HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For a man whose name is synonymous with a franchise, city and state, it should come as no surprise that there are rumblings about Reggie Miller one day returning to help run the Indiana Pacers.
Miller’s headed to Springfield for a glorious weekend that will include his being enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. But there will be no shortage of chatter about the TNT analyst’s future and whether or not it might one day include a return to Indianapolis and the Pacers.
There couldn’t be a more a natural fit, from this perspective.
Miller embodies everything the Pacers stood for during the height of the franchise’s NBA glory years. His return would be more than just symbolic, though, as Miller has proved himself to be not only an ambassador for the Pacers, Indiana and the game itself, but also an astute observer of the global growth of the game over the past three decades.
“I never close any doors,” Miller said. “I listen to everything. (Owner) Herb Simon and I have had this conversation before. So yes, if something presented itself, I would definitely look at it and go from there.”
The Pacers have been led by either Donnie Walsh or Larry Bird for nearly the past 30 years.
Walsh returned for his second stint with the organization, replacing Bird as president, in June. Bird is taking at least the next year off. The 71-year-old Walsh hasn’t put a timetable on how long he will remain in his current capacity.
“I’m always interested,” Simon said. “Reggie would be a wonderful person to have in this franchise.”
Few in the executive offices around the NBA command more respect than Donnie Walsh. Likewise, few GMs from generation-next created more buzz than Kevin Pritchard, both when he got hired and unceremoniously dumped in Portland.
But trusting in the wisdom of the men making the deals isn’t the same thing as trusting one’s own eyes when assessing personnel moves. That’s why the Indiana Pacers’ latest maneuvers triggered so much head-scratching among the team’s fans and here at Sekou’s Hang Time hideout.
Darren Collison, a legitimate starting point guard but one who finished last season coming off the Pacers bench, is gone. So is wing defender Dahntay Jones, reserve scorer Leandro Barbosa and off-the-bench big Louis Amundson. They’ve been replaced by D.J. Augustin, Gerald Green, Ian Mahinmi and rookie center Miles Plumlee – well, replaced might not be the best word, so let’s say their roster spots have been taken by those newcomers.
Doesn’t seem like much, as judged here at HTH. Not even a push, never mind an upgrade to the Pacers’ roster. And that’s what Indiana was hoping for, wasn’t it, a surgical move or two to vault it into close-second status in the Eastern Conference this season behind the Miami Heat?
Beat-writer extraordinaire Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star tried to explain the movesto a fan base growing increasingly restless:
Fans don’t like what they’ve seen so far. Some already want Walsh to retire and Pritchard to go somewhere else.
Have the moves been flashy? Not even close.
Are the moves good enough to catch Miami in the Eastern Conference? Not as long as the Heat have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
But it’s all about progression for the Pacers.
They had no choice but to trade point guard Darren Collison…
Wells then explains that Collison, though he said he would be willing to continue as George Hill’s backup, really wasn’t happy in that role. Well, that shouldn’t have bothered the Pacers one bit – would they prefer a backup who doesn’t burn to start? Even then, Collison figured to have trade value in excess of Mahinmi – that deal withDallasseemed to gift the point guard and Jones to the Mavericks. Augustin doesn’t have nearly the juice, and can leave next summer as a free agent anyway.
Moving out some of the other players while trusting the latest mature version of Green, compared to all his previous incarnations, might not be the most sound decision either.
There’s a tendency to rely on Walsh and Pritchard, based on the basketball bank accounts both have amassed in their careers. But for a team that had the Heat down 2-1 in their best-of-seven East semifinals, for a club that was thinking about an Eric Gordon signing as this offseason’s signature move – as well as retaining center Roy Hibbert and point guard George Hill – the Pacers’ approach of one step forward, maybe two back, is hard to embrace.
Free agent center Roy Hibbert is now leaning toward wanting to play with the Portland Trail Blazers next season, a day after the restricted free agent got a verbal commitment from the Blazers that they would tender a four-year, $58 million offer sheet to him, the maximum he can receive under terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources confirmed Sunday.
Hibbert, acquired by the Indiana Pacers (from the Toronto Raptors) on Draft day in 2008, had long expressed his desire to remain with the team that traded for him and helped him develop into an All-Star last season. But the 25-year-old was apparently blown away by the presentation made Saturday in Washington, D.C., by the Blazers’ contingent, which included Portland’s new general manager, Neil Olshey.
The Pacers would still be able to match any offer for Hibbbert when the July moratorium expires, but teams generally work out deals for players who express a specific desire to be elsewhere once they become free agents.
The Pacers are still likely to match the offer, because Hibbert has become one of the league’s top centers and his skills as a passing big man are a rare commodity in the NBA these days. But a source indicated Sunday that the organization would have to take a look at the offer before making a definitive commitment.
