Larry Bird wants to swing a big deal in Indiana, but odds are against it

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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.

Physical therapist: LeBron James should have missed six months

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The Lakers initially called LeBron James day-to-day with the groin injury he suffered on Christmas.

He missed more than five weeks.

Maybe he should have sat even longer.

Karen Joubert, via Complex Sports:

Maybe LeBron returned too soon. This injury allowed that, even if it put him at risk of reaggravation if not fully recovered.

Maybe LeBron just healed especially quickly. Even among world-class athletes, he is an elite athlete.

Maybe Joubert is exaggerating. People tend to do that with LeBron’s body.

There’s plenty of room for interpretation, but it sure looked like LeBron was still hobbled.

What does this mean for LeBron and the Lakers going forward?

The pessimistic spin: LeBron did lasting damage to his body by returning so soon. This (failed) attempt to get the Lakers into the playoffs this season will undermine him in the future.

The optimistic spin: LeBron has still been excellent these last few weeks. If he gets fully healthy during his longest offseason in 14 years, he should be even better next season.

Kyrie Irving on whether returning to Cleveland means something to him: ‘Not at all’

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Kyrie Irving spent his first six seasons with the Cavaliers. He developed into a star with them. He won a title with them, even hitting the championship-winning shot.

With Irving’s Celtics playing in Cleveland tomorrow, Irving reflected on his time there.

Jared Weiss of The Athletic:

Irving is so clearly over the Cavs.

He was probably over the Cavs even while playing for them.

Lakers fan barely moves net while making halfcourt shot (video)

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The Lakers have had a rough season.

Last night went pretty well, though – especially for one fan.

The Lakers beat the Kings, and this fan swished a halfcourt shot to win $45,000.

CJ Fogler:

The Lakers need more outside shooting. Maybe they could turn to some of their fans.

Giannis Antetokounmpo drives past/through all the Cavaliers for dunk (video)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is undeniable.

Watch this video. He’s the only Bucks player in sight on the court. All five Cavaliers appear. Antetokounmpo dunks anyway.

He dribbles past Jordan Clarkson then through David Nwaba and Tristan Thompson. Nik Stauskas and Brandon Knight are shading close enough to narrow his potential path. None of it matters.

Antetokounmpo scores inside unlike anyone anyone we’ve ever seen.