Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird enjoyed watching his team play early in the season when they ran out to a 17-7 record. It wasn't just the wins, it was the way they approached the games, fully expecting to win regardless of opponent of location. They won big games at the Lakers, Bulls, Mavericks and Timberwolves, leaving the losers heated at the way the Pacers came into town and punked them on their home court.
In a Q & A with Conrad Brunner, Bird said he loved the swagger the Pacers played with early but seemed to have lost over the last ten games. The Pacers were able to take advantage of a soft end to the pre-All-Star break schedule to string together four wins after dropping five "swagger-less" games in a row.
The Pacers are in pretty good shape health-wise, but some of that swagger had to fade with a few nagging injuries and tired legs. Plus, the second pounding they took from Miami seemed to shake that "we can beat anyone" feeling they have shown against the other top teams in the league. With George Hill back and the team in relative good health, they should certainly come out confident after the All-Star break.
Bird also mentioned his willingness to make changes through a trade or player signing regardless of how well things have come together with his rebuilding plan.
How rewarding is it for you to see this plan come together?
"It was a long, tough three years for me. Once Donnie (Walsh) left, I knew the situation. When I talked to the owners I had a vision of how I wanted to do it. Out of the 13 guys, 12 of them are ones I brought here. So I have a sense of the type of player I want and what type of team I like to see play -- not only for me but for the franchise. We want to continue to get better, we want to continue to draft well and we're still looking. We've got $15 million under the cap and I'm not afraid to make another move now to strengthen our bench or maybe even (add) one or two guys. We're still out there looking and whatever we can do to make this team better, we're going to do."
Despite the outburst in Charlotte, the Pacers could really use a reliable scoring option off the bench. But with certain big market teams nearing a state of panic, the Pacers may be able to use their cap space situation to add some valuable assets to keep the Pacers moving in the right direction.