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Author Topic: Changes Are Comming  (Read 1268 times)
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« on: February 22, 2008, 01:26:03 pm »


Bird says changes are coming

Editor's Note: President of Basketball Larry Bird, accompanied by Senior Vice President of Basketball Administration David Morway, met with the local media Friday to discuss the reasons the team was unable to make a move at the NBA trade deadline as well as outline his plans for the future. What follows is a transcript of that session. You may click here to listen to the audio of the press conference.

Q. How active were you in trying to make a trade?
A. We were very active, believe it or not. We've been talking over the last two months about different situations, different deals. Really, when it came right down to it, we didn't think we could make a deal that would make our team any better than it is now. We didn't want to do anything at the last minute that would jeopardize some of the things we'll be able to do before the draft and in the summertime.

Q. Were other teams asking for too much in return?
A. Probably not giving us enough for what we think our players we were worth. We had some situations that were very close but this time of year, with our team playing like it is, we didn't think we could get a player in here that could help us down the stretch. We've been in a lot of games in the fourth quarter and we just don't have that one guy, or couldn't get that one guy, we thought could make a difference going down the last 8-10 minutes of the game to get that one basket or one rebound we need. The way we look at it, we don't have Jamaal, we don't have Jermaine and we don't know when they're coming back – hopefully soon – but if they're in there we think we can win a lot of these games. As far as trading and getting one of these guys, no, we didn't think we were in position to do that.

Q. Will some of the discussions you had this month likely be re-visited after the season?
A. No question. A couple teams we talked to wanted to wait until the summer to take a look at it. It involved different players but they just thought it was better for all parties to hold off until the summertime.

Q. How will circumstances in the offseason be more favorable to trades than during the season?
A. You have more time. You have the draft, probably after the draft they'll see what type of player they've gotten and then they'll look their team and see their needs and go from there.

Q. How big a challenge will it be to change the team, considering the number of long-term contracts on the roster?
A. Obviously you'd like to have some room where you can make some deals and either take on some money or give some money back. We're right at the tax and we're not going over the tax. Our owners have told us they'd like to stay under the tax and I understand that. That's been our goal all the way through. If we have the type of team that we need that one player to get us over the hump to maybe get us to the NBA Finals, I don't think it matters to them whether we go over the luxury tax or not but until then we're at $67 million and we're going to stay there for awhile unless we can make a deal to get under. And if we do that, it's going to be a major deal. If not, we've got to stay within our budget.

Q. You have some young players like Danny Granger that are improving but is your nucleus strong enough, or do you need to pursue changes to the core of the team?
A. We need to make some changes, no question about that. We're not happy where we're at right now at all. If you look at our team and I looked at it before the start of the season, obviously you wanted your players to be as healthy as they possibly can. We added to this team, because we knew the style Jimmy was going to play, and we brought in shooters to help open up the middle for Jermaine O'Neal and let Tinsley push the ball a little bit more. Obviously we've got to get better in a lot of areas. We know that. When we went into the season, I thought we could be a team that could win 41 to 45 or 46 games – that we could be a playoff team. I still believe they can be a playoff team but obviously they've got to get better going down the stretch. We can't give games away like we have been in the past. But as far as building this team, we've got to get players go out and get the type of players that play the style Jimmy wants to play and also get the type of players that play on a more consistent basis. Yeah, I like Danny Granger, I like Mike Dunleavy, I like Shawne Williams – I like the core group of guys we have. It's just that we have to get better and we have to add to that.

Q. What's been the most disappointing aspect of this season?
A. Players playing on a consistent basis. I look at Marquis Daniels and Marquis is not playing at a level I thought he would play at. He's been up and down. Just consistency throughout the year; guys have not played on a consistent level the way they should be playing.

