NBA: Bird officially steps down as president of Pacers

UNTV News   •   May 2, 2017   •   2865

Apr 12, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (6) stands behind the baseline as Pacers president Larry Bird watching during a game against the Atlanta Hawks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

(The Sports Xchange) – The Indiana Pacers officially announced Monday that Larry Bird is stepping down as president of basketball operations.

Kevin Pritchard, the team’s vice president of basketball operations/general manager, will assume Bird’s position.

Bird will remain with the Pacers in an advisory role.

“I felt it was time to step away in a full-time capacity,” Bird said in a statement. “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 Herb Simon for the many years of loyalty and for allowing me to stay with the team in a different role.”

Pacers owner Herb Simon said he is not surprised with Bird’s decision and has the “utmost faith” in Pritchard.

“This is not a shock to me as Larry has always been up front about someday stepping down,” Simon said. “I thank him for all that he has done and am very pleased he is remaining with the Pacers in a different capacity.

“I have the utmost faith in Kevin taking over. He has learned from a couple of great ones, Donnie (Walsh) and Larry, while with the Pacers. We all feel he will do a tremendous job.”

Bird was the president of basketball operations for the Pacers from 2003-2012, winning the NBA’s Executive of the Year award in 2012, before stepping away for a year, citing health reasons. He took on the role again before the 2013 season.

Bird, the Hall of Famer as player with the Boston Celtics, first joined the Pacers organization in 1997 when he was named head coach. As coach, the Pacers went to the NBA Finals in his final season in 1999-2000, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

The Pacers finished this season with a 42-40 record before being swept in the Eastern Conference first-round playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Indiana lost all four games by a combined 16 points.

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, an Indianapolis native, crossed paths with Bird while coaching at Butler University.

“I’ve obviously admired (Bird) since he played for the Celtics and I thought that he did a tremendous job as a coach and front office person in Indiana,” Stevens said. “When I was there, the runs they went on for all the years he was there was really impressive. So whatever he chooses to do and look forward to, we certainly all wish him the best.”

The 49-year-old Pritchard has been with the Pacers for five years, first as director of player personnel before becoming general manager and executive vice president of basketball operations/GM. The Bloomington, Ind., native previously was general manager for the Portland Trail Blazers from 2007-10.

“I want to thank Herb, Larry and Donnie for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime,” Pritchard said. “As someone who grew up in Indiana, I’ve always felt the Pacers’ pride. The goal is always going to be the same as it has been through Donnie and Larry: to make this a world-class organization.”

Pritchard played collegiately at Kansas and was part of the Jayhawks’ 1988 national championship team. He played in the NBA with Golden State, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami and Washington.

After playing, he was the coach/general manager of the Kansas City Knights of the ABA, winning a championship in 2002. He then scouted for San Antonio, became Portland’s director of player personnel in 2004 and in the 2004-05 season was the Trail Blazers’ interim coach for 27 games. In 2006, he became Portland’s assistant general manager before becoming GM in 2007.

“I’m very happy Kevin is stepping in and glad another Hoosier is in line to take over this job,” Bird said. “He has a lot of experience from the past five years as a GM and he’s ready to step into a leading role.

“With us, he has had his own ideas on the draft, players, and now he gets an opportunity to push his basketball abilities to the forefront. His role will be no different than mine was. He will make all final decisions on all basketball-related matters. There can only be one voice and it will be his.”

(This story has been refiled to fix the dateline)

Pacers’ Oladipo showing the promise he once projected

UNTV News   •   December 25, 2017

Dec 23, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo (4) drives to the basket against Brooklyn Nets guard Allen Crabbe (33) during the first quarter at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) – Benefiting from an off-season trade, Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is finally becoming the franchise player he was projected to be.

The 2013 top-two draft choice had been seen as ancillary to the deal when Indiana sent cornerstone Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

But Oladipo appears focused on proving his worth in a new lead role with the Pacers.

“I was already motivated before (the trade to Indiana), Oladipo told Reuters following a recent win over Atlanta.

“Then (the trade) just happened. It might have added on a little bit but I was already motivated.”

The fifth-year player has translated his motivation into career-best production as he averages 25.3 points per game on 48.6 percent shooting, which includes 42.5 percent from three-point range.

He adds five rebounds and nearly two steals a night.

