Larry Bird is going to be draped in blue and gold for a while.
Despite a bit of fan disgust over Bird’s failure to upgrade the Indiana Pacers’ roster before the NBA's Feb. 18 trade deadline, team brass said Bird has a secure future with the franchise.
Pacers Sports and Entertainment President Jim Morris gave Bird, Pacers president of basketball operations, a hearty vote of confidence yesterday.
Bird’s contract expires in 2011, and some have speculated that team owner Herb Simon is becoming impatient with Bird. Morris said that’s not the case.
“Larry Bird has everyone’s confidence here,” Morris told IBJ. “He’s working as hard as humanly possible. And we know he will do what it takes to get us a championship caliber team.”
Morris said he and Simon realize the strategy to re-build the Pacers is a multi-year plan. Much of that appears to revolve around clearing player salary cap space to bring in key free agents following the 2010-11 season.
Despite falling out of playoff contention this season, Morris said Bird has put together a roster this community can be proud of.
“We’re getting a lot of positive feedback,” Morris said. “Our fans just love Roy Hibbert, T.J. Ford, A.J. Price, Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Granger.”
Morris especially praised Hansbrough, and said the rookie out of North Carolina would be even more popular with fans if it wasn’t for his struggles with an inner ear infection that has limited his playing time.
Morris said he and Simon are confident Bird will improve the roster during the upcoming off-season. While he said an off-season trade is possible, he didn’t indicate that it’s mandatory.
“Larry Bird will tell you this is going to be one of the best college drafts in a long time,” Morris said. “We are flat out committed to getting back to where we were in 2003 and 2004, competing for an NBA Championship.”
Key to the team’s future success, Morris said, is “a successful draft and continuing outreach efforts.”
The Pacers plan to get its players out doing public appearances in record numbers this off-season.
“Our players have made more community appearances than any other team in the NBA,” Morris said.