NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird, the president of basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers, did not mince words when talking to reporters about the signing of Andrew Bynum and made it clear that his club is "going to do whatever we can to go as far as we can" this season.
The Pacers announced the signing Saturday and Bird was quick to point out that the former Lakers center is "big, he can help us and that's all that matters."
Bynum has been maligned since his departure from the Lakers, who didn't re-sign him after the 2011-12 season, during which he averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds. He signed with the Philadelphia 76ers before last season but recurring knee problems kept him off the court the entire season.
He signed this season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who suspended Bynum indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team and traded him to the Chicago Bulls for forward Luol Deng. Bynum averaged 8.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.2 blocked shots in 20 minutes a game during 24 appearances for Cleveland. The Bulls immediately cut him before he was owed $6 million for the rest of the season.
None of that seemed to matter to Bird. "Any basketball player wants to play," he said. "He's 26 years old and this has been his life for a long time.
"You hear all the negativity but I never … just take somebody else's advice or what they have to say about them. I like to find out on my own. He's big, he can help us and that's all that matters."
As for Bynum becoming a locker-room distraction, Bird was having none of it. The Pacers executive wasn't worried about the long-term impact of the signing either.
"The way these guys roll around here, I think they can handle themselves," Bird said. "They control their own locker room. It never really entered my mind. They're big boys, they know what their goals are and if Andrew can come in here and help them, it'll be much appreciated.
"I ain't worried about next year, and I haven't all year. We're in the now and we're going to do whatever we can to go as far as we can. We know there's going to be some tough competition but if we get a chance to improve our team, we're going to try to do that."