The Pacers' news conference today revealed more than just the "parting of ways" between the team and Rick Carlisle. It also clearly announced that Larry Joe Legend is the final voice for basketball decisions. There were no words to that effect from LJL but the fact that he was alone to address the media and answer questions said all you need to know. Throughout the tumultuous past few years, Donnie Walsh normally handled the media inquiries. If LJL was invovled, Donnie was by his side. Walsh's absence emphasized that while he (Walsh) may still be involved with the team, Bird is now in charge of the front office.
As reported by Mike Wells, in typical LJL fashion, he didn't sugar coat his feelings on the current situation.
"We're all at fault. If you want to blame somebody, you have to blame the people at the top. I understand that. It's part of the business.
"There were a lot of things that went on here in the last three years that were embarrassing. It hurts, being from Indiana. I had a major problem with a lot of it. And we can't have that.
"So we're going to get the right players with skills and the right players to build our community. And we're going to build from that."
Bird said he and Carlisle, old friends even before working together with the Pacers, agreed it was time to part ways.
"The truth is, we sat down, I asked him and he said, look, maybe it's time for me to go. And we went from there."
Bird said he wasn't surprised.
"I know Rick. I think in the last few years, everything that's happened, it wears on you," he said.
Regardless of who is hired to coach and what player moves are made, next year is going to be tough. The Pacers will need some good luck and a few other surprises to avoid missing the playoffs. With LJL's fingerprints already on the current situation, he won't get any slack if the team's fortunes don't improve. I do think the team's direction and future can improve next year without it necessarily showing up in wins and losses. Player development with the right pieces in place will be enough to get this thing moving in a positive direction. Progress may be made in small increments, say week to week or month to month. But, for LJL's sake, we need to see some progress next year since all of the expectations are now officially tied to his decisions.