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Bird Establishes His Own Style

Jeff Rabjohns writes today about Larry Bird's effort to change the direction of the Pacers by looking for more mature players who walk in the door ready to contribute.

"There's no question about it, the culture of the team is going to change and we're not done yet," Pacers president Larry Bird said after his first draft without Donnie Walsh, now in charge of the New York Knicks. "We're going to continue to work on that through the summer.

"If you look at some of the guys in the proposed trades, they're a little bit older, went to school for at least three years. That's part of the change, more mature kids, some experience and getting guys that we think can come in here and play right away."

As I heard Slick Leonard say the other day, Bird is tough and he's looking for professional players who are willing to work hard and well, also be tough. By the way, I think Jarrett Jack fits this mold perfectly. He will come to work everyday ready to get after it, a real Jim O'Brien-type player, and someone I can see developing a Haywoode Workman-like following among fans.

This is definitely a change from the way Donnie Walsh operated which was highlighted on draft night when Walsh took a promising young player, but one who will need more development before playing a big role for the Knicks. Walsh also believed in redemption and second (third, fourth...) chances for players who caused problems.

Bird won't extend the same level of patience, that's for sure. He also saw first hand how promising young players who arrive in need of NBA development don't always pan out. Al Harrington and Jonathan Bender never become the productive players the franchise hoped they would. Yet, they remained on the roster for several years with youth and inexperience as the excuses holding them back.

At least with an older player, you find out rather quickly whether they'll meet expectations or not. If not, the team can move in another direction instead of pinning a few extra years on hope.

Now Bird just has to find enough tough players with the talent to match their effort.