Larry Bird sets eyes on championship for Pacers

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Thursday, October 10, 2013


MANILA -- Emboldened by last season’s Eastern Conference finals stint, the Indiana Pacers believe they can contend for the NBA title this year.

The Pacers bowed to eventual back-to-back champion Miami Heat in seven games.

“We're getting better. Last year, we got to the Eastern Conference finals against Miami, but until we make the next step we're not gonna get there. I do like our chances, and hopefully in a short period of time we can challenge for a championship,” said NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird on Wednesday, who is now the Pacers president for basketball operations.

Bird left the Pacers in summer of 2012 after winning the NBA’s executive of the year supposedly because of health issues. But his absence wasn’t long. He was convinced to return and help the Pacers in their bid for another crack at the title.

Off-season, Bird assembled players who can provide the Pacers a big lift. They include George Hill, Roy Hibbert, David West, Chris Copeland and Paul George, who committed to extend his contract for five years reportedly for $90 million (P3.9 billion).

And what does he look for in a player?

“I tend to look at length, I look at shooting obviously. Can he defend first? Is he a team player? Does he do the things necessary to get better every year? Sometimes it's hard. You have to talk to different college coaches to get as much information as you can out of them. Then you try to put together a team that fits,” said Bird, a three-time Most Valuable Player of the fabled Boston Celtics in the 1980s.

He factored these considerations “but a lot of the time you just hope you get lucky.”

Asked if what players can learn from him, Bird thinks “patience is a big thing.”

“I always thought the mid-range game was what I needed to work on more than three-point shooting. So I tell my guys during the summer, don't work on three-pointers, work on the mid-range game. If they can do that on a consistent basis, they will get better. I just think that players work on things they don't need to work on,” he said.

Ironically, the 56-year-old Bird won the three-point shootout thrice.

Despite being frank and introvert, Bird still managed to elicit laughter among members of the media during the latter part of his press conference.

He had to cut off a female reporter when asked if he felt the more pressure on the court or running a team.

“Pressure? I don’t know what that is. Obviously, you haven’t seen me play,” said Bird.

The reporter, also laughing, replied, “I salute you sir.” (Sunnex)

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