Bird says he wants to stay with Pacers, waits to talk with owners

Updated: March 19, 2008, 4:35 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird wants to stick around for the team's expected offseason overhaul.

He's just not sure whether he'll be orchestrating it.

The NBA Hall of Famer said Wednesday he won't know his plans until he meets with team owners Melvin and Herb Simon.

"I want to wait to talk to the owners and see what they want," Bird said after the Pacers' shootaround. "I will say that I'd like to be here because I enjoy this."

The past few seasons, however, haven't been much fun.

Bird acknowledged he didn't want to trade Ron Artest to Sacramento and Stephen Jackson to Golden State, moves made after those two players ran into trouble.

Artest was a primary participant in the infamous brawl with Detroit Pistons fans in 2004-05, and Jackson had a troubled tenure with the team that included pleading guilty to criminal recklessness for firing gunshots in the air during an Indianapolis strip-club fight.

Ridding the team of the pair didn't make the Pacers' off-court problems vanish, however.

This season, Pacers guard Jamaal Tinsley and several companions were targeted in an early December shooting that wounded the team's equipment manager outside a downtown hotel. Police said someone shot an assault rifle at the group after a confrontation at a nightclub miles away.

On Monday, Tinsley and Marquis Daniels cut a deal with prosecutors to avoid trial on charges in a February 2007 fight at an Indianapolis nightclub.

That agreement was the latest in a series of legal problems and incidents involving Pacers, including the recent arrest of a murder suspect after he had been at the home of forward Shawne Williams, and a reported rape at Daniels' home. Neither player was charged.

Still, it has tarnished the Pacers' reputation and hurt attendance.

"That's the most discouraging thing, the incidents the players have been in," Bird said. "There's really a disconnect between the fans and the team. We have had a fan base that was very loyal, and now that's dwindled some."

Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh reportedly has been talking with the New York Knicks about taking over as president. Walsh did not take questions Wednesday, and Bird did not elaborate on the reports, although he said he has seen them.

"While there's been speculation he's been talking to other teams, I have too much respect for him to talk about that," Bird said. "I hope he stays."

The Simons have promised changes. But the team could risk a public relations disaster if it fired Bird, a revered figure in his home state.

Bird shrugged off such a suggestion, reiterating he wants to help turn things around.

"That's very important to me," he said. "It's easy when you're winning 55 or 60 games and going to the conference finals every year."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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