MANILA, Philippines – Fish swim. Frogs jump.
It’s good to know that two decades after his retirement, another constant in the world is that Larry Bird still flaps his wings and soars with his quick one-liners and trademark cockiness.
When asked by a Filipino reporter whether he feels more pressure as a Pacers executive than he did during his Hall of Fame career with the Celtics, Bird grinned.
“Pressure? I don’t know what that is,” Bird said to a roomful of laughter. “Obviously, you never seen me play.”
It wasn’t quite walking into the locker room prior to the 3-point Shootout at the 1986 All-Star Weekend in Dallas and asking the rest of the field, “Who’s comin’ in second?” But it was a peek at the old Bird who’s back in his role as president of basketball operations and wants his Pacers to take the next step after pushing Miami to a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals last season.
“Right now, the Miami Heat are the best team,” Bird said. “They’ve won two years in a row. They’ve been to the Finals three years in a row and until somebody beats them, they’re still the best team.
“What we’re trying to do is build a team that can compete on a nightly level…We have a lot of young players. I don’t compare this team to (my) Celtics teams because it’s a completely different style that we play. But I do think we’re good enough, we’re deep enough to compete for a championship.
“Obviously last year they got to the Eastern Conference finals and Game 7 against Miami, but until we make the next step we’re not there. I do like our chances.
“We’ve got a good starting five, but our bench has got to play better than it did last year. I know how hard it is to win these championships. It’s not easy. But we do have a group of good guys that play together and pull for one another. I think things we just have to get a little lucky.
“I really believe that we’re built for the playoffs. But when the playoffs come, we’ve got to be ready because there are gonna be challenges facing us.
“It’s not easy out there. Chicago got Derrick (Rose) back. The Brooklyn Nets, the New York Knicks and they’re all good. And, of course, there’s Miami. It’s a challenge, no question about it.”
Bird said he believes the necessary pieces are in place for the Pacers to go the distance, especially since they have added to their depth over the summer with three key moves.
“I think we’re pretty much set where we are right now,” he said. Last year, with the performance of our bench I think they (Miami) hurt us by not being able to score the basketball.
“We got C.J. (Watson) a good back-up point guard, Chris Copeland from New York, a dead-eye shooter, and of course Luis Scola. He’s a little bit older now, but for what we need, he’s perfect. Just three moves that we made we think are going to make us stronger. It looks good on paper, but we’ll see what happens. Look, I know how hard it is to win a championship. ”
Now, as then, Larry Bird just never feels the pressure.