With All-Star Weekend approaching (February 13-15 in New York)—the unofficial halfway point of the NBA season—Pacers president Larry Bird took a few moments today to speak with the media about his team, its players, and their progress.
Last season at this time, the Pacers sat in first place in the Eastern Conference and held the second-best record in the league. One year and a barrage of injuries later (including a broken leg to their own All-Star, Paul George), and the Indiana Pacers are struggling. Currently at the bottom of the Central Division and four-and-a-half games out of the playoffs, Bird didn’t hide his disappointment.
“I thought we would come together as a group a lot sooner than we have,” he said. “With the injuries, guys are in and out, but still there’s a lot of opportunity out there for other players to step up and get an opportunity to play and play well. Some have at different times, but it just hasn’t been consistent.”
The NBA trade deadline is on February 19. And with potential free agents on the roster, including forward David West and center Roy Hibbert (both with a player option in their contracts), Bird wouldn’t rule out a potential move.
“We’re always looking to improve the team, and obviously there’s a lot of improving that needs to be done,” he said. “So, we’ll look around the league and talk to a lot of different people, see what’s out there, and hopefully we can do something that makes us better.”
Head coach Frank Vogel said he likes the group he has. He would like to see them stick together, bring back a healthy George when he’s ready (either later this season or next), and make another run at the NBA Finals.
In the meantime, Bird says he’s in win-now mode (has Bird ever not been in win-now mode?), and he believes making the playoffs this year should still be an expectation for the team.
Vogel has a more immediate goal: beating the Detroit Pistons, who will visit Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Wednesday night. “If you attack it one game at a time, you get yourself back in the playoff race, which is the goal,” he said.
One year. Many injuries. And a whole lot of basketball yet to be played.
Indy sports nut Heather Lloyd weighs in on all things Pacers and Colts on her blog, The Blue Mare.
Photos by Heather Lloyd