NBA Rumors: Larry Bird's Departure Would Be Devastating Loss for Indiana Pacers

Ethan Norof@ethan_norofCorrespondent IMarch 23, 2012

DETROIT - APRIL 06:  Larry Bird answers questions with Earvin 'Magic' Johnson (not pictured) during a news conference to relive their 1979 NCAA Championship Game between Indiana State and Michigan State before the 2009 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship game at Ford Field on April 6, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

In what would be a devastating blow to the Indiana PacersLarry Bird could be leaving the franchise following the conclusion of the 2011-12 NBA season. 

Bird has done great work as a general manager, and the recent turnaround of this team can be traced back to what he's done at the helm. 

He has wisely allocated contracts in order to preserve financial flexibility, and the Pacers have structured the roster in such a way that will allow the team to stay playoff-relevant well into the future.

Peter Vecsey of the New York Post reports that Bird won't be back with the Pacers next season.

“He has definitely decided not to return,” the source asserted.

Vecsey's sources have been inaccurate in the past, but there's certainly a strong possibility that Bird won't be back in Indiana.

This isn't the first time we've heard whispers of Bird stepping away, as he's considered the idea of retirement previously.

However, it's not going to be easy choosing a successor. Bird certainly won't be replaced, and whoever steps up into his role will have a healthy challenge in store.

Per Vecsey's report, names like Reggie Miller and Chris Mullin are candidates to replace Bird.

That would be a step backwards.

No disrespect to either Mullin or Miller, but both would be hard-pressed to give what Bird has to the franchise.

Bird has pieced together a competitive squad with staying power, and it would be a shame if he were to step away at season's end before seeing this team reach its full potential.

The Pacers are one of the most surprising storylines of the 2011-12 season, and this incredibly young team is capable of doing even more in the future.

If this is truly Bird's final stand with the Pacers, Indiana should be eternally grateful for what he's done.

This is a club that nobody expected to make noise, but the Pacers are firmly planted as a top team in the East and everyone around the league is well aware of what they're doing.

That is a product of what Larry Bird has done with this team, and without him, it will be tough for them to replicate that success.

We should all appreciate what Bird did during his time in the front office in Indiana—his great work simply should not fly under the radar.

Update: Via Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star, owner Herb Simon has said that Bird has not given him any indication that he plans to leave the franchise at any point in the near future.