Bird’s unpredictability likely to be on display during draft

Larry Bird is either a mad scientist/genius or a lunatic when it comes to running a basketball team. For Larry Legend, there’s really no middle ground.

He seems to relish the-man-behind-the-curtain image, doing things back there that fans neither know about nor understand.

So when it comes to tonight’s draft, forget about predictions and projections. Nobody knows what Bird will do.

Past performance is the best predictor of future action. And Bird’s actions have been, well, unpredictable. Some of his moves look pretty bad. But to be fair, it’s too early to tell about other crucial decisions he has made in an effort to re-build this franchise into a championship contender.

Even Bird's seemingly smart moves, such as drafting Paul George last year, were predicted by precious few NBA prognosticators.

Many Pacers fans would revel in Bird’s success. But it’s hard to ignore some of his misses.

Some of his more mysterious moves include posing with Ron Artest on the cover of Sports Illustrated, raving about Jonathan Bender long after it was apparent he couldn’t seriously contribute in this league, and recent draft selections Tyler Hansbrough and Lance Stephenson.

Sure, Hansbrough plays like a hard-nosed Hoosier gym rat, but there isn’t another NBA GM who would have selected him with the 13th pick.

Not only did Bird select Stephenson, who almost everybody agrees has tremendous upside but is a serious head case, but he continues to rave about him despite a spotty on- and off-the-court record. On Wednesday, Bird told reporters Stephenson was the best player on the Pacers roster. It’s one thing to pump a guy up, but really?

I know Bird has more experience evaluating players and sees a lot more practices than I do, but to call Stephenson the best player in Blue and Gold, well that’s a stretch. I’m not even going to go into his off-court antics, but there was nothing in his game-day play during his rookie season that indicated Stephenson can be a serious contributor.

Stephenson played in 12 games last year, averaging 3.1 points and 1.5 rebounds. Folks, this isn’t a two-month-long rec league. This is an 82-game NBA schedule. What is the team’s best player doing sitting on the bench for 70 regular season games and all five playoff games?

Well, Bird did say Wednesday that last year’s second-round selection has “a lot of growing up to do.” Bird seems to relish a project. Let's hope this one works out since Stephenson has a guaranteed contract that will pay him about $800,000 for next season.

Speaking of projects, it’s anybody’s guess what is taking Bird so long to hire a new head coach. The Pacers season has been over for nearly two months. Even if Bird was waiting to talk to one of the assistant coaches for one of the two teams playing in the NBA Finals, their season has been over for nearly two weeks.

Maybe Bird is waiting for Kurt Rambis to become available. Seeking the soon-to-be-fired Minnesota coach and fomer Laker wild man would be the height of unpredictability. But with Bird, never say never.

The word now is, Bird has brought in at least one guy to talk about being an assistant coach. Huh? Wouldn’t it be nice to hire a head coach first? It seems logical Bird would want his new head coach in place to give input on draft selections. But the ship has sailed on that one.

But the Bird’s eye view seems to run counter to conventional wisdom.

I can’t wait until its free agent hunting season later this year.


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