The first question asked to Pacers President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh during Thursday’s season-ending media availability dealt with Larry Bird and a possible return to the team he helped build.
Walsh was unable to offer any new or ground-breaking information to that query, but a couple of other Larry Bird-related questions came up during the course of the news conference.
“I reached out to him during the year, I just haven’t reached out to him in a month, because we were in the playoffs and I was more intent on that. But, I have no doubt that Larry is going to call me and tell me what he wants to do, I have no doubt about that,” explained Walsh very matter-of-factly. “It just hasn’t happened yet. I don’t want to speak for Larry, ok, he does that well enough himself.”
Walsh was made it very clear that if Larry Bird wants to return to the Pacers, he will step away from day-to-day operations. “I’m prepared to step away from it, because I said that from day one. I basically told him (Larry) that ‘Anytime you want to come back, it’s open’ so I’ll honor that,” explained Walsh.
While we aren’t certain who will be making all of the decisions in the future, there are less concerns about the future prospects of this team. Fresh off an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers possess some key cornerstone pieces, but could use an upgrade to other parts of the roster.
“I think we could get better shooting, as every team could get. We could get a defensive player or two at different positions, playmakers, so we’re looking at those elements more than particular players,” said Walsh. The longtime Pacers executive dismissed some of the criticism directed at the role players.
“I feel like the bench will get better as time goes on, because for the most part (they) were new guys here with a new system, with a first team that was pretty much acclimated into it,” explained Walsh. “I thought that the guys that played in the playoffs did what we expected them to do.”
Walsh and General Manager Kevin Pritchard spoke positively about the return of Danny Granger. A roster addition of the 2009 NBA All-Star will bolster the bench, regardless of what role Granger takes in the fall.
“He looks good. He feels good. I think he started with Shaun (Windle) inside with the weights and some of the conditioning, full out running, I think he is limited at this point just because everybody wants it to heal the right way, but it looks like its good,” said Walsh when talking about Granger’s left knee.
As evidenced by the season-wrap up media availability, the Pacers still have some big unanswered questions. However, no matter what happens over the course of the next three or four months, this franchise has positioned itself for long-term success in the Eastern Conference.