Well well well. How things have changed. It wasn’t that long ago that people were calling for Larry Bird to be sacked as Pacers president of operations. And now, he has just become the first person on the planet to be named MVP, Coach of the Year and NBA Executive of the Year.
The Executive of the Year is a weird award because it’s rewarding someone for work they may have done over a number of years, as Bird has done with this Pacers squad.
Highlights attributable to Bird are said to include (in order of importance, in my humble opinion):
- Signing David West without breaking the bank (2 years at $20 million) — West has become, as coach Vogel says, the “backbone” and “leader” of the team. He is, without a doubt, one of the best team signings in years.
- Drafting Roy Hibbert — who has gone from “big stiff” to All-Star. Sure, he still has a lot to learn, but Hibbert is a rare commodity in the NBA that most franchises would love to have on their team.
- Drafting Paul George — a future two-way star in the league. He also has a long way to go but has shown flashes of brilliance and a whole lotta potential.
- Firing Jim O’Brien and holding on to Frank Vogel as head coach — Vogel has revitalized this franchise. O’Brien had his positives but he was too negative for this young team. Vogel, while not a master of Xs and Os, has been the ultimate motivator, getting the team to think positive and reach for the stars.
- Getting Darren Collison and shedding Troy Murphy — big deal at the time, and even though Collison as arguably underperformed, his play has been crucial to the team’s success. Getting rid of Murphy’s bloated contract helped too.
- Acquiring George Hill for a draft pick (Kawhi Leonard) — I know Leonard has become a starter in San Antone, but so has George Hill (at least for the remainder of the season). Provided Hill stays in Indiana, this is a huge pick up for the team — a guy that can flat out play. Leonard would have been stuck in the back of the rotation anyway.
- Drafting Tyler Hansbrough — some people are down on Tyler but his energy and hustle (and occasional mid-range jumper) is infectious. If only he could be more consistent and better defensively.
- Trading a second round pick for Leandro Barbosa — I’d love for Barbosa to stay in Indiana, but I guess we’ll have to see. He showed against the Heat last night why this was a sensational trade. Even if he leaves, it wasn’t a bad rental for just a second round pick.
- Hiring Brian Shaw as associate head coach — another underrated choice. Shaw is a capable head coach, and as it has been said, having the player-friendly, championship-winning coach around is like having “two head coaches”.
- Trading Brandon Rush for Lou Amundson — Lou has been solid, a poor man’s version of Jeff Foster, if you will, but for me the better part of the deal was getting rid of pothead Rush, who showed zero improvement and more importantly, no desire for improvement for three years.
- Picking up Jeff Pendergraph and Kyrylo Fesenko — good insurance policies, I guess.
- Drafting Lance Stephenson — big question mark, but probably one of the black spots on Bird’s achievement list…
Well done and congratulations to Bird!