The Pacers, who were expected to fall off a cliff in the absence of George, are holding steady at 19-14, the fourth best record in the Eastern Conference.

Oladipo has been particularly devastating in the month of December, erupting for scoring binges that included a 47-point night in a win against Denver.

Always known for his slashing athleticism and versatile defense, Oladipo has found a shooting comfort back in Indiana where he starred as a college player.

“He’s come into the season with confidence, and I think to prove himself,” said Pacers coach Nate McMillan who has enjoyed extensive film sessions with his new guard.

“There was a lot of conversation out there that the Pacers didn’t get enough in (trading away George). I think he’s proven to the league that he has talent.”

The Orlando Magic were intrigued by Oladipo’s talent when they drafted him as the second overall pick in the 2013 draft.

After three solid but not spectacular seasons with the Magic, Oladipo was shipped to the Thunder.

Playing alongside ball-dominant superstar Russell Westbrook, Oladipo had the role of unsung sidekick.

So when the Pacers landed Oladipo, expectations were low.

He is proving otherwise and appears headed for his first ever All Star appearance.

“We felt like he had potential and he’s showing that he did,” McMillan said. “He’s playing with confidence. And when you have that kind of ability and play with that kind of confidence, good things are going to happen for you.”

Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles, editing by Gene Cherry

James scores 33 as Cavaliers sweep Pacers

UNTV News   •   April 24, 2017

 

Apr 23, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) is guarded by Indiana Pacers guard Jeff Teague (44) in game four of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

(The Sports Xchange) – When the Cleveland Cavaliers limped into the NBA playoffs with a four-game losing streak to finish the regular season, some wondered if the reigning champions were vulnerable.

LeBron James, at least for one series, removed all doubts.

James scored 33 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:08 remaining, and Cleveland defeated the Indiana Pacers 106-102 on Sunday afternoon, completing a four-game sweep in the opening-round series.

“Once again, we just had to weather the storm,” said James, who made 13 of 25 field-goal attempts and added 10 rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks. “We beat a very good team. We had to make plays at the end, and we did.”

Cleveland’s four victories came by an average of four points, tying the smallest average margin of victory in a four-game series sweep, also set in the 1975 NBA Finals when the Golden State Warriors defeated the then-Washington Bullets.

The Cavaliers also finished — regular season and playoffs — 7-1 against Indiana, winning the last seven in a row, although this one certainly wasn’t easy.

“Offensively, we were not that good,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. “We didn’t play with the same spunk and pace. But defensively, I thought we were really good. We did a great job on Paul George. We kept him to 15 points.”

Indiana, which never had been swept in a best-of-seven series, took a 102-100 lead on a Thaddeus Young tip-in with 1:31 to play, but the Cavaliers scored the game’s final six points to advance to the second round of the Eastern Conference.

For James, it was his 21st consecutive first-round playoff game victory, breaking Magic Johnson’s record of 20 set in the mid-1980s.

“It’s really frustrating to continue losing to the same team or the same person (James),” George said.

“It’s what I work hard for in the summers to try to help lead a team along and ultimately, it’s who I am always going to see and face. But again, we just came up short and didn’t do enough.”

When asked if he hopes to remain with the Pacers, George, whose future has been discussed frequently in Indiana, said: “I ain’t even at that point yet. Next question.”

(Editing by Andrew Both)

Lakers trade guard Williams to Rockets

UNTV News   •   February 22, 2017

FILE PHOTO: Lou Williams. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters

The Los Angeles Lakers, who named Magic Johnson as their new president of basketball operations earlier on Tuesday, have traded guard Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets, according to multiple media reports.

The Lakers are expected to receive a 2017 first-round draft pick along with forward Corey Brewer in exchange for Williams, who wrote on Twitter: “Thanx for the love L.A., I’ve enjoyed my stay”.

Williams, 30, led the Lakers with an average of 18.6 points, 3.2 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game this season despite coming off the bench.

He leads all NBA reserves in scoring average and will provide the Rockets (40-18), third in the Western Conference, with another spark for their high-scoring offense.

In addition to promoting Johnson, a Hall of Famer who won five NBA titles with Los Angeles in the 1980s, Lakers Governor Jeanie Buss also fired general manager Mitch Kupchak and her brother, Jim, from his role as vice president of basketball operations.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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