Clearly, Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird did not sit in his office this summer while the rest of the NBA sped past.
Bird’s offseason efforts were designed to overhaul both roster and approach. Seven of the 16 players on Indiana’s preseason roster were somewhere else a year ago at this time, either on a college campus or another NBA team.
In total, the team’s turnover was 44 percent, with the Pacers bidding farewell to two-time All-Star center Roy Hibbert, veteran power forward David West, backup forward Luis Scola and fan-favorite Chris Copeland.
Indiana’s first order of business was the June draft, where it selected 6-foot-11 Myles Turner out of Texas in the first round, and 6-2 Oregon shooting guard Joe Young in the second.
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Then came July and a 16-day stretch where Bird inked, in order, forward Chase Budinger, guard Monta Ellis, center Jordan Hill, forward Rakeem Christmas and Glenn Robinson III, son of former Purdue and NBA star Glenn Robinson.
Bird, who sought to adopt a more up-tempo philosophy after watching the Pacers place 24th in the league in scoring (97.3 ppg) last season, took time this week for an exclusive Q&A interview with the Daily Journal.
Q: Do you categorize the summer months more as work or fun?
A: I think it’s fun. Sometimes you don’t know what’s going to happen, but when things come, they come hot and heavy. It’s a great challenge, and you have to make quick decisions.
Q: With so many new players on the 2015-16 roster, how long do you feel it should take this team to jell?
A: It will take a little bit of time because we’ve got two new guys (Budinger and Ellis) who are going to play right away. We’ve got some veterans, and we’ve got young guys, but I like it.
Q: What is it about Chase Budinger’s game that translates to what style you want to see from the Pacers this season?
A: He’s athletic. Before he hurt his knees, he’s very athletic. I like him because he just gets things done. We feel he’s going to bring a lot of value to our team.
Q: On a scale of 1 to 10, how excited should Pacers fans be over the Summer League productivity of Myles Turner and Joe Young?
A: It is Summer League, but if they had played bad, that’s when you would’ve heard about it. Joe is a little bit older than a lot of the rookies, and Myles Turner can do anything out there on the court. He’s going to be a dandy for us down the road.
Q: Could this be Lavoy Allen’s breakout season, or should this be his breakout season?
A: We’ll see what he’s made of because there are a lot of minutes there. It’s really hard for a young player to keep his momentum when you’re in and out of the lineup as much as he was (in 2014-15).
Q: I think because of the phrase “up-tempo” there is a misconception the Pacers will be a run-and-gun team next season. How up-tempo do you expect them to be?
A: We want to score five or six more points a game. Fans will see George Hill and Monta Ellis out there with their speed in the back court, and you’ll see different people bringing the ball up the floor.
Q: What influence did Golden State’s success this season have when it came to switching the Pacers’ offensive philosophy?
A: I don’t think they had anything to do with it. We weren’t scoring enough points. But we’re going to give up more points this year, too, there’s no doubt about it.
Q: How much influence did you have with the new Hickory Huskers uniforms the team will wear for certain games?
A: (Laughing) I’m like everybody else. I think it’s a heck of an idea. High school basketball is so big in Indiana, why not get (Crispus) Attucks and Milan, too?
Q: Or maybe the 1974 Springs Valley look?
A: Oh, yeah. Get ‘em all.
Q: You were close to Lance Stephenson the four seasons he was with the Pacers. Do you still talk to him or text him?
A: Not hardly any, but he knows that I follow him. (Laughing) When he was here he was in my office about every three days.
THE NEWEST PACERS
June 25- Draft Myles Turner and Joe Young
July 12 – Trade Damjan Rudez to Minnesota for Chase Budinger
July 14 – Monta Ellis signs four-year, $44 milion contract
July 14 – Jordan Hill signs with Pacers
July 27 – Rakeem Christmas signs with Pacers
July 27 – Glenn Robinson III signs three-year contract