What would You do in Larry Bird's Shoes?

Bob MillikanContributor IApril 17, 2009

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)

The 35-47 has come to a close. 

Sure the Kool-Aid drinkers who are not as cynical as I am about my favorite NBA squad are excited about the fun style of Jim O'Brien. Danny Granger and Troy Murphy are putting up good fantasy numbers, but until a true superstar comes to town, there won't be any championships here other than the ABA ones.

I hear people say that we are building up to a playoff appearance. That's a nice thought, but who will care about a No. 7 or No. 8 seed 10 years from now?  Does anyone care about the 1989-90 Pacers?  The Pacers of the 90s were exciting and got a lot of people to jump on the bandwagon, but, in pro sports, the one and only goal should be to win a championship.

It should not be to merely compete and fall short every year, to put yourselves in a bad lottery position for the draft.  It seems that a lot of people look at the small picture of winning the most games possible, while the smart franchises look at the bigger picture of positioning yourself when the chips are down. Many have been maintaining this strategy since Ron Artest demanded a trade in 2005.

To those people who think Granger is a superstar in the making, I hope you are right.

Still, I think that is very wrong. 

If you put him on a good team like the Trail Blazers that runs a slow half-court offense, then he'd probably average closer to 17 points a game. He is the star of a sub .500 team with a coach who thinks that the Rick Pitino up-tempo style of playing ball is the only way to win. 

If we traded Granger for Luol Deng, Deng would probably put up about 23 points per game. 

Granger is a good guy, which says a lot for the thugs that have come through here, but he is much more like Mo Williams than Lebron James.  He'd make a nice complement, but he will never be on the level of guys who lead their teams to NBA crowns. The only possible exceptions are Dennis Johnson (Sonics, 79) and Chauncey Billups.  Even then, those two are flukes. 

We have to find that one, the Mr. Franchise Player.

Troy Murphy's numbers are fool's gold. 

Hopefully some team who doesn't watch him play much may try to bite on that, including a trade offer for him. The trade might involve either a potential lottery pick, or $10 to $12 million of expiring contracts by 2010.

Still, I do think there were some positives this year.

  • For one, there isn't any bad off court press. 
  • There are also some great deals on tickets.  This is for all of those people who whine about how a family of four is priced out of NBA games. They have no excuse to miss a Pacer game when they were selling $5 club seats the day after Thanksgiving. 
  • Brandon Rush looks like he has some nice potential as a complementary player. 
  • We got rid of Jermaine O'Neal's bloated contract. If Rasho and Marquis are not re-signed, then we could get rid of about $18 million in contracts for the future.

We could use that money to sign a superstar in the next few years. We might earn one through a free Agency. After all, we pulled Byron Scott from a former franchise. I think that the Pacers, unfortunately, can be ruled out of the LeBron, Wade, and Bosh sweepstakes. I'd be shocked if the Pacers have enough spare cash to put one of them in a Pacers uniform. 

We could try to move Granger and a few others for the draft rights to Blake Griffin this year, but Bird likes Granger. I don't think a team would be willing to give up the No. 1 pick unless we had a top five pick to complement Granger. 

We could finish much worse than 35-47 and hope for luck in the lottery.  I'd like to get the third pick.  Did you notice how bad the Cavaliers looked before they drafted LeBron?  They looked like a hopeless franchise until their ping pong ball came up in May of 2003.  Most years the No. 1 isn't exactly great, but even a Derrick Rose would be good enough to build around. 

I think the Pacers need to look at the big picture. How can we be a championship squad in 2014?  It would be much more productive than trying to determine how we can get to 40 wins so that we don't miss the playoffs for the fourth year. 

In my opinion, missing the playoffs is a good thing.

At  least we have a minuscule chance of snagging Blake Griffin, who isn't a sure thing. He still has as much promise as Derrick Rose had coming into the NBA this year as a franchise player.

Also, if we get the No. 13 pick, then I'd like to see us trade it away for a future first  pick from some hopeless franchise that perennially drafts top eight or so.  This year's draft is weak, so maybe another team will take a flier on having two picks.

What is your opinion on what the Pacers should do this off season?  It's always fun to chime in on your team.