The Pacers signed Andrew Bynum for the remainder of the season, and some think it was a move based purely in defense — off the court, much more than on it.
Indiana has been the best team in the East over the first half of the season, and team chemistry has been at at all-time high. Head coach Frank Vogel has his players locked in on the singular goal of finishing the regular season with the league’s best record, so if there are any postseason Game 7s this year, they’ll be played on the Pacers’ home floor.
Adding a questionable personality in the middle of a successful season like this one seems to be a risky move for the Pacers, at least on the surface. Unless, of course, they have little use for Bynum in the grand scheme of things, and simply wanted to make sure he didn’t land on another contender’s roster.
That’s all pure nonsense to Pacers GM Larry Bird, however, who wasn’t exactly kind in responding to that specific allegation.
“I ain’t worried about next year,” team president Larry Bird said following the Pacers’ game-day shootaround on Saturday. “We’re in the now. We’re going to do everything we can to go as far as we possibly can.” …
Bird scoffed at the notion that the Pacers might be signing Bynum merely to keep him away from Miami or other contending teams.
“We don’t have the money to throw around and let them sit on our bench,” he said. “That’s about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
The Heat were said to be one of the teams interested in Bynum once he became available, and the Pacers’ reported interest came a little bit later. Most assumed that Indiana would only grab Bynum as a preventative measure, in order to ensure that Miami didn’t scoop up another big body to deal with Roy Hibbert come playoff time.
But the reality is that Bynum isn’t really a fit for what the Heat do defensively, which has historically involved more active bigs who have been expected to be able to cover the ground necessary to get out to the perimeter on defensive rotations.
It’s been clear from the preseason that the Pacers are all-in this year, and Bird knows better than anyone how slim the window can be for a team’s title chances. He clearly believes Bynum is an upgrade to the bench and nothing else, but the fact that the Heat or another contender can’t have him now certainly doesn’t hurt Indiana’s long-term prospects.