Indiana is one of those team’s stuck in the NBA middle, a place that can be hard to get out of — not good enough to make a run beyond the first round (if they even get in), not bad enough to get a high draft pick that can take a team a long way in a couple of years. They keep cruising along in the middle, fighting for one of the final playoff spots, making it or not, but with no real likelihood of dramatic improvement.
However this year the Pacers do have one thing — expiring contracts. More than $25 million worth between Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford and Jeff Foster. That’s the kind of asset that can be converted into a huge trade to bring another star player or two to the Fieldhouse. The kind of move that would shake Indiana out of the middle ground — and team president Larry Bird told FanHouse he would pull the trigger on it.
“I would do that,” Bird, 54, who is contemplating retiring from the NBA after this season, said in an interview with FanHouse. “I’ve got my draft choice (a 2011 first-round pick). The thing I always say is, ‘Do you save it and see what the rules are (under a new collective bargaining agreement) or do you use it?’ But, if get that opportunity, I’m going to use it (by the trade deadline). … Do you wait or do you do it? I’ve made my mind up and I’ve talked to (Pacers owner Herb) Simon about it, and I’ve told him what I want to do, if we can get a good player.”
The problem is, this is a tough year for expiring deals — there is a bigger supply of them then there is demand from teams to get them. It’s the reverse of last season, when teams were desperate to get salary down so they could be part of the LeBron James (and others) sweepstakes. This season there are a number of other big expiring deals out there (Troy Murphy in New Jersey, Eddy Curry in New York, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg) plus some huge trade exceptions that teams such as Cleveland and Toronto can use.
What Bird did say is that Danny Granger isn’t going anywhere. The goal is to get more talent to go around him not send him away and start rebuilding all over again.
But for now, it’s the safe middle ground for the Pacers as they look for a way to shake out of it.