Larry Bird has a reputation as a straight shooter, too proud and stubborn to answer any question from the media with anything but the truth whether you like it or not.
Give me a break.
Bird uses the media as deftly as any NBA executive to make sure media, fans and more importantly, players and other team executives, hear what he wants them to hear, whether it is the truth or not. He just has a penchant for pithy comments and quality one-liners that make it all fun and interesting.
The Pacers don't have a lot of options for drastic changes in the offseason unless Bird puts together a trade of some consequence. So as the Pacers president and coach Frank Vogel met with the media separately on Monday, they delivered a similar message of staying the course with a team that returned to the Eastern Conference finals. But that doesn't mean there won't be any changes as the offseason progresses.
Bird took questions for about 30 minutes, touching on all of the key issues facing the Pacers this summer. Here are a few highlights:
- Bird made a strong statement of support for bringing back Lance Stephenson. "I always want him back. You just don't let talent like that walk away if you can help it," Bird said. He did mention that Lance is a free agent so he will have to decide if he wants to return to the Pacers. In other words, if Lance doesn't get a better offer or is willing to stay for the magic number Bird has in mind, they the team would be happy to bring him back. That leaves plenty of wiggle room.
- Bird spoke about how Stephenson impressed him while in Indy last summer with his effort to put in work and get better, which he hopes to see again this summer. When discussing Lance's antics against the Heat, Bird became a little heated explaining his distaste for what Lance did, especially in Game 5 which overshadowed a phenomenal game by Paul George.
- Bird didn't shy away from expressing his disappointment in Roy Hibbert and how he faded down the stretch after losing his confidence. Bird expects Hibbert to put in some serious work this summer and maybe even look to a legendary center for special instruction. As challenging as it would be to move Hibbert, Bird certainly gave no indications the Big Dawg wouldn't be a part of any trade talks.
- Similar situation with George Hill. Bird expressed how he loves the way George Hill can defend but like the rest of us, wished he was more aggressive and opportunistic on offense. He repeated similar comments instead of expanding on his thoughts about Hill which certainly gave an indication that the right deal including Hill is not out of the question.
- Bird described the Andrew Bynum crapshoot as a no-brainer while downplaying any emotional impact from trading Danny Granger for Evan Turner. He gave Turner a break by describing the trouble some players have going from playing heavy minutes to minimal minutes off the bench. I still feel these moves broke a fraying chemistry that required a rebuild to end the year.
- Bird was adamant about Frank Vogel returning and never being on the supposed hot seat of coaching for his job in the early rounds of the playoffs, as reported by ESPN. In fact, when that news started making the rounds, Bird said he went down to talk with the coaching staff and told them they were all returning.
- Both Bird and Vogel had high praise for rookie Solomon Hill, with Vogel describing him as an elite defender. Bird loves S.Hill's work ethic and the time he's put into improving his shot, also mentioning bringing in Hal Wissel to work with Hill over the summer. Of course, Wissel has done wonders for Lance's shot as he has improved quite a bit over the past couple of years.
Here's the whole media session with Bird. Check it out and let me know what you heard behind Bird's words. What else did you find interesting?