Q. Knowing the fans' frustration level, from where you sit how frustrating was it not to be able to make a move now?
A. It's a three-step (process). You've got the trading deadline, you've got the draft and you've got the summer. We're all frustrated. We're not happy where we're at here. Being 11 or 12 games under .500 is not acceptable. Going into this season, I thought – I know – we have a good nucleus, it's just that we're not playing on a consistent basis. There's got to be changes made and we're going to make them and we're going to do the things necessary to get this team better. You can question everything we've done here but if we have a healthy team throughout the year I think we're sitting in a better position. Nobody asked for miracles here. They know we're trying to build and get back to where we was a few years ago and we're going to do that. It's going to take some time; how much time, I don't know but it's going to take some time. Injuries play a major part in this and we're going to have injuries going forward. It's just that you've got to have the type of players that can step in and do the job for you.

Q. What do you think of the job Coach Jim O'Brien has done in his first season?
A. I'm very happy with a lot of things that's transpired here in the last five or six months. Jimmy brought in a new style. It takes the players awhile to adjust to that style. He plays a tempo I think our fans really like. It's the type of style that I like. It's just that we're missing low-post players that can score for him to take the pressure off the outside shot. I think our players sometimes give into the 3-point shot too much. I like them to take the shot when they're open. I don't like contested shots at the end of the game when it's a close contest. But if you don't have an inside presence it makes it difficult for your outside perimeter players to get open shots.

Q. Is Danny Granger capable of becoming a superstar-level player?
A. When we drafted Danny we thought he could become this type of player. I know he's going to be a lot better than what he is now. Danny's being more consistent with his play night-in and night-out. I think Shawne Williams will continue to grow. Dunleavy's having a lot better year. We've got two players that could be in the running for (Most Improved Player). Dunleavy's a little banged-up but over the course of the year overall he's played very well. Shawne Williams is coming. He's a little inconsistent right now but he should be a junior in college. In a couple of years I think he's going to be that type of player. So we do have a nucleus of a few guys we think, going forward, we have to build around them – and Danny's the key.

Q. Is there enough talent in the free-agent market to consider making trades just to clear room under the salary cap?
A. Clearing salary cap space is a lot harder than you think it is. A lot of people just don't like to take on $10-12 million and there's very few teams out there that are capable of doing that. I think the way we're going to build this team is take a player and trade him, whoever it is, and if you can make some money in the trade to help you down the road, that's good. If not, you have to trade player for player or player for multi-players and try to build your team in a way … you can do it without having a lot of money under the cap. It might take two players for one, it might take three for one but obviously having some room and having the ability to do different things is key.

Q. The phrase "blow it up and start over" is getting thrown around a lot. What's your answer to that?
A. Look, I came here to win. I didn't come here to start from scratch and lose a ton of games. I understand what people say. I've watched, throughout this league over and over, and it's very hard just to build a team through the draft. One of these days, it might come to that but that's not me. I want to win. I come here to win. I didn't come here to lose. I'm not happy with where we're sitting right now, winning 21 games with almost three-fourths of the season gone. It's not what I'm about. It's about winning. To blow this thing up and sit here for five years – maybe five years – or 10 years, hoping that 'these players are coming on but they're not good enough, let's go out and get this free agent that's going to help us.' It just never happens. To win, you've got to have a nucleus and you've got to build around that nucleus. I'm not here to lose. I'm here to win.

Q. Have you decided what your nucleus is?
A. We've got some very good basketball players, we just don't have a lot of superstars on our team. When I talk about nucleus, I talk about Danny Granger, I talk about Jermaine O'Neal, I talk about Jamaal Tinsley, I talk about Mike Dunleavy. The core group here, really, is Jermaine, Danny, Mike, them are guys you can build around, and Shawne as he gets older. That's a nucleus and you've got to build around that. We have other players. You can go down through there and Jeff Foster, he's a leader, he's the type of guy that plays hard every night. But we've got to get more talent on this team and we understand that whether it's through the draft, free agency or trades and we will do that.

