After completing his individual player meetings on Thursday, Larry Bird held is post-season press conference to address the past season and answer questions about the team's future. While there were several noteworthy comments there were no surprises, starting with the confirmation that Jim O'Brien will return as the head coach next season.
The press conference video will be available at pacers.com, but I took some notes to paraphrase some of the more interesting items Bird touched on. Again, these aren't direct quotes.
In general, Bird expressed disappointment with the season but maintained that the team continues to move in the right direction with their young players and the ability to improve the team over the next two years. Bird believes the team is heading into the summerin better shape to improve and they obviously have to get better to make the playoffs.
The Pacers also sent out a release clarifying Tyler Hansbrough's health status saying all of the doctors involved with Hansbrough expect him to make a full recovery and in essence, the team is done talking about the medical issues.
As for the other players, Bird commented on most throughout the presser so I cobbled together his thoughts on each player after the jump. These comments were made at different points in the press conference depending on certain questions so if the topic appears to shift that's the reason.
- Danny Granger: My favorite comment was in regard to what Bird had just told Danny in their meeting about participating in the USA Basketball workouts in Las Vegas this summer. Bird told Granger, Don't go out there and fire up 50 3's, take it to the hole and show those guys you're a man. He thought Granger took a little step back this year but still regards him as a great player and has no concerns about him putting in the work to continue improving this summer. Granger still needs to work on defense and Bird thought his defense was excellent when he had a challenge and poor when he thought he had an advantage. Danny knows what he needs to work on: ball handling, body/flexibility. He knows how to play the game, sometimes he rushes things. Bird thinks he should average 8-9 rebounds. Pacers need more players like him. In addressing the future of the team, Bird mentioned they need another player or two at Danny's level or better.
- Troy Murphy: Thought Murphy had the best all-around season of any player, especially when you factor in his consistency from night to night. Bird danced around trade speculation but said there would be interest in Murphy and it all depends on what offers the team receives this summer or around the trade deadline.
- General comment about trades regardless of the player: If we can move someone to make the team better we'll do it, but we won't take on a throw-in with a bad contract because we still want all the money we can have at the end of next year.
- Earl Watson: We don't know what we're going to do he doesn't know what he's going to do. He was great with the young players on the roster and will spend time with Brandon this summer. He knows what Rush needs to work on. His contract situation is not like Jarret Jack last summer where the team just didn't have the money to match the long-term deal, but there is a number they won't exceed in order to sign Watson. Plus, the Pacers don't want to tie their hands to a multi-year contract.
- Roy Hibbert: On sporadic playing time, sometimes the coach goes with feel or matchups, but Roy had a good year and showed improvement. He'll be a big part of this franchise going forward. At times this year he looked frustrated and struggled. Roy's improvement every year since his freshman year in college is impressive. He puts in the time to make himself better so I know he'll be better next year.
- Brandon Rush: Defended better this year but his game still needs time. Admitted, the jury still out on Rush. He needs to work on his ball handling and consistency. He rebounds his position well but still floats on offense. He has the skill needed to play, but needs to put it all together. This is a huge summer for Rush.
- T.J. Ford: Not much mention of Ford since he can't talk to other teams about trades yet. Certainly didn't rule out Ford being around next year. Bird did say he agreed with JOB's assessment that the team needed to improve the point guard situation.
- A.J. Price: At worst, A.J. will be a great, great backup point guard. He's talented, good in the pick n' roll and can make shots. Just needs to keep getting better, but really happy for Price. A major plus for us this year and will be a better player for us next year.
- Josh McRoberts: Pacers have rights for next year and he showed us he could play. If I were Josh, I'd work on my jump shot for hours everyday. He's very skilled and can be a major player for us down the road. Has to live in the gym.
- Rumors of Pacers possibly moving: I'm not going. I hope it never comes to that. I know there's people out there that would like to have this franchise. People I know called yesterday.
- On Shawne Williams: Flat out admitted mistake on Shawne Williams. If he was playing now he'd be an asset, but he's not in the league. That was a mistake and it won't happen again. Wasn't up for grading his past decisions, said he'd leave that up to Bob Kravitz.
- On local college players in draft: Couldn't talk specifically about the players so he talked a bit about the process and wished them the best but really didn't say much else.