, Bird, Combine

Luis Scola‘s first and only season in Brooklyn came to an early end in February when the Nets waived him shortly after the trade deadline. At the time, it seemed like the lottery-bound Nets were giving the veteran big man a chance to catch on with another team on the buyout market, but Scola has remained unsigned since then, and admitted last month that his NBA career could be over.

Speaking this week about his future, Scola suggested that he doesn’t want to retire, but admitted he doesn’t have a ton left in the tank. According to the 37-year-old, he’s not overly eager to sign with a team in Argentina, and if he were to head to Europe, it’d be “tough” for him to play for a team besides Baskonia in Spain (link via Orazio Cauchi of Sportando). Baskonia employed several other former Nets this past season, including Chase Budinger, Andrea Bargnani, Tornike Shengelia, and Shane Larkin.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders suggests that the Celtics, Thunder, and Clippers could be logical landing spots for Rudy Gay, who will opt out of his contract with the Kings this summer.
  • Looking to expand its international reach, the NBA opened a new basketball academy in India on Tuesday, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com details. The academy will train top male and female scholarship players from the country, and NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum tells Youngmisuk that he feels like India could be “the next China” for the NBA. “There are some elite prospects here who we think have an opportunity,” Tatum said of India. “One of the reasons why it is so important is that we are going to give them exposure to world-class NBA-type coaching and training and development to make sure they are given the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
  • In the wake of the resignation from his role as the Pacers‘ president of basketball operations, is Larry Bird done in the NBA? Scott Agness of VigilantSports.com takes a look at what’s next for the Hall-of-Famer and longtime executive.
  • With this year’s NBA draft combine getting underway in Chicago, Adam Zagoria of FanRagSports.com identifies five key combine-related storylines to watch in the next few days.

Eastern Notes: Lowry, Rose, Magic

Kyle Lowry has seven days from the date of the Raptors’  final playoff game to make a decision on his player option for next season, Bobby Marks of The Vertical notes. Lowry is expected to test the free agent market and Toronto must figure out what kind of offer would make sense. In addition to Lowry, the team will also have to worry about retaining Serge Ibaka, P.J. Tucker, and Patrick Patterson.

The team has roughly $76MM in guaranteed contracts on the books for next season. Re-signing all their players may be difficult, but finding replacements on the market with only $25MM of cap space will be an even harder feat.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Derrick Rose, who will be a free agent this summer, will likely need to take a short-term deal and prove he’s healthy, Marks adds in the same piece. The scribe adds that Rose may be best suited to play off the ball at this point in his career.
  • The Magic are looking for a strong presence to lead the basketball operations side of the front office while CEO Alex Martins runs the business side, sources tell Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. It was previously reported that Orlando may try to poach Larry Bird for that role, however, Bontemps believes that kind of move is unlikely for the former Celtics great.
  • Terrence Ross, who was sent to the Magic mid-season, is embracing the challenge of helping Orlando get back to the NBA’s second season, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe writes. “Everything counts when you’re trying to make it to the playoffs or chase the trophy,” Ross said. “It’s a whole bunch of things that goes into it. You’ve got to make sure you’re playing the game right with pure heart, understand what it takes to win. I think that’s what we’re trying to figure out here.”

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.