Indiana Pacers President Larry Bird is making drastic changes to how the Pacers play. After building a defensive powerhouse that made the Eastern Conference Finals two years in a row, the Pacers crumbled last year after Paul George went down and Lance Stephenson defected to the Hornets. With David West departing in free agency, the Pacers went all in on getting faster and better offensively, trading Roy Hibbert, drafting Myles Turner and going heavy on guards.
Bird met with reporters on Tuesday and explained what he meant by that.
"I want to run a little bit more," Bird said. "What I really mean when I say that is I want to score about six to eight more points per game."
I'm not a fan of using per-game numbers, but just for reference, the Pacers averaged 97.3 points per game last season. If they scored eight more points per game they would jump from 24th per game in offense to third. They were also 24th per game in points per possession, and 19th in possessions per game. If they tick up a few points per possessions, that would make reasonable sense.
However, along with this "going smaller" approach, which is a clear reaction to the success teams like the Warriors and Spurs have had going small, that means playing Paul George at four, which he apparently is not crazy about. Reporters asked him about the idea and George said he could play "a few minutes" at power forward.
It's nice that George thinks that, but Larry Bird made it pretty clear that the decision is not up to George.
"Well, he don't make the decisions around here," Bird said. "I [played power forward]. I loved it after I did it. I just think offensively it's going to be one of the greatest feelings he's ever had. I'm not going to get in a battle with Paul George on where he wants to play. He's a basketball player. He can play any position you put him out there."
You have to love how up-front Bird is about the situation. Seems weird to take such a confrontational approach with George, but mostly, Bird's just not going to get involved in such a debate with a player, even if he's a star. Bird genuinely feels this is what's best for him.
"I just told him how I think he'll embrace the opportunity," Bird said. "I know what it did to my career. I always wanted to get down there and bang with the guys instead of just chasing guys around the perimeter. I think with him coming off this injury, it's a good opportunity. He'll guard some threes but he won't have to do it all the time. It gives him a year to get healthier and stronger, and I think it'll be a big plus for him and our team."
Kind of a weird idea. Usually playing fours has a harder toll on the body because of the physicality of power forwards. Bird, however, feels that with how many