In something of an unexpected turn, Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird relinquished his post on Friday. The news came shortly after his team was swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round, and at a time when the Pacers have to figure out what in the actual heck they’re going to do with Paul George, who can become a free agent in 2018.
Bird explained his rationale, per Pacers.com:
“I felt it was time to step away in a full-time capacity,” said Bird. “This has nothing to do with my health or our team. I’m 60 years old and I want to do other things away from basketball. I will do some scouting for the Pacers, NBA, college, international, do some appearances and stay in a capacity to advise senior basketball management. I love the Pacers, I grew up with the Pacers and admired them from a very young age. I want to thank the fans for their support throughout my career. I also want to thank (owner) Herb Simon for the many years of loyalty and for allowing me to stay with the team in a different role.”
Bird is 60, so this isn’t exactly hard to believe. But it’s hard to see this not having anything to do with George’s situation, or with how he built a flawed team over the past two years, handing out contracts to Al Jefferson and Monta Ellis while trading for Thaddeus Young and Jeff Teague.
Kevin Pritchard, a more-than-capable basketball executive, has taken over for Bird. He inherits a roster that lacks identity and direction, and a tenuous dynamic between George and the franchise that drafted him. If the Pacers do decide to shop George, though, it makes sense to have someone like Pritchard, who is clearly in this for the long haul, assuming control of negotiations, rather than a person like Bird, who was clearly contemplating his future, or lack thereof, for a long time.