NBA / Dec 28, 2009 / 7:03 pm

Larry Bird will fire Indiana’s players before he fires the coach

Danny Granger (photo. Stephen Hill)

Danny Granger (photo. Stephen Hill)

Almost every time an NBA coach gets fired, somebody asks me, “Why don’t they fire the players?” My answer as always: “It just doesn’t work that way.”

Apparently Larry Bird is willing to challenge the norm. With the Indiana Pacers struggling at 9-20 (last place in the Central Division), some have been calling for coach Jim O’Brien to get fired. Bird, the team president, doesn’t approve. From the Indianapolis Star:

Bird, frustrated like everybody else about the team’s problems, said he has no intention of changing coaches. If anything changes, it will be the roster, he said.

“Jim is going to be here, that’s one thing the players have to know,” Bird said today. “The coach is secure. We wouldn’t have picked up his option if we didn’t think he was secure. If the players have a problems with Jim, the players are the ones that are probably going to leave.”

Obviously the foot injury that has kept All-Star and leading scorer Danny Granger out of action since Dec. 6 has been a major issue, but it’s just one of a series of problems. Mike Dunleavy Jr. — who missed almost all of last season with knee problems — is back in the lineup but his production has slipped (12.1 ppg, 1.8 apg); Dunleavy shot 1-for-10 in a blowout loss to Miami last night, and 2-for-17 in a loss to the Bucks last week. T.J. Ford has been frustrating as ever with his decision-making and recently lost his starting job to Earl Watson. Second-year pro Brandon Rush has also been a disappointment (7.7 ppg, 38% FG), going into the season as the starting two-guard and also losing his job to Dahntay Jones. The team’s over-arching problems — like late-game execution, too many turnovers, poor defense and inability to field a consistently productive lineup — are usually those that fall under the category of bad coaching, but Bird is nonetheless committed to his guy.

On a positive note, rookie Tyler Hansbrough (9.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg) has been solid, Roy Hibbert (9.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.7 bpg) has made positive progress towards maybe being a borderline All-Star in the future, Troy Murphy is not far below his double-double production last season (14.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg), and offseason pickups Watson and Jones have made positive impacts on both ends of the floor.

Bird told the Star he’s been talking to other teams about trades, but the Pacers might be better off just bottoming out this season and hoping to land John Wall or Evan Turner or Xavier Henry: NBA-ready players who can score and boost the offense. In this period where Granger has been out, I’ve seen Indiana roll out a regular crunch-time lineup of Ford, Jones, Dunleavy, Murphy and Hansbrough. Opponents don’t even need to bring out a defensive specialist for that group.

The Pacers don’t have enough cap space in 2010 to pick up a major free agent unless they do a sign-and-trade. Their best bet is to commit to building around a core of Granger, Hibbert, Hansbrough, and whoever they get in the Draft. Any and everybody else should be considered potential trade bait.

“I don’t like what I’m seeing,” Bird said. “Going in, we expected to compete and be in every game. I thought last year we played very hard and had a chance to make the playoffs at the end. The play on the court now, it’s no excuse, we have to be able to compete on a nightly basis.”

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  • Orange

    Bill Murray(To Bird instead of Jordan)-Don’t lose that confidence.


  • J

    Granger is overated and can’t be the main player on the team to work around. He shoots to many 3’s, resorts to jump shots and shoots does not possess the consistancy to be an outside threat night in and night out. He’s also injury prone too.

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler


    no one on this board can understand why you co-signed on this team.

    we still dont get it.

    you should jump the bandwagon and hitch back on to the Thunder

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    first of all, larry bird needs to be fired as president and gm of the team. he hasnt helped them do shit in years. he traded ron artest for peja, then let peja walk for nothing; essentially, getting nothing for allstar ron artest.

    he traded jermaine o’neal for tj ford. how’s that working out for the pacers?

    he traded al harrington and steven jackson to chris mullin for troy murphy and mike dunleavy; if he had the chance to do that over again….do you think bird still makes that deal today? prob not.

    and he told jamaal tinsley to just stay home for a 1.5yrs. got nothing for him either. now, the roster sucks. no young talent to build around (just some spare complimentary pieces) and no money to attract a FA.

    nevermind jim obrien being safe….larry bird is the one who should have no job security.

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @Heckler — I have to admit, the Kings are looking pretty tempting as a random team I wouldn’t mind watching every day, but I’ll stick to my guns. Once Granger gets back the Pacers won’t be so bad.

  • Gunner J. Matthews

    Another team I thought would be better this season

  • http://www.in-n-outnba.blogspot.com Lucas

    How do we know this isn’t just an act? Could the Pacers be flopping? Think… John Wall would rock the Pacers jersey alongside with Granger, that could be a beast duo.

  • Spliff 2 My Lou

    Sorry Pacer hopefuls but Indiana was just as bad with Granger in the lineup. His return isn’t going to change a thing.

    I happen to agree with J. Granger is overrated as a #1 option. He could be the perfect role player and flourish along side a superstar such as John Wall. Granger has all the tools to be a Scottie Pippen-type impact player. Problem is he seems content to be a one trick pony.

  • http://dime eyes

    Again why do we want to ruin a young players career before it starts. You shouldn’t be rewarded for tanking a season. That hurts the game. You should do a better job of assessing talent. This coach is definitely not going to work. AJ price on the bench doesn’t help. You might as well give him a chance. TJ Ford hasn’t been the same since coming back from his 2nd serious injury with his spine. He was coming around to be an All Star. Earl Watson LOL. This is a team that was horribly put together no excuses. Majority of the people in the league have no idea about basketball. They’re to caught up on the business aspect & still cant figure it out.

    I hope Wall goes to a team that benefits both him & the city. One player does nothing but maybe sell tickets as a band aid. People for the most part want to see good basketball. The N.B.A. isn’t full of that. GM & Owners have to be the easiest job in the league. You could screw up a franchise for so long and fire everybody else but yourself. Scott Layden has to be up there. Along with 80% of a gm’s. Good GM’S maximize everyone talents. On the flipside bad one’s ruin careers along with not having a adequate training staff. To keep the players healthy. Ever notice how some players are never injured on certain winning teams. I wonder

    Their coach has wings in his hair. Seriously all he’s need is some bell bottoms or to be shot in black & white. The Knicks are better than the PACERS. Lets not blame this whole thing on the brawl either. Pride got in the way & Larry Bird is supposedly untouchable. Great Players are sometimes just that.

  • RA

    Why does Larry Bird get a pass as a GM but people have belittled Isiah Thomas. Thomas knew how to access talent. Look at his draft choices that are still in the league. Bird has been terrible and out of touch as a GM. Get rid of him. The thing with Thomas is that he worked for a owner with long pockets and overreached in trying to get a playoff team assembled. He assembled proven talent like marbury, crawford, curry and drafted great role players. He misjudged their character and commitment to excellence. Tell me what has bird been able to accomplshed with his accessment of talent