Pacers consider dealing pick for point guard

SportsBasketballNBALarry BirdA.J. PriceTroy MurphyEvan Turner

Larry Bird is tired of losing, and thePacers president will do whatever it takes to win now.

On Tuesday, Bird even defied conventional wisdom by announcinghis draft-night strategy -- adding a point guard, upgradingIndiana's overall talent level and looking for a trade to make itall work.

"I want to win, our team wants to win and if the right dealcomes up, we'll look to move forward," he said. "You never knowwhat's going to happen, but it is time to start winning."

The Pacers missed the playoffs for a fourth straight season,lost out on getting one of the top three picks and are still tryingto negotiate a more palatable deal to run Conseco Fieldhouse.Callers on local radio talk shows have increasingly expressed adesire to get rid of Bird and coach Jim O'Brien, and yet some aresuggesting the Pacers' rebuilding process can't begin in full until2011-12 when they'll finally have room under the NBA's salary cap.

Bird, a three-time NBA champion and the only coach to lead thePacers to an NBA Finals, is running out of patience, too.

He acknowledged Tuesday the Pacers have talked trade with teamsaround league, deals that could finally land them the point guardthey need. The only potential partner Bird identified wasMinnesota, and that was to deny a report that the Pacers would sendthe 10th overall pick in Thursday night's draft in a package dealto the Timberwolves for Jonny Flynn and the 16th and 23rd picks.

"We did call Minnesota and we've called a lot of teams, butthat (the Flynn deal) was never on the table," Bird said.

The bigger question is what Bird will do with Indiana's threedraft picks.

Everybody, including Bird, has Kentucky's John Wall at the topof their wish lists, and Philadelphia is expected to make OhioState's Evan Turner the No. 2 pick.

Then it's anybody's guess.

Clearly, the Pacers need another point guard with A.J. Priceexpected to miss four to six months after fracturing the patella inhis left knee, Earl Watson about to become a free agent and T.J.Ford's time seemingly nearing an end in Indy.

But with this year's draft class short on point guards, thePacers have paraded a litany of forwards and centers through Indy.The list includes North Carolina's Ed Davis, Georgetown's GregMonroe and Baylor center Ekpe Udoh -- all expected to go in the top10. Udoh is one of a handful of players who has worked out twice inIndy.

"It's a great team that I think is on the rise," Udoh said."I think I'm a good fit here."

Keeping the pick could put Bird in a bind, too.

On Monday, the Pacers evaluated hometown favorite GordonHayward, the forward who led Butler's improbable run to thenational championship game -- much like Bird did at Indiana Statethree decades earlier. Hayward would give the Pacers a naturaldrawing card and a young shooter around which to build.

The problem is Indiana already has All-Star Danny Grangerplaying the No. 3 spot and veteran Troy Murphy, another 3-pointshooter, starting on the front line. Hayward's ball-handling skillsand court vision could make him a viable option at guard, too,though Bird thinks Brandon Rush will develop into a solid NBAshooting guard.

That combination could rekindle memories of the 1987 draft whenfans booed then-Pacers president Donnie Walsh for selecting UCLA's

Reggie Miller with the 11th pick instead of Indiana's Steve Alford.Alford didn't go until early in the second round, and Millereventually became the face of the franchise.

If the Pacers pass on Hayward, well, the boobirds could be back.

"That really has no bearing on it," Bird said when asked aboutfan reaction. "I just know he (Hayward) is a good player. He's gotgood skills. He's a player."

Even if a first-round trade doesn't happen, there's a goodchance Bird could move the 40th or 57th picks. Or both.

Bird acknowledged "everyone" is talking to him about at leastone of those two picks and many teams are trying to get out of thefirst round.

"We're going to two good players there," he said.

Will it be enough to get the Pacers back in the playoffs?

Bird isn't sure.

"This is a strange draft. Obviously we're looking at pointguards and there are not a lot in the draft, so if we do get apoint guard, it will probably be a (veteran) player," Bird said."There are a lot of options out there, but there's nothingconcrete yet."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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