Unspecified health issues are reportedly among the reasons Bird is “100 percent sure” he will not stay on president of the team after meeting with Pacers owner Herb Simon today:
Bird, who is dealing with some health issues, will likely take a year off before deciding if he wants to return to any sort of front-office position.
His departure comes just three days after The Star reported that Bird’s predecessor, former CEO Donnie Walsh, is expected to return to the franchise in some capacity. There’s a possibility Walsh will take Bird’s title of president.
Simon always has respected Walsh, who spent 24 years with the Pacers before leaving to become president of basketball operations with the New York Knicks in 2008.
Walsh, who took last year off, attended several of the Pacers’ pre-draft workouts at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Kevin Pritchard, the team’s current director of player personnel, will likely work with Walsh as the team’s new general manager. Bird pushed for Pritchard to become general manager, citing Pritchard’s basketball knowledge.
David Morway, who had been the Pacers’ general manager, is no longer employed by the franchise, according to a source.
HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – We can see it now: Peaches and Herb’s “Reunited” blaring from the sound system and a suited and booted Shaquille O’Neal walking to the podium as he’s introduced as the Orlando Magic’s new general manager.
Don’t laugh. It might not be as far-fetched as it sounds.
Dan asked Barkley if Shaquille O’Neal has told him he’s is interested in the Orlando GM job. “Yes,” Barkley said. “I do know he’s interested in the job and he’s going to interview for it.”
Barkley said O’Neal and Dwight Howard have had issues in the past, but that doesn’t mean Shaq can’t go to Orlando.
Barkley thinks Howard needs to make a decision and stay or go in Orlando. He’s sick of talking about it.
“They’re trying to do anything they can to keep Dwight there and get a buzz,” Barkley said. “They have to do something whether Dwight stays there or not. Bringing in Shaquille is an attention getter.”
This gives folks a license to let their imaginations run wild with images of O’Neal back in the city where his Hall of Fame playing career began, the same city he calls home. If Shaq is on the short list of people the Magic want to talk to about replacing Otis Smith, it is noteworthy. Especially considering the nature of his departure from the Magic in 1996 for the Los Angeles Lakers.
O’Neal hasn’t even finished his first year of retirement and already his name is popping up in a GM search. That’s impressive, no matter how it all transpired.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With the eyes of the basketball-loving public focused squarely on the playoffs and who will emerge from the Eastern Conference semifinals, we decided to take a mini-detour this week on the Hang Time Podcast.
With all the news coming out of Orlando, we simply could not let an opportunity to dig a little deeper into the goings on down there slip away.
We also had to talk about the potential replacements for both Van Gundy, the coach, and Smith, the general manager. Names like Brian Shaw, Jerry Sloan and Phil Jackson, yes the Zen Master himself, have popped up on the short list of replacements for Van Gundy. Meanwhile, names like Donnie Walsh, Jeff Bower and TNT’s very own Shaquille O’Neal have popped up on the surprising short list of candidates to replace Smith.
(We first heard these rumblings about O’Neal being a candidate Monday night … talk about things getting interesting if the Big Fella were to return to the Magic after all these years.)
You get conversation about all that and more, we talk plenty of playoffs, flagrant fouls, suspensions and everything else with our main man Evan Dunlap of the OPP.
Check it out on Episode 80 of the Hang Time Podcast:
There are impatient rumblings at Madison Square Garden, where the “deeee-fense” chant originated, because the Knicks under coach Mike D’Antoni are simply not deee-livering as they should.
Well, let’s just examine that statement a bit further. Especially the part about “as they should.”
Really, now: Should they? This is a team that hired a coach in D’Antoni who specialized in a quick-strike offense while in Phoenix, which won a lot of games but no championships. And this is a team that broke the Brinks for Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, a pair of hired guns who can score a bunch but often give up a bunch, too. And finally, this is a team that surrendered some decent defenders in the trade to get ‘Melo last season, a trade that never should’ve been made in the first place.
So yeah, that’s why we must ask: Should they? Or rather, can they?
The Knicks surrendered 118 points last night to the Bobcats, a team that usually needs two games to reach 118. It was surreal, seeing the offensively-challenged Bobcats shoot 55 percent, to see burly “center” Boris Diaw looking svelte as he tore through the Knicks for 12 of 15 shooting and 27 points, to see Gerald Henderson torch the Knicks’ backcourt for 24 points.
“We didn’t defend enough,” said D’Antoni, stating the obvious.
But how well can the Knicks defend, anyway?
