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Time For Pacers To Move Forward

The Pacers officially announced Donnie Walsh's departure from the club on Monday afternoon. Here's the transcript and video of the news conference. This was news for some New York tabs, but the Pacers treated it like they were restating the obvious. Now, the reports are already confirming, Donnie will join the Knicks. Good for him, I hope he does. The Knicks need to be relevant, again.

Relevancy is also due for the Blue and Gold and it is up to Larry Bird to guide the Pacers toward the immediate goals established by owner Herb Simon. Win more games and reconnect with the city and the fan base.

With Walsh leaving, Bird has a bit of a fresh start. No one will pick through the carcass of the past few years to pin blame on Walsh or Bird for any on poor decision. But, now it is all on Bird and he isn't one to shy away from criticism. He has two years left on his contract so we can assume he'll at least have those two years to set a new course. Especially since the Simons aren't willing to spend past the salary cap. Unless there's some draft magic, a quick turnaround just isn't plausible.

According to Bob Kravitz after the press conference, Bird mentioned that he now believes that the team must take a step or two back in order to go forward in the future. That means a minimum of moving J.O. and Jamaal Tinsley some how, some way. J.O. and Bird haven't always seen eye to eye anyway, so I'm sure J.O. will help make it happen. He could always opt out, but leaving $45 million of multi-generational cash on the table would require a humanitarian effort by J.O. Not likely.

Going forward, hopefully Bird learned something about managing a franchise from the way Donnie handled players and their concerns and the way Bird has mishandled J.O.'s relationship with him. I'm not putting the problems all on Bird, but let's face it, the guy is direct without a speck of sugar accompanying his words. That's why we love him, makes for great quotes. But maybe a little more tact needs to be used with certain players and agents, not to mention other GMs around the league. If you cut a guy to the bone one too many times, it can become counter-productive when NBA contracts and labor rules don't allow a "my way or the highway" approach viable. Bill Polian can operate that way for the Colts because NFL contracts aren't guaranteed. But in the NBA, when you enter into a multi-year contract with a player, there's suddenly a give and take relationship, with the player holding at least some power in the relationship. In fact, more often than not lately, when conflicts between players and management or coaches arise, it is usually easier to replace the coach or GM.

I have high hopes for Bird's tenure at the helm of the Pacers. He needs time to work through the myriad problems that are laid out in front of him, so I am fully willing to give him time to set his vision in motion. At least for the remainder of this season, the team playing right now is giving an effort any fan would love to support (if they would take the time to pay attention). The key players setting the tone now would be great pieces to build around. But what this team looks like at the end of the summer should let us know what direction Bird plans to take the Pacers. It's Bird's time and time for the team to move forward.