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Pacers Owner: Pass The Milk, Larry

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In June of 2005, Larry Bird had this to say in a Q&A leading up to the draft.

Q: How much do you weigh the player's character when considering them for the draft?

A: Well, like Rick Carlisle says, `we don't want a bunch of milk drinkers here.' We'll take the good with the bad, but I've known Rashad for a couple of years, I've talked to him, I've been in to watch him practice and he's a very, very talented player, so, we'll see what happens.
That line earned a few chuckles at the time but has since lost its humor. The irony of that comment is that the Pacers came out of the 2005 draft with a 'milk drinker' type of character in Danny Granger.

But, knowing that mindset was in place makes it easy to say now that the Pacer front office is reaping what it sowed by not paying attention to the little details about a player, past their on-court talent.

You can be an active, 7 foot player, with all the potential in the world, but it you're prone to tearing up the party scene and emotional outbursts before the draft, then there's a good chance you may carry those career-limiting characteristics to the league along with that potential.

So, David Harrison brought all the good and the bad with him to the Pacers. Others passed on him because of his past baggage. But, with the 29th pick the Pacers figured it was worth a shot to bet on DH maturing and using his talent to flourish. Hey, I was all for it. You think, if it doesn't work out, just move on, right?

Well, it hasn't been that simple. All the risks the Pacers took with Harrison have produced little reward, and the career-limiting characteristics stunting Harrison's NBA shelf life have become franchise-limiting characteristics for the Pacers.

Now I don't consider David Harrison a bad guy, nor do I think any of the players I would consider 'non-milk-drinkers' to be bad guys. But, Marquis Daniels, Jamaal Tinsley, Shawne Williams, Harrison, and earlier, Stephen Jackson put themselves in position for bad things to happen. One time and it looks bad on the individual, but after repeated problems the franchise looks foolish for continuing to back players who can't figure out how to manage a career in the NBA without avoiding problems.

Shawne Williams is one of my favorite personalities on the team, but he can't seem to grasp that at some point you have to earn what is yours in the NBA. Those second NBA contracts are huge and a player has to work to be rewarded. If you can't turn your back on friends from the neighborhood, even if they've stopped protecting you and started harming your career, then fine, maintain those friendships but don't expect a multi-million dollar NBA career. I didn't say it was easy, but there are plenty of players lined up for that roster spot if you can't take care of your business.

Real Change?
Herb Simon's recent interview with Mike Wells is a significant signal of change on the horizon. Rarely have so many strong words been publicly offered from the Simons. Here's the full transcript, as edited by the Pacers. It is real nice to hear an owner admit problems and express confidence that they will lead the Pacers through those problems. These aren't dumb billionaires, believe me.

Larry Bird will need to make drastic changes this summer. That means everyone is available, but only if they are used to free the roster of problem players or Jermaine O'Neal's monster contract.

Bob Kravitz laid it out perfectly in Sunday's Star. Kravitz advocates blowing things up and starting over. I feel the same way, but where is the line drawn between blowing up to start over and blowing the franchise to smithereens. Kravitz wants to get rid of J.O., Tinsley, Quisy, Harrison, and Shawne. In a perfect world, I would completely agree, but I think other players will have to accompany some of those guys out of town.

If the summer moves see over half of the current roster leave town, then what comes back in return will be Bird's front office career hanging out in public for all to see. He has to return quality assets in cap space, picks, or people. A talent-for-talent swap in many cases won't be available but the direction of the franchise will be clear for all to see.

Hopefully, the words of the Simons and the front office will be put into action and the Pacers will be a team fans can proudly stand behind, once again.