Larry Bird

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.

Pacers Notes: Teague, Bird, George

Coach Nate McMillan said Jeff Teague, who will be a free agent this offseason, wants to be back with the Pacers next season, as the team’s Twitter feed relays. The coach added that he believes he can get the best out of the point guard. “He needs to be better. I think I can make him better,” McMillan said.

Teague previously said he loves playing for the team. The point guard made $8.8MM last season in the final year of his contract. Teague will likely see a raise on that figure and the Pacers will have upwards of $32MM in cap space, as our Offseason Salary Cap Digest indicates:

  • Larry Bird has an incredible pulse on Pacers and that gives him the ability to make the best moves for the team, as Indiana’s Twitter feed passes along. “Larry [Bird] is at every practice, every game… He knows what this team needs. That was the reason he went out and got Lance [Stephenson],” McMillan said.
  • The Pacers cannot afford to add long-term money in free agency if they feel Paul George will leave next summer, Bobby Marks of The Vertical opines (video link). Indiana doesn’t currently have many long-term commitments and if George leaves, the team can build around Myles Turner and its cap space. However, if the organization makes a few bad signings, the eventual rebuild becomes more difficult.
  • McMillan expects George to return to Indiana next season, as the Indianapolis Star relays (video link). The coach added that he and George both want the same thing and that’s to win.

Latest On Paul George And The Lakers

Paul George has been talking about playing for the Lakers for years, an anonymous former teammate tells Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News. The small forward never made his desire to play for Los Angeles a secret within the team’s locker room, according to George’s former Pacers teammate.

Lakers team president Magic Johnson will likely pursue George and look to build a title contender around him, sources tell Lawrence. Johnson alluded to such plans during a recent episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Lawrence acknowledges that George is a tremendous talent but hears that his leadership ability is being questioned around the league. Rival teams noticed how George handled himself in the media following the team’s Game 1 loss where C.J. Miles took the last shot instead of passing it to George. “C.J. took it upon himself,” George said following the game. “I’m confident in all my guys taking shots, that’s not the issue. But in that situation like that, I’ve gotta get that.”

A star should want the ball at the end of the game, but taking issue with teammates through the media is not the way top players should lead. “He’s not a winner by saying that [stuff] in public,” one GM told Lawrence. “That’s no way to support a teammate, but that’s how Paul rolls.”

Those comments after Game 1, along with George’s statements about Lance Stephenson‘s body language, have irritated members of the Pacers organization, particularly coach Nate McMillan and team president Larry Bird.

Several NBA executives are under the belief that George’s unhappiness and public blaming of teammates is a result of the Pacers not surrounding him with the right pieces.  Lawrence believes the Lakers need to surround George with “strong-willed” veterans should they trade for him this year or sign him next summer. One GM told Lawrence that the Celtics would be a much better fit than the Lakers because of Boston’s personnel.

Lawrence speculates that the team could part with D’Angelo Russell and/or Julius Randle in a hypothetical trade for George. The scribe adds that Brandon Ingram may not be on the table due to his high ceiling.

George said publicly that he hasn’t yet made a decision on his future with Indiana. “I ain’t even at that point, yet,” George said. He can become a free agent next summer by turning down a player option, which is worth approximately $20.7MM.

Reactions To Lance Stephenson Signing

Lance Stephenson‘s tumultuous season reached its apex Wednesday, when “Born Ready” inked a three-year, $12 million deal with the Pacers. Stephenson, who has battled injuries throughout 2016/17, had been waived by the Pelicans and played through two 10-day contracts with the Timberwolves. As could be expected, Stephenson’s multi-year deal sparked discussion throughout the league.

The 26-year-old Stephenson held court with the press following his return to Indiana, discussing his unusual path back to the team that drafted him.

“I was in New York rehabbing,” Stephenson said (Associated Press link). “I was like: ‘Man, I keep getting hurt. I guess I’ll worry about next year.’ When I got the call, I said: ‘Are you kidding? The Indiana Pacers? I’m going home.’” Later in the discussion, Stephenson lauded Pacers president Larry Bird (“probably the only guy who believed in my game”), and vowed to bring a “tough edge” on defense.

Paul George was thrilled to have Stephenson back with the Pacers, talking up Lance’s value as a teammate.

“We had special memories,” George told Nate Taylor of “We’ve definitely got a bond on that court. Hopefully we pick up where we left off. He’s excited. He’s always considered Indiana home, so he’s very excited to play with me and us again. This is where he made his name and made his mark. He’s got that in the back of his mind. He definitely thinks he can help this team.”

Mark Bartelstein, one of Stephenson’s two agents, said Lance’s relationship and history with Bird was crucial to the deal’s completion.

“Larry and Kevin are genuine guys and they believe in relationships,” Bartelstein told “I think Larry, being a player in this league, knew what Lance was looking for at that time and I think there was always respect. When Larry believes in you, he’s always going to be a fan and he doesn’t hold grudges.”

Andrew Perna of RealGM was more critical of the signing, wondering if Lance is the same player was three years ago.

