Paul George sounded so reassuring on Wednesday, heading into the trade deadline despite reports of other teams trying to trade for him and his desire to play for the Lakers after his contract is up, making his future with the Pacers or any trade partner unsettling. PG had met with Herb Simon and proclaimed to be on the same page with Simon and Larry Bird.
Then after a deadline day with minute-to-minute reports on negotiations with other teams, that in the end didn't appear to be serious from the Pacers side, PG showed he and the team are NOT on the same page. He complained about not being in the loop even though his people helped add to the mess by letting reporters know he plans to sign with the Lakers if things don't improve in Indiana.
The act of floating that news makes it apparent, PG didn't want to be trade which is actually a good thing for the Pacers. But the Lakers talk didn't help Larry Bird's bargaining position for any deal he discussed. It made the Pacers desperate to make a move to improve the team around PG now and Bird doesn't do desperation. He didn't give up too much, including a first-round pick, to appease the desire for a move, any move that might help the team (or might not). That too is a good thing but it sure doesn't feel like it.
So while PG was talking after the deadline adding to the messy perception of the Pacers, Bird stayed mum. Nothing happened, nothing to talk about...except that leave everyone from players to media to fans to speculate on their own about why Bird couldn't get anything done.
Bird could at least reassure the fan base, that not making a trade just to make a trade is a good thing. Let them know he is happy with how the deadline turned out, considering there were no options but lateral moves that wouldn't have helped the team immediately and so now they still have their draft pick and will continue working on ways to improve going forward.
Positive spin? Sure. But it is also good description of how the day went, not just in Indiana but around the league, that doesn't allow others to set the Pacers narrative in a negative light. Bird’s silence and PG’s comments also make it appear that communication inside the Fieldhouse is broken and certainly not on the same page.
Ownership could also help alter the view of the team by changing with the times, as Bird continues to lean on the top of the salary cap as a limiting factor in what the team can do to improve. Spending money isn't the only path to success (Portland is spending $119 million this season with a 24-33 record) but it can help when trying to get over the hump to add a key player to the mix.
This isn't 2009. The Pacers aren't losing money as the franchise value continues to soar and and influx of money via television deals and revenue sharing (not to mention local tax payer money) should allow Herb Simon and PS&E to green light extra spending when needed. The Pacers paid the luxury tax in the early 2000's as they tried to remain in the championship hunt. I understand not wanting to spend just to be at a level below the current elite teams. But the culture of trying to make due on a limited budget puts the Pacers at a disadvantage in today's NBA.
Portland, Memphis, San Antonio, Charlotte, Sacramento, Orlando, Milwaukee and New Orleans are all small market teams spending more than the Pacers this season. The idea of Paul George pining for Lakers and the team's reputation of working within the confines of a strict budget makes the Pacers appear far less appealing from the outside looking in today than it did even at the start of this season.
Fortunately, basketball is the answer for a team that is still above .500 and still very much in the playoff race. Starting Friday the team can still alter the view of the franchise with their play on the court. That's a good thing, because their collective act off the court is doing more harm than good right now.
I hit on this topic on the latest Locked on Pacers episode.