In Defense Of Larry Bird

Maybe it's a bad sign that I'm on Indy Cornrows frequently enough to pay attention to the content of all of the FanPosts, but it seems when we Pacer fans aren't fantasizing about dealing Troy Murphy, T.J Ford and Mike Dunleavy we're busy lambasting Jim O'Brien and Larry Bird. JOB deserves it because of his history of bush-league coaching, but criticism of Larry seems to me to be a little misguided.

A notable outside condemnation of Bird came in the form of this link:

First of all, I'd like to refute a lot of the points that the article makes regarding Bird's role in team affairs directly after he rose to power. As someone said on this site (maybe LukeNukem?) it's impossible to know what Bird did and what Walsh did during the time up to Walsh's departure. As such, we'll stick to 2006 as our starting point for Bird's reign.

Most of the other criticisms of Bird stick to a similar refrain: he won't make big trades and he doesn't draft particularly well.

As for Bird's draft record, let's review his additions through the draft starting in 2006 (after Danny Granger.)

2006: Shawne Williams, James White

2007: Stanko Barac (euro stiff)

2008: Brandon Rush, Roy Hibbert

2009- Tyler Hansbrough, A.J Price

In a nutshell, 2006 was a really lean year. Even though Williams was awful and White didn't make the team, Rajon Rondo was the only noteworthy guy available besides Williams and there were some real questions about his game as well. 2008 got us Hibbert (solid center with potential) and Rush (at worst a good defender who can shoot the three and at best an above average shooting guard.) For those who still pine for Jerryd Bayless, he's a 40% shooter from the field, can't shoot the 3 and doesn't really guard anyone (I'm not a huge fan.) 2009 brought Tyler Hansbrough and A.J Price who were solid contributors in limited action last year. 

That's 4 guys the past two years who, at worst, are solid, hard-working role players (not bad for all mid-1st round and a 2nd round pick.) This will be a make-or-break season for his draft record but results so far look positive with George and Stephenson showing a lot of good things early.


Finally, people who feel that Bird isn't being aggressive enough in trading his expiring contracts need to realize just how valuable those contracts are. If there is a lockout at the end of this year (THERE WILL BE) the Pacers will be in a much better position heading into it with almost $45 million off the books than if we made some trades to be a 6 seed at best, taking on some bad contracts in the process. I think Bird knows this and I am thankful that he doesn't seem interested in taking a flier on (unproven) Darren Collison while simultaneously tying Okafor's albatross of a contract around the franchise's neck on the eve of a lockout. Bird will make a trade to add a young piece (Maynor trade?) but not at the cost of the team's financial flexibility. There was a great post the other day by Roquo that at least addresses the NBA lockout and that it should affect future vision, which no one else seems to be doing. Long story short, nobody knows what the NBA financial landscape is going to look like after the end of the season. The Pacers only have $26.5 million committed past this year, leaving them with Danny Granger, good young players and a lot of wiggle room heading into the lockout. The man who put us here? Larry Bird.

Is it possible Larry knows what he's doing after all? (feel free to comment)

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