With the exception of Tyson Chandler, there’s nobody on the roster who made their reputation with terrific D. Therefore, it’s hard to be a great defensive team when you lack great defensive players. Yes, the Knicks looked fine the previous game against the Raptors. And yes, defense is more an effort than an art form, and professional basketball players should at least give that effort on the other end. However, the Knicks as constituted paint a worrisome picture for New Yorkers, who see solid defense being played in Chicago, Boston and Miami, places where the Knicks must travel through to have any chance of reaching the NBA Finals anytime soon. The Knicks are giving up 99 a game, fourth-worst in the league, this early in the season.
When the chant of de-fense, de-fense fell on deaf ears, the Garden crowd began calling for Iman Shumpert, who has instantly become a fan favorite. And if you listened closely enough there was a brief Phil Jackson chant before the mass exodus began. So for Mike D’Antoni perhaps the only positive thing to come out of Wednesday’s embarrassing 118-110 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats is that no one was calling for his head. but if the Knicks continue to perform poorly at home, that derisive chant is coming soon. And it will be loud.
The Knicks don’t have a playmaker, and D’Antoni still doesn’t have a team that can defend consistently. D’Antoni has also come to the final year of his contract, the $24 million free-agent booty the Knicks gave him to escape a frugal owner and a GM, Steve Kerr, who tried to tell D’Antoni something he never wanted to hear: Defense mattered, and eventually it had to be important to him.
Back-to-back losses to the Toronto Raptors and Bobcats at the Garden dropped the Knicks to 2-4. It didn’t matter that the Bobcats had been obliterated by 74 points in three straight losses, that 24 hours earlier Cleveland had blown them out and Diaw had gone scoreless and owner Michael Jordan had one more mess on his hands.
“You’re talking about an NBA team,” D’Antoni said. “They’re good.”
Come on, Mike. Stop it. The Knicks will get over these losses, but this isn’t the way a lame-duck coach needed to start the season in New York. Bad week for the Knicks, but worse in the long run for the coach’s staying power on the job. This is a no-excuse season for the Knicks, and D’Antoni won’t be negotiating a contract extension without winning a round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
This isn’t simply D’Antoni’s fault. There are too many holes, and maybe too many parts that don’t fit together. The Knicks are counting on Baron Davis’ back to heal, Anthony and Stoudemire to learn to play together, and a Spartan bench to make serious contributions.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Eight years are a mere blip in time, but it seems like an eternity in the NBA.
It’s certainly rare for executives and coaches to last that long.
So when you read that Larry Bird is eight years deep into his tenure as the boss of the Indiana Pacers, it seems a bit strange. I was there for the start, standing in the crowd at Bird’s introductory news conference and wondering, like most in that surprised sea of faces staring at him, how long the man known as “Larry Legend” would last as an executive.
Now, eight trying years later for Bird and the Pacers, Bird appears to be at the crossroads. The Pacers finally recovered fully from the infamous brawl at the Palace, making their first playoff appearance since 2006 earlier this year and pushing the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in all five games of their first round series.
He’s been the Pacers’ top executive for eight seasons, but said that after next season he’s considering stepping away. He took the Pacers to the Finals as coach in 2000. But he’s spent the last six seasons trying to rebuild a franchise stained by the brawl with the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
With Indiana coming off its first playoff appearance since 2006, the franchise is at a turning point. Bird and Pacers owner Herb Simon agreed that Bird would continue to guide the franchise on a year-to-year basis.
“It’s a handshake deal,’’ said Bird, who will be honored tomorrow at TD Garden as part of the Sports Museum’s The Tradition. “I don’t want a [long-term] contract.’’ (more…)
Surprising — or perhaps not? — news out of New York City today, as Donnie Walsh, the man who signed Amar’e Stoudemire, traded for Carmelo Anthony and got the Knicks back to the playoffs after a seven-year absence, has been relieved of his duties with the team. Senior vice president of basketball operations Glen Grunwald will serve as the interim general manager.
“Following a long series of discussions regarding his future role with the New York Knicks, Donnie Walsh and I have mutually agreed that he will be leaving his position as president, basketball operations of the Knicks at the end of June. Donnie will remain with the team as a consultant for the 2011-12 season. In a relatively short time with the Knicks, Donnie made a tremendous impact, which will be felt for many years to come. We thank Donnie for his leadership, hard work and many contributions to the revitalization of the team.
“We will now begin an immediate search for a new president and general manager, but do not have a timetable for the decision. Glen Grunwald, the Knicks’ senior vice president, basketball operations, will serve as interim general manager beginning in July, overseeing all player transactions. With some of the NBA’s premier players, an outstanding coach and one of the league’s most passionate and loyal fanbases, we are extremely confident about the future of the Knicks franchise.”
What will this mean for the franchise? With Dolan at the helm, your guess is as good as mine …