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Bird airs his disappointment after Pacers' recent struggles

The writer interviewing Larry Bird.
The writer interviewing Larry Bird.
Dennis Guillermo / Indiana Pacers Examiner

With a record of 47-17, the Indiana Pacers sit atop the Eastern Conference standings and clinched a spot in the NBA playoffs ahead of any other team last week.

That doesn't impress team president Larry Bird much.

Bird, the Hall of Famer and three-time NBA Champion, former three-time Most Valuable Player and two-time Finals MVP as a member of the Boston Celtics, knows what it takes to win on the basketball court.

As a coach, he was named Coach of the Year in 1998 and is the only man to lead the Pacers to an NBA Finals appearance in the franchise's long, successful history.

As an executive, his efforts were recognized when he was awarded the Executive of the Year in 2012.

When you search the word "winner" in the dictionary, his face will show up the same way it does when you type a hash tag before it on Twitter's search bar.

So leave it to Bird to conjure up an unimpressed facial reaction amidst massive celebration just as he did when Reggie Miller shook free from Michael Jordan and hit the game-winning 3-pointer in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals.

When the man they call "Legend" speaks about basketball, even the deaf listens.

And when his Pacers dropped four straight losses last week (their most this season), Bird didn't hold back his dismay over the team he assembled to win it all this year.

“A lot of times, we don’t take the fight to them (the opponent),’’ Bird was quoted by the Indianapolis Star on Tuesday, just before the Pacers hosted the Celtics. “A lot of times we sit back and wait and see how it goes. And that was the case even when we were winning a lot of games early in the season. We’ve got to be mentally prepared to really go after the teams we’re playing again. We can’t have the mindset it’s just another game; it’s a very important game. All of them are.’’

“People ask me if I’m mad at them,’’ Bird added, then said, “I’m not mad. I’m disappointed.’’

Disappointed? We're talking about a team that has held the best record in the league for about 90% of the entire season, and Bird 'isn't mad, he's disappointed'. Must be tough playing for one of the headpieces in LeBron James' basketball Mount Rushmore.

Though his words might surprise fans outside the state of Indiana or those that do not follow the Pacers closely, Bird's comments are valid. He has done a masterful job in upgrading the team that fell one game short of making it to the NBA Finals last season, with his most recent move coming just a little over two weeks ago when he brought in Evan Turner in exchange for the shop-worn Danny Granger.

Aside from Turner, Bird brought in C.J. Watson, Luis Scola, Chris Copeland and Andrew Bynum to fortify the Pacers' bench, which was one of the least productive last season and practically disappeared in the Heat series.

And yet after all that, this supposedly improved bench is as incompetent as last year's.
“Yeah, that surprises me; that was the main goal, to get a big push from the bench, especially in the playoffs," Bird continued in the article. "I don’t get it. They’re ranked 28th, so they are what they are. I’m very disappointed in that. I thought they’d do a lot better for us.’’

Though even other top teams like the Heat, Thunder and Spurs have had struggles of their own this season, Bird is simply looking toward the future and recognizes that the effort and play his team is currently showing simply won't cut it down the road if they truly intend to go all the way. The Pacers have lost 10 out of their last 24 games after starting out 33-7 and have allowed the Heat to close in on them in the standings.

Bird's message is as clear and only consistent with the Pacers' plans coming into the season: "Win it all or bust."

Bird isn't the type either to play mind games through the media to get his team to respond and play harder. He is a straight shooter when he speaks as he was as a player when he lined up his jumpers. The Pacers are definitely playing below their potential at the moment and Bird is simply calling it how it is.

Whether the Pacers do get things right in time for the playoffs and respond to being called out by their boss in a positive way is simply up to the coaching staff and the players now. Bird has more than done his part.

Dennis is on Twitter @dRealSource.

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