“There is, however, a fair amount of risk as Stephenson begins his second term in Indiana,” Perna writes. “Groin, ankle and foot injuries have robbed him of the ability to stick somewhere over the past two years. If he’s unable to stay healthy, the Pacers won’t have a chance to rekindle some of the magic we saw in 2013-14…the Pacers are hoping Lance Stephenson will help them play better right now and look better on paper in a few months.”

Larry Bird Talks Magic Johnson, Paul George, Trades

Larry Bird, the Pacers’ president of basketball operations, had planned to call longtime rival and friend Magic Johnson after the trade deadline to congratulate him on being named to the same role with the Lakers, according to Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. However, as Ganguli details, Johnson beat Bird to the punch by a couple days, placing a call to the Pacers executive prior to the deadline.

That phone call sparked a series of rumors about Paul George, who reportedly has interest in signing with the Lakers as a free agent in 2018 if he doesn’t re-up with the Pacers. According to Bird though, the discussion lasted less than five minutes, and he downplayed the idea that George was the subject of the conversation.

In addition to weighing in on that phone call with his old friend, Bird also offered some advice to the new Lakers president of basketball operations and provided some perspective on how often he expects to do business with Johnson. Here are those highlights from his conversation with Ganguli:

On the pre-deadline phone call with Johnson, and the idea that they discussed George:

“I wasn’t motivated to move Paul George at the deadline. I can’t remember if it was even brought up or not. I don’t think it was. It’s all fake news anyway. You know that. Somebody’s gonna start it and [it] just was a snowball effect. [The phone call] was not about Paul George.”

On his advice for Johnson on running an NBA franchise:

“You can put a team together, what you think is gonna be a pretty solid team on paper, and then when they get out there they don’t mesh well. I’m sort of going through that this year. We thought we had a decent team that we thought could compete for the fourth or fifth seed. We haven’t played as well as I thought we would all year. That’s the growing pains. That’s the frustration about it.”

On the odds that he and Magic will make trades with any frequency:

“I’ve been here for, I don’t know how many years, 12, 13, and I haven’t made a deal with [Celtics GM] Danny Ainge yet. That should tell you something. I’ve always been closer with Danny, because I played with him for all them years, than Earvin. … Talked to Danny about a lot of trades, but never did one. I just feel it’s gotta be a fair deal for both sides and we never got there. Maybe he thought it was fair, but I didn’t think so.”

Pacers Notes: George, Bird, Young, Gibson, Turner

Paul George wasn’t happy with Indiana’s trade deadline strategy. In a video interview with, George said he “thought he’d be in the loop a little more” with the team’s approach. “I kind of was on the ropes just like you guys were, on what was about to happen.” George said to the press. “It’s kind of a dark moment of uncertainty. That was the frustrating part.”

George was featured prominently in rumors right up until the deadline, being connected to the Nuggets, Celtics, and Hawks. Ultimately, Larry Bird was content to “swat away all pitches,” though it appears they didn’t communicate this to George. Paul’s comments to provide the latest indication that he may decline his 2018/19 player option in favor of testing the open market.

More from Indiana…

  • Bobby Marks and Adrian Wojnarowski discussed Indiana’s deadline strategy on the latest edition of The Vertical podcast (Twitter link). The Pacers had discussions regarding Taj Gibson, per Marks and Wojnarowski, but were reluctant to surrender a first-round pick for only an “incremental” improvement on an expiring contract.
  • Thaddeus Young will make his return from a wrist injury tonight against the Grizzlies, Nate Taylor of Indy Star Sports reports (Twitter link). Young’s return is a promising sign, but the 28-year-old may be playing through pain in the early stages. “It’s still a little sore,” Young told Jordan J Wilson of Indy Star Sports. “I think it’s a day-to-day thing about the pain threshold. Right now, it’s sore and stiff, but I’m continuing to go out there with my guys and trying to get myself back onto the floor.”
  • Gregg Doyel of Indy Star Sports was critical of Larry Bird’s performance throughout the trade deadline. Bird “didn’t do anything to make them [Indiana] better in the future,” and didn’t surround George with additional pieces. Doyel doesn’t blame George for having hard feelings after “being shown a lack of respect” from the team’s front office.
  • The Lakers’ new front office boss, Magic Johnson, knows “full well” of George’s interest in signing with L.A. after the season, Sam Amick of USA Today writes. Nate Taylor of Indy Star Sports elaborated on the Lakers’ connection to the Pacers’ deadline activity, describing the “mounting pressure” on the team to succeed in 2016/17; potentially George’s last in a Pacers uniform. In addition to Bird, coach Nate McMillan and Myles Turner will face pressure down the stretch. McMillan will be relied upon to better motivate his players, while Turner’s growth could determine the Pacers’ ceiling in the postseason.

Latest On The Lakers And Paul George

The Lakers were among the team’s to reach out to the Pacers regarding the availability of Paul George, Ramona Shelburne of reports. New Lakers team president Magic Johnson and Pacers team president Larry Bird spoke today, but the conversation didn’t get past pleasantries and possibly gathering levels of interest. Shelburne notes that a George-to-the-Lakers trade remains unlikely.

