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Dahntay Jones: Larry Bird's Homage To M.L. Carr?

Hmm, Roy "Chief" Hibbert? It's going to take a lot of work by Hibbert, but I could get used to it.

Larry Bird learned how to assemble a championship team by watching Red Auerbach assemble a group of teammates that worked hard and all pointed toward the same primary goal of winning a championship. So it's shouldn't be surprising that Bird has returned to the basics while trying to build a championship contending team by hunting out pieces that fit a familiar mold. As Bird mentioned in the Dahntay Jones' press conference, when he sees the right piece for the Pacers, he's going to grab it.

"What we've been trying to do in the last couple years is pick up pieces. And like I said, we're going to try to get a core group of young men that we can move forward with, with this franchise and when we have an opportunity we're going to grab that piece and we feel we can get a couple of more maybe this year."

"I like energy guys, I like guys that play hard and when they come to practice they've got talent that brings everybody else up. Now we've got a few of them. Our practices are going to be a lot better and we're going to be able to compete on a nightly basis. It's all about giving the effort and you want players here that are going to give the effort every day. That's why we got Dahntay, Hansbrough, re-signed Josh McRoberts. There's a reason we do that. We want players that play hard on the court and then off the court give back to the community."

After drafting Tyler Hansbrough, Bird heaped some of his highest praise on the rookie by comparing him to a modern-day Dave Cowens. Cowens won a pair of championships in the '70's with the Celtics and was around for Bird's first year in Boston. Upon closer inspection, Bird's signing of Dahntay Jones resembles a move Auerbach made thirty years ago which helped solidify the Celtics' depth and defense for two more championships in the early '80's. In some respects, the moves share an uncanny resemblance. 

Another quote from Bird on Tuesday revealed that he's intent on filling all of the roles of various size and import needed for a successful team in the future. With respect to Jones, Bird expects him to fill a role which helped Bird raise a couple of banners in the Boston Garden rafters.

"I played on a lot of teams and if you have a guy that's focused on the defensive end it brings your defense up. If he says, hey, I'll take Kobe Bryant, I want to guard him. That takes the pressure off the other players. Not that they don't want to guard him it's just that they know we have a guy that can go out there and be a defensive stopper and that's why we got Dahntay."

After hearing this comment, my first thought was, M.L. Carr.

Dahntay Jones found his NBA career reborn last year by developing into a niche player focused on defense. Just as there's always a role for a player who can knock down the 3-ball, there will be a spot in the league for a dedicated defender. While the game may have forced Jones to adapt to a defensive mindset or die, he appears ready to embrace the role with all his might.

So he joins a Pacers team that has struggled of late, not as the savior, but as a part of the whole planning to fulfill his role at the defensive end, fill in on offense where he can and push his teammates to keep on grinding.

Similarly, M.L. Carr made his name in the NBA by employing a defensive mindset. Carr joined a struggling Boston Celtics team after playing in Detroit the previous season, leading the league in steals per game and being named to the All-Defensive second team. This would be Larry  Bird's rookie season which saw the fortunes of the Celtics turn around. While Bird gets the credit for Boston suddenly becoming a championship contender, he also knows having players like Carr on the roster played a role as well.

Jones and Carr share another trait in the energy they bring not only on the court but while on the bench, as well. Just as Carr became famous for his towel-waiving exploits while exhorting teammates from the bench, Jones could be seen last year pushing his teammates to keep up the pace as they advanced to the Western Conference finals. A defensive-minded player with no time for complaints about PT? Yep, every team could use one of those.

Oh, and there are more similarities between Carr and Jones despite the 30-year gap. Carr was listed at 6'-6", 205 pounds while Jones checks in at 6'-6" and 210 pounds. Carr joined the Celtics at age 28 just like Jones. In fact, their birthdays are only 13 days apart, so as Carr did in his first year with the C's, Jones will turn 29 around the first of the year.

Carr and Jones aren't complete mirror images, though. Carr arrived in Boston with a far better resume after his years in Detroit.  It also appears, their roles may be heading in opposite directions as Carr's minutes dipped in the championship years with the Celtics. At this point, it appears that the Pacers will rely on Jones to play at least 20 minutes per game off the bench and likely more until Mike Dunleavy is back in the mix.

But in general, after exploring my initial thought, I was amazed at just how similar the acquisition of Jones was to Carr's arrival in Boston thirty years ago. Assuming everything goes according to plan, like adding a Larry Bird-type player, I guess we can expect to see Dahntay Jones steal a ball to seal a series-changing road win en route to a championship for the Pacers in 2014.