Peter Vecsey knows how to sour a Sunday brunch, doesn't he?
As Sean explained nicely in his post earlier, Vecsey has a couple of sources telling him Larry Bird won't return to the Pacers next year as the President of Basketball Operations. Plus, he extended Jim O'Brien to make sure JOB would have a golden parachute in his bank account should a new team leader want to change coaches or if Bird wants to make a change later this year.
For this story you have to consider the source. And I don't mean consider the source in the manner of blowing off the information because the writer is known for stating facts before the fact but rarely retracts when they don't hold up.
No, I mean seriously consider the source and his track record with the Pacers and Larry Bird. One thing I've noticed from Vecsey of late is that he seems stuck in the NBA golden age of the '90's when money was no object and all of his key sources weren't so old. He also seems to have a beef with Bird, so probably relished the chance to drop this headline in the Post. Whenever Bird steps down it won't surprise me and I'm sure his departure will be abrupt and final when it happens, but the overall picture Vecsey paints seems a little sketchy.
I make these observations based on rarely missing a Vecsey column combined with a local radio appearance Vecsey had with Kravitz & Eddie a few months ago. His first complaint about Bird was how he handled Jamaal Tinsley last year. Vecsey knows Tinsley and family and sided with the sideways point guard, feeling he was getting a raw deal from the Pacers. Since Tinsley remains unsigned I think Vecsey remains the only one thinking that way.
Also, Vecsey took Bird to task for whatever role he played in letting a few long-time front office employees go. They were great people who did outstanding work for the Pacers and Vecsey was distraught over the lack of loyalty shown. The problem is, the franchise is hurting financially which has been widely reported. Corporate America is a cruel world when the bottom line is in play and trimming bloated areas of the payroll is standard operating procedure.
No one is happy about it, but this is a business after all. I guarantee, if you surveyed the current staff at the Fieldhouse they'd admit to doing several jobs and working like crazy to keep up with less support.
Which brings me to Vecsey's charge that JOB's contract was extended to make sure he was paid a big bonus in anticipation of his firing upon Bird's departure. With the franchise trying to save every nickel possible, this would be gross negligence on Bird's part and there's no way Herb Simon would sign off on such a deal. Can you imagine after all of the financial doom and gloom we've heard from Simon and the front office? At least publicly, according to a Mike Wells tweet, Simon has responded that he expects Bird to remain as team president after this season.
Also, Bird has done a ton of heavy lifting to break down the salary cap and get the roster in order to truly rebuild over the next two years. Seems like he'd want to see it through. Now if there are health issues then that changes everything which is always possible considering his past issues with his back and atrial fibrillation. Plus, Bird doesn't seem to care whether he's lauded or chided for his front office work, so again, his walking away would be a shock.
Again, it is the picture of the franchise painted by Vecsey's inside sources that is the news. The tastiest of the nuggets is the supposed sickness the players felt after JOB's contract extension. Which players? Certainly can't be all of the players. I mean Danny Granger has blossomed into an All-Star under JOB. I guess he could be mad about all of the defensive talk but if that's the case then that's a Granger problem not a JOB problem.
The most likely candidate to become ill over the extension is T.J. Ford because of his struggles running the point last year. But Ford has a player option after this year if he can't take it.
It just seems strange that the players would give so much effort every night, as they did last year and have shown in the preseason this year, if they weren't on board with the program. In general, if any players are upset with the demands placed upon them by JOB then that's on them not JOB. If there was more talent in the locker room that was underachieving on the court, then I could understand but that's not the case.
So sit back and enjoy the series of denials and explanations that should be coming from the Fieldhouse starting tomorrow. Hey, with the pared down staff it shouldn't be hard to figure out who's doing the talking. Maybe the person in question is bitter about being left off the travel group that went to Asia. All I know is that if Vecsey does have this story nailed, those fans hoping for a 20-win season and high lottery pick will probably enjoy the upcoming season. At least there will be plenty to talk about.