Larry Bird on Pacers: 'We're all in'

USA TODAY Sports

Prior to formally announcing a contract extension for Paul George, Pacers president Larry Bird spoke with Bob Kravitz about his team and expectations for the upcoming season.

With continual reports about Paul George signing a 5-year max deal and a press conference to announce said deal (although sans terms of the deal, as usual), Bob Kravitz spoke with Larry Bird about the state of the Pacers and their high expectations this year.

Bird didn't soft-sell his expectations. When asked if the team had "potential to win a world championship," Bird responded, "Yes, we're all in." While he clarified that the Pacers can have a good season without reaching their goals, Bird set the parameters for how that good season could still be a disappointment.

"Anything less than (a Finals appearance or a conference finals appearance) would be a disappointment," he said. "I think anything over 50 wins is a good season, but I believe we're built more for the playoffs than we are for the regular season. Because we're deep and we'll have time to prepare. It's hard to beat 10 or 11 guys."

The other key topic Kravitz pursued was the status of Danny Granger and how the Pacers may deal with 33 in the final year of his contract knowing it is likely his last year with the team. Bird expects to keep Granger around all year if he is healthy and playing as they expect.

Kravitz seemed to feel the team may have a tough decision around the trade deadline depending on how Granger's season goes. I have a hard time seeing things play out that way. If Granger is healthy and contributing, the Pacers will want him around. They're all in, remember. If he's not, they still don't need to move him. The $14 million in cap space relief he will give at the end of the season is more valuable than any player with even a $1 million contract would be.

There have been plenty of good reports on Granger this week with both Bird and Paul George sharing strong comments that make him sound ready to go. Again, only the eye test will work for Granger's return this time. Until then, hope for the best but expect the worst. The best would mean Granger is in the playing rotation and battling with Lance Stephenson for his starting spot.

Bird said he would prefer to see Granger return to the starting lineup with Stephenson running the second unit off the bench. But he also left the option up to Frank Vogel and left room in his analysis for Stephenson to beat out Granger for the starting spot. Of course, a camp battle between the two would be a win-win for the team regardless of which player starts.

As Bird said, they have enough talent. Now it is up to Vogel and the players to come together and make it all work.

Yep, this is really happening. The championship hunt begins with training camp this weekend.

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