Indiana Pacers President Larry Bird has spoken: the Pacers will continue to stink up the NBA until at least the 2011-12 season.
In the Associated Press article reported on Thursday, Bird urged fans to remain patient while the 18-34 Pacers completes its "rebuilding" process, which he believes is "on track."
The Pacers will have significant cap space available at the end of the 2011 season, and that's when Bird expects the franchise will "move into high gear."
With that, Bird has effectively signalled that the Pacers will not make any major moves before the Feb. 18 trade deadline, and are unlikely to do so during the 2010 off-season with only $5.4 million-$6.3 million of cap space freeing up (depending on whether they exercise the team option on Josh McRoberts).
This means Pacers fans will have to wait until the summer of 2011 for things to have a chance of improving. Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy, TJ Ford, Jeff Foster, Jamaal Tinsley, and Solomon Jones will all come off the books, giving the team over $44 million to play with.
Whether any decent free agents are willing to come to Indiana is a different story, but at least the money will be available.
However, what I found most interesting is that Bird has finally conceded that the Pacers are in rebuilding mode, and have been all along.
Back in the summer of 2006, Donnie Walsh refused to admit the Pacers were rebuilding. "I wouldn't call it a rebuilding process," he said at the time. "I'd call it a restoration."
Before this season began, it was reported that the Pacers were entering the second year of a three-year plan developed by Bird and GM David Morway to bring the team back to contention. No, not playoff contention. Title contention.
This was supposed to be the year when things would start to click and the Pacers would gain some valuable playoff experience for the future. Instead, the team has taken a step back this season.
Unless a miracle happens, the Pacers will not only miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year, but will also probably finish with the franchise's worst record since 1989.
Now suddenly, according to Larry Bird, the Pacers were always expected to struggle this season. "Even if we were healthy all year, I thought we could win 36 to 41 games with this team," Bird told the Associated Press.
Doesn't exactly sound like a team that is one year away from title contention, does it?