George met with Pacers owner Herb Simon recently to discuss George’s future with the franchise. According to Shelburne, since those talks took place, Simon has invited teams to make offers for the small forward. The Pacers are listening to offers, which would presumably put them in a rebuilding situation, but at the same time, they remain interested in upgrade talent. The team continues to float its first-round pick in trade discussions with the hope that it can bring George some help should he remain on the roster past Thursday’s deadline.

David Aldridge of previously reported that the Pacers are simply feeling out the market for George rather than shopping him and Shelburne confirms that report. She notes that the Celtics are eager to trade for George and they could present the Pacers with a strong offer that persuades Indiana to deal the 26-year-old before the team expected to.

Johnson continues to look for trades outside of bringing George to Los Angeles. Shelburne notes that a trade which involves sending away Jose Calderon or Nick Young is far more likely than a George trade.

George said that he doesn’t expect to be dealt before the deadline. “I have no concerns,” George told local reporters. “I’m here. I practiced today. My head is not wrapped around that. I’ve got a team to turn around in the second half and that’s what I’m committed to.”

Larry Bird on George, CBA, McMillan, Robinson, Teague

The Pacers are prepared to give Paul George a maximum contract when he becomes a free agent in 2018, team president Larry Bird tells Nate Taylor of USA Today. Bird touches on several subjects in a wide-ranging interview, including the team’s plan to keep its three-time All-Star.

Here are some highlights:

On the future of Paul George in Indiana:

“Before the year started, I told Paul and I said, ‘Look, if you want to sign a long-term deal, we’re willing to do that max [contract] and if you want to wait, I understand.’ But this year, we’re not going to worry about it, we’re not going to talk about it and he’s going to make the decision that’s best for Paul when it comes down to it.”

On whether the new collective bargaining agreement will help the Pacers:

“Well, if you want to keep your free agents, you’re going to have an opportunity to, at least, I think, have a better chance of keeping them. If a player don’t want to be here, and he wants to go somewhere else, that’s just a part of free agency. That’s what’s in the collective bargaining for. But at least you have an opportunity to pay them a little bit more and give them an extra year and be able to keep them and sign them up earlier. I think that’s a plus.”

On the offseason coaching change that replaced Frank Vogel with Nate McMillan:

“I like Nate. I liked him when I hired him. But anything I say positive about Nate, you’re going to take it as a negative to Frank, and that’s not what it’s about. I like Frank. Frank did a hell of a job here. We wish him all the best. We made a lot of changes over the last two or three years, even when Frank was here. We changed a lot of guys on the roster. With Nate came in, we changed coach and a lot of guys on the roster. We’d like to get away from that and have guys longer term and have a team that he can build with and grow with as we go forward.”

On Glenn Robinson III replacing Monta Ellis in the starting lineup:

“Glenn hasn’t been as consistent as I think as he or we would like, but the numbers don’t lie. When he plays, we do better. Monta, I’m not going to say he’ll ever accept the role of coming off the bench because that’s his mentality. But the thing is he’s going to do whatever it takes for us to win basketball games and he’ll continue to get better. I think when [Rodney] Stuckey gets back, I think that’s going to help. … But as far as Monta, I think Monta is going to do whatever he thinks will help us win basketball games. Monta knows I have respect for him and I have respect for all veterans. We’re going to do what’s right by him and we want him to be a big part of this, whether he’s starting or coming off the bench.”

On Jeff Teague, who was acquired over the summer in exchange for George Hill:

“I hear he always wanted to play here. We gave up a hell of a player to get him. He’s two years younger than George and he’s a real point guard and he gets to the line. I think he’s going to continue to get better. I couldn’t be happier.”

Pacers Notes: Turner, Bird, Scouting

Having Nate McMillan as his head coach should accelerate the development of Pacers big man Myles Turner, states Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report. In a video interview, Bucher names Turner as one of the NBA’s young players to watch for next season, and part of the reason is the addition of McMillan, who was hired in May to replace Frank Vogel. Bucher notes that Turner has many qualities similar to LaMarcus Aldridge, whom McMillan helped to develop into an All-Star as head coach of the Trail Blazers nearly a decade ago. Bucher believes Turner will also benefit from an upgrade at point guard, where Jeff Teague was picked up in a trade with the Hawks to replace George Hill. The 20-year-old Turner averaged 10.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in 60 games last season.

There’s more news out of Indiana:

  •  After an offseason spent acquiring offense, the Pacers must prove they can be successful with their new approach, writes Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders.  For about 20 years, Indiana has been a physical, defensive-minded team that won with hard-working overachievers, Greene notes. But team president Larry Bird decided he wanted to build a better offense, which is why Vogel was let go. Bird followed up that move by dealing for Teague and power forward Thaddeus Young, then signing center Al Jefferson to a three-year, $30MM deal in free agency. Teamed with Paul George and Monta Ellis, the Pacers can now put scorers on the floor at every position.
  • The Pacers have named José Luis Galilea as their new overseas talent evaluator, according to Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports. He replaces Pete Philo, who left the organization in May. Indiana now has eight full-time scouts and 11 overall.