Jun 24, 2011 – Fair or not, our site is gaining a reputation for being ‘anti-Pacers,’ ‘anti-Larry Bird,’ ‘anti-Herb Simon,’ ‘anti-everything.’
I’ll accept ‘anti-Bird’ because, whether people want to accept this or not, the man has not done a good job creating a winning environment in Indianapolis. And with some Indiana sports fans, simply pointing out a person’s faults and holding them accountable for their mistakes is often defined as being ‘against’ them. I’m not about to fight this simplistic and silly way fans often view fair criticism. It just is what it is.
Loyal Indiana fans who remember the bye-gone years of Bird the player at Indiana State in the 1970s and Bird the coach of the Pacers in the 1990s sometimes can’t separate those accomplishments from what Bird has failed to do as a personnel man in Indiana, and that’s win. What contributes to Bird’s piss poor record as team president is the often puzzling, contradictory roster moves he makes.
Last night, at the 2011 NBA Draft, Bird continued his trend of puzzling, contradictory roster management by sending his entire draft (picks 15, 42, and 46, which ended up being the rights to players Kawhi Leonard and Davis Bertans) to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for fourth-year guard George Hill.
Now, on the surface, this was a good move.
The Pacers are already loaded with young talent. Youth and athleticism are not problems the Pacers suffer from. However, youth and athleticism often don’t win you basketball games in the NBA. Stars, and the dynamic playmakers who work to support those stars, record Ws for teams in this association.
George Hill is a solid player, and is, in fact, a dynamic player who can support a star. He did this in San Antonio, working with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. Hill provides scoring and defensive punch at both the point guard and off-guard positions. He’s a veteran with championship experience. He’s proven, reliable, and mature. He’s a grown-up, not a development project/immature headcase like Larry Bird’s favorite player, second-year point guard Lance Stephenson.
Hill is also a local Indiana guy. He went to Broadripple High School on Indianapolis’ north side. He played his college ball at IUPUI. Whenever the San Antonio Spurs would show up to play the Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse, more fans cheered for Hill than they did anyone in blue and gold.
In many ways, getting Hill was better than landing someone like, say, Jimmer Fredette. Hill is a proven player. Jimmer isn’t. The ‘interest factor’ Jimmer would have given fans buying tickets just to see if he was as good as advertised is equaled by local fans interested in Hill. Indiana folks will indeed buy tickets to watch Hill play. They like him. They root for him. He’s one of their own.
Again, on the surface, this is a good move. But, ‘on the surface’ is not getting to the truth of things. To use a tired metaphor, just because the menu looks good doesn’t mean the food brought to the table is high quality.
While adding Hill provides punch at both guard positions, the problem now exists as to what to do with all these guards on the roster. Most of these guards are players brought in here specifically to help the Pacers win now. And as we all know in this association, there are only so many minutes to go around. I’m not the only one who has noticed this newly added problem existing on the Pacers roster. From Tom Ziller at SB Nation, who gave the Pacers a ‘D’ grade for last night’s trade:
With Paul George and Danny Granger on the wings, maybe neither Leonard or Chris Singleton were deemed necessary. But they each have to be more valuable than George Hill, right? Especially when you consider that the Pacers conceded a second-round pick that became so-called first-round talent Bertans.
The Pacers now have Darren Collison, Hill and A.J. Price under contract. Am I missing something? Is Indiana planning on merging Collison and Hill in a grand science experiment?
Currently, the Pacers have George Hill, Darren Collison, A.J. Price, and Lance Stephenson to run the point. At two-guard, they have Hill (again), Brandon Rush, Dahntay Jones, and maybe, if they wanted to, Danny Granger and Paul George.
Last season, without Hill on the roster to muddy up the waters in terms of on-the-court minutes, highly drafted players like Rush and George had trouble getting minutes. Dahntay Jones, a key free agent from a few years ago and arguably the club’s best defender, hardy ever saw the court. Now, with Hill on the team, what’s to become of Rush, Jones, and possibly A.J. Price?
This is an important question, especially when aimed at Brandon Rush. The Pacers traded Jerryd Bayless and Ike Diogu in 2008 for Jarrett Jack, Josh McRoberts, and the rights to Rush. While Bayless (now only 22-years-old) has quietly developed into a point guard who puts up 18.1 points and 6.7 assists without turning the ball over as a starter in Toronto, Rush (26-years-old) has been nothing more than a lazy malcontent with questionable desire and a taste of marijuana. His minutes have steadily declined, and the team has tried (and failed) to trade him at the February deadline two years in a row. His status with the team is so bad that Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz is already writing his swan song.
It’s also worth noting that, at pick No. 26 in that year’s draft, the San Antonio Spurs selected… George Hill out of IUPUI.
And what about Dahntay Jones? Bird signed him to a four-year, $11 million free agent contract just two years ago, but he’s only averaged 19 minutes a game in those two years. Now, will Hill on the roster, and with both Granger and George cemented at the three spot, Jones will be lucky if he ever sees the court again. For all the whining Bird does at press conferences about not having enough money to spend on quality players, has anyone ever bothered to stand-up and ask why he wasted money he doesn’t have on Jones?
Then, there’s Stephenson, who Bird often calls ‘the best player’ on the team with a straight, serious face during press conferences (even though everyone else in the room is quietly laughing at him for such remarks).
Stephenson is the kind of malcontent idiot that Bird supposedly wanted nothing to do with after years of cleaning up PR messes left by Jamaal Tinsely and Stephen Jackson. A year ago, when Pacers executive Jim Morris proudly exclaimed Indiana ‘will not have bums here,’ he probably had no idea Larry Bird was secretly dismissing those comments while looking at tape of Stephenson. Stephenson pretty much defines the label ‘bum.’ When Stephenson is not tossing his girlfriend down a flight of stairs and getting arrested for it, he’s causing lockerroom rifts that spill over into on-the-court disharmony.
And despite A.J. Price clearly outplaying Stephenson and earning a more prominent place on the team, Bird continues to trumpet Stephenson’s ‘talent,’ making excuses for his poor behavior left and right. Now, with Hill on the roster, and with Bird’s stubborn support for Stephenson (despite the contradictions that support creates) there is simply no place on this team for A.J. Price.
And finally, there’s Darren Collison, the supposed ‘point guard of the future’ for this franchise. If Hill is ‘the next step’ in this team’s quest to win a ring, and if Stephenson is the ‘best player on the team,’ where does Collison fit into the puzzle? A starting lineup of Collison (6’0) at point and Hill (6’2) at two would be too small to compete nightly in the NBA, and if Hill is coming off the bench to back-up Collison, that leaves no minutes for Mr. Born Ready. Collison was the key piece in a trade last summer many people described as ‘brilliant.’ The luster of that move wears off a bit when you consider that Collison’s place on this team is now in question with Hill and Stephenson lurking.
With the roster as is, we have a starting line-up of Collison, George, Granger, Tyler Hansbrough, and Roy Hibbert. That’s a laughable starting five, and it will get crushed (particularly on the boards) in the East next year. The key contributors off the bench seem to be Hill, Stephenson, and maybe Jeff Foster. Again, that’s not enough to win 27 games, let alone 37.
Notice how there really isn’t room for Jones, Rush, Price, or even veteran James Posey?
The only way this flawed, mishmash collection of talent can work is if we see the Pacers make moves to acquire a true star player. The problem is, there’s none out there to get. Adding David West isn’t going to guarantee any rings, and signing someone like Jamal Crawford or O.J. Mayo just clogs up and already messy backcourt. Adding a Tyson Chandler is nice, but that’s another complimentary piece.
Again, where’s the star?
Where’s the player, or players, that make all this work? We know that player isn’t Granger, and none of us are as remarkably dense as Bird is to believe Lance friggin’ Stehpenson will develop into the next Derrick Rose. Does Bird seriously think that trotting out Collison, George, Granger, Hansbrough, and Hibbert (with Hill off the bench) on a nightly basis is going to make this club a ‘winner?’
Obviously, hindsight is 20-20, but the fact is personnel people like Bird are paid lots of money so that when hindsight is applied to their decisions, those decisions are not easily questioned. In Bird’s case, when you look beyond the surface level, his decisions are often so baffling they make David Kahn in Minnesota look competent in comparison.
Yes, I wrote that, and whether you want to believe or not, it’s true.
Say what you want about Kahn and his fat mouth that often gets him in hot water, but he has Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and now Derrick Williams on his roster for 2011. That destroys anything Larry Bird has on this Indiana Pacers roster, by a lot.
For more on the Pacers, visit Indy Cornrows.
Read More: Ike Diogu (F – LAC), Tyson Chandler (C – DAL), Danny Granger (F – IND), Dahntay Jones (F – IND), Tim Duncan (F – SAN), Tony Parker (G – SAN), Jarrett Jack (G – NOH), Jamal Crawford (G – ATL), Josh McRoberts (F – IND), O.J. Mayo (G – MEM), Brandon Rush (G – IND), Jerryd Bayless (G – TOR), Kevin Love (F – MIN), George Hill (G – IND), Ricky Rubio (G – MIN), Tyler Hansbrough (F – IND), Darren Collison (G – IND), A.J. Price (G – IND), Paul George (G – IND), Lance Stephenson (G – IND), Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs
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