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IC Cold Links: Bird Looking Ahead, Lakers Ready To Keep Rolling, Granger Fighting Tough Times

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At this point in the season, the 2009-10 Indiana Pacers have multiple story lines to follow, all of which may compel or confuse, frustrate or amuse. In some cases, all at the same time.

First, there's the obvious game-to-game stories to follow. The wins, the losses. Who is playing well, who isn't. For the remainder of the season, forget the level of play, who is playing and who isn't is also worth noting when the team is in uniform.

That leads to another story line which is how the game-to-game results are impacting the players and coaches. Injuries, playing time and off-court distractions are all issues with short-term and long-term implications for the Pacers. The current team has proven to have a delicate margin for error so any issues the suspension of Solo Jones or the personal issues facing Danny Granger make a difference.

In the links today, Mike Wells has more on Granger's struggles to play while facing some family issues. Granger has shown he's an emotional player susceptible to ups and downs. He's not a stone-cold killer like Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan who can use any little negative as fuel to destroy an opponent. Having said that, Granger has played some of his best ball of late while working through the personal fire storm. Is that a sign of growth for a player who would be an outstanding second option on a good team in the future?

The future. A third and at this point most compelling story line to follow. We all know, when Donnie Walsh left, Larry Bird laid out his  three year plan to have the team back on solid footing which would culminate next summer (2011) with a core group of go-forward players along with the assets and flexibility to improve the talent around those players.

Some of those go-forward players are on the roster now, with at least two more critical players coming in the next two drafts. Larry Bird talked with Al Hamnik about the future without treading on much new territory compared to other recent interviews. So of course, I dug into what Bird didn't say in one of his answers as a interesting indicator of who may or may not be in the team's future plans.

The Q&A shifted to the future outlook for the Pacers after going through the usual explanation of the plan. That's when Bird discussed some hits and misses in his recent drafts, although not all of them. (This is a straight copy. I know Shawne Williams is not spelled Sean Williams and he was sent to Dallas initially, not New Jersey.)

Q: What do the 2009-10 Pacers lack to turn that corner?

A:We lack a little bit of everything. When we drafted the last two or three times, starting with Danny Granger, we got a good player. We picked a kid named Sean Williams who I thought would complement Danny very well but, obviously, because of off-the-court problems, we had to move Sean to another team (New Jersey Nets). Then we got Roy (Hibbert), we got (Tyler) Hansbrough, we got A.J. Price. They're all solid guys who went to school for four years and are a base, a foundation, we can build on every year.

So who is missing? I'm sure Bird would say it is just an oversight, but I'll take it as another indication that the front office doesn't equate brigh future with Brandon Rush. Three times is a trend as far as I'm concerned and this is the third indication I've encountered that the Pacers aren't expecting Rush to be involved in any future improvements.

The initial comment that caught my eye, or ear as it would be, was when David Morway was discussing the future a few weeks ago and was slow to include Rush among the core go-forward players.  He expressed some minor reservations with Rush's game but then tried to gloss over it by saying the team still planned on Rush being part of the future.

Obviously, the fact that Rush was nearly traded to Charlotte before the deadline was a major indication Bird and Morway are willing to take their chances without Rush. So now we may need to refer to Rush as Splenda since he may spend the off-season and maybe longer as an inexpensive sweetener for deals involving the big expiring contracts the Pacers will try to move between now and the end of next season.

These are just a few subplots currently surrounding the players, without even  touching on the coaching situation, off-season trade options or the impact of injuries. So for any fans out there, the Pacers offer plenty of entertainment options despite their lottery-lock record. You just have to look deeper than the box scores.

Here are a few more links of interest: