Larry Bird returning to Indiana Pacers
Larry Bird is happy to be back with the Indiana Pacers, who announced Wednesday that Bird will return to the team as President of Basketball Operations after a year-long hiatus.
"We're on the right track here. We've got a good team and hopefully we can move it forward," he said at a news conference Thursday.
Bird says he's been watching the Pacers play all year, and he's been in contact with team management about his plans. He told reporters he took the year off due to health reasons, but now he's ready to go.
"I think my interest got real when other teams started calling me," he said. "One team in particular, I started looking at their books, their numbers, and thought, 'what am I doing?' I got an opportunity to go back home; I love Indianapolis. We got a great team. I know the system. I know what we need here to fulfill our dreams and it's really an easy choice."
Dave Calabro asked Bird what it was like watching the team play from home.
"It is tough but I can look at the game a lot differently than I would if I was sitting there in the stands watching," he said. Bird estimates he watched 90 percent of the Pacers' games this past season and "even though I was living and dying with every shot, it's a different perspective."
Bird says he's pleased with the way this young team has evolved.
"If you watch this team, they care about one another. They play together and they play as a team and that's exactly what I envisioned when I helped put this team together," he said.
According to Bird, the Pacers have no plans to trade Danny Granger. That's been the topic of much speculation leading into Thursday night's NBA draft.
His first task will be re-signing power forward David West, a key factor in the franchise's remarkable resurgence. West is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, and the Pacers - and Bird - want him back.
Bird agreed to a multi-year deal and per team policy, no terms will be released. Donnie Walsh, who held that position the last year, will be a consultant to the franchise and Kevin Pritchard remains as the Pacers' General Manager.
Bird praised Walsh for helping to get the team to game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.
"That shows great leadership. I've learned a lot from Donnie over the years. We knew going in we had an opportunity to do something special here and we still think we can. It's been an honor to work with Donnie and hopefully we can continue to do that. But as I say that, there's gotta be one voice, one guy leading this franchise and I came back to do that."
Bird was President of Basketball of Operations for the team from 2003 until June 27, 2012. He returns to the position Monday, July 1.