Larry Bird appears set to return in his role as president of basketball operations with the Indiana Pacers is he and owner Herb Simon agree on the direction the team takes now that they have lots of cap space and roster spots fill.
In his post-mortem presser today (watch it here), Bird touched on what he wants to hear from Simon when they meet about his future in the next week or two.
"The big question of mine to him is: Now that we have the money will be able to spend it?," Bird said about their salary-cap flexibility during his season-ending press conference. "We waited three years to get to this point and now what can we do with it."
After three years without any disposable cap space to spend, Bird wants to make sure he won't get nickel and dimed by his owner now that he has the financial flexibility to make some moves. So now Simon is on the hot seat since Bird is essentially said that he's ready to return unless his owner isn't willing to do everything possible to help the team improve.
Furthermore, since the Pacers are desperately trying to lure fans back to the Fieldhouse, this shifts many a wary on Simon and the type of product he wants to sell. The last thing fans want to hear is that the owner would rather scrimp on payroll than try to improve the roster as much as possible.
Nothing in Simon's history raises a concern that he'll become a problem holding back the Pacers this summer. He does need to proceed in a diligent manner considering the team's financial woes of late and the looming NBA labor issues. But I agree with what Bird mentioned in the presser, that regardless of what happens with the NBA labor situation, the end result won't be any worse for the Pacers and could be beneficial because of their cap situation.
Bird also confirmed that Simon would like him to stay through the draft even if they agree to part ways.
As I mentioned yesterday, this makes no sense, especially if a change in leadership takes place. Bird agrees with that sentiment but will do what he's paid to do. When asked if he thought a new leader should be able to pick his own guys, Bird again pointed to Simon.
"I do (think new president should pick his own guys), but I have an owner," Bird said. "He wants me to do it, Mike and he's paying me until August, so I'll do what he tells me to do. But I do think, if you're going to make a change you need to do it right away. He needs to be in control of the draft and he needs to pick his coach."
Despite the labor unrest, the Pacers need to clear up the leadership questions with the front office and head coach, sooner rather than later. There are other coaching openings and the team president should hire the coach not to mention manage the draft and future direction for the roster, but the longer it takes the fewer options they'll have to consider. When it comes to the coach and filling out the roster through the draft, trades and free agency, the more options the better.
Your move, Mr. Simon.