NBA legend Larry Bird officially stepped down from his role as president of the Indiana Pacers on Monday, though he will stay with the franchise as an advisor. Kevin Pritchard will take charge of basketball operations for the franchise.
"I felt it was time to step away in a full-time capacity," said Bird. "This has nothing to do with my health or our team. I'm 60 years old and I want to do other things away from basketball. I will do some scouting for the Pacers, NBA, college, international, do some appearances and stay in a capacity to advise senior basketball management. I love the Pacers, I grew up with the Pacers and admired them from a very young age. I want to thank the fans for their support throughout my career. I also want to thank (owner) Herb Simon for the many years of loyalty and for allowing me to stay with the team in a different role."
Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical first reported the organizational changes on April 28.
The 60-year-old executive, who earned 12 All-Star appearances and won three NBA titles during his illustrious playing career, made it clear he had no intention to trade George despite intense speculation leading up to the trade deadline, per Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times.
"I wasn't motivated to move Paul George at the deadline," Bird said. "I can't remember if it was even brought up or not. I don't think it was. It's all fake news anyway. You know that. Somebody's gonna start it and [it] just was a snowball effect."
Yet the Pacers will be playing a dangerous game if they advance through the offseason and next season's deadline without an extension or trade in place.
Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News reported this week George, who grew up in California, eventually wants to play for the Los Angeles Lakers and "never made his long-term intentions a secret" during conversations within the Pacers locker room.
Alex Golden of Let's Talk NBA reacted to the news:
Andy King of SiriusXM provided a more overarching theory:
One thing's for sure: Bird's hasty exit after the Pacers got swept in the first round of the playoffs by the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers will only amplify talk about George's future this summer.
The former Boston Celtics superstar started his second stint as Pacers president in June 2013. Indiana made the playoffs three times in four years after Bird's one-year hiatus but advanced beyond the first round just once. The Indiana native also served as the team's head coach from 1997 through 2000, posting a 147-67 record and leading the team to the 2000 NBA Finals.
Pritchard joined the Pacers in 2011 as the team's director of player personnel. He got promoted to general manager in 2012 and will now oversee basketball operations.