Q. Where do you see Jermaine O'Neal fitting into the future here?
A. We'll look at all avenues with Jermaine. Jermaine hasn't been healthy. Jermaine hasn't really practiced. He hasn't been in top condition for awhile. Going forward, we will look at all options. I think the key right now is to get him healthy, get him back in this season and this summer take a look at everything. He understands that and we understand that. When you look at our cap, he takes almost a third of our cap and we expect, when you pay a guy what we're paying him, he's got to produce. Being in a small market, he's got to be able to do the things that he's done in the past and help this team grow. But when he's not playing, it takes a lot out of us, there's no question about it. So we have to take a look at all of our options this summer.

Q. Has Jermaine indicated his intentions about his contract option (O'Neal has the option to forego the final two seasons of his contract and become a free agent)?
A. You mean as far as opting out? Come on. Actually, he hasn't talked to me about it but I assume that he will not opt out.

Q. Does this team have necessary leadership?
A. You know, these guys get along very well. I think they like one another, but that's not leadership. I don't think we have what I call a great leader in that locker room. Players will say, 'Come on, I'm a leader.' No. It's not there. When a guy's late, if you have a leader he goes to that guy and says, 'Look, we don't do that here.' If a guy misses a bus, 'We don't have that.' If the team gets beat on a last-second shot and a guy misses a defensive assignment, the leader goes to that guy and says, 'Hey, come on, what are you thinking?' We don't have that. And until we have that we will struggle, at times, there's no question about it. But as far as 'the leader,' no, we don't have that.

Q. Can it develop from someone on the team or must it be brought from the outside?
A. It's tough to bring a player in the first year to be a leader from outside. I can see Danny Granger, over time, being that. Danny's one of them kids that comes in here right now, looks around, keeps his mouth shut, practices hard, plays hard, takes everything in and goes home. I know what he's thinking. His time will come and he'll probably be that guy.

Q. Are the team's ongoing fourth-quarter problems a sign of that lack of leadership?
A. They get very down on themselves because the same thing's happening over and over. If you notice, in the last however many games we've been in and lost, it's always been the key player from the other team making the plays to win the games. We haven't got that out there. Ours is hurt. Until we get him back we probably will struggle in that area. But at the same time, a lot of our young guys are going through some situations knowing what they have to do to get us over the hump. As we go forward, I think these guys will be good enough and learn enough from these stars that are doing this to us that they will overcome that and continue to get better at that.

Q. If this team was healthy, could this team make noise in the playoffs?
A. If we're healthy and we start playing with confidence and getting more consistent – I see the same things, guys put their heads down and get frustrated and we've got to overcome that. You can't win on a consistent basis with your head dragging at the end of games. It's winning time, Magic Johnson always said. That's the time you have to go after people. You can't make mistakes on the defensive end or the offensive end. But if we are healthy I think we can make a push and if we can overcome a lot of this that's happened to us at the end of games, yeah, we can be a playoff team that could make some hay. Obviously we're going to play either Detroit or possibly Boston, which are very good, but you've seen it last year. Golden State beat Dallas. But you have to be on a roll and you have to play at a high level going into the playoffs to have a chance.

Q. How challenging has this first year in charge of all basketball decisions been?
A. I've been around here for awhile. I thought this summer with the additions we picked up. Travis has been hurt; his foot has been bothering him for the last month, month-and-a-half. Kareem's starting to come on and does some good things. Stephen Graham, I think's going to be a very nice player in this league. I hate to bring this up but I knew we was going to have injuries but I didn't know it would be like this for long periods of time. I thought we had a bench that would play on a consistent basis and get us over the hump in a lot of the games. I thought, looking at the additions we made and our bench, they'd come in and extend the lead instead of losing the lead. We haven't played on a consistent basis and we haven't played the way Jimmy wants them to play on a consistent basis. Jimmy brought in a new style and these guys haven't adapted to it the way I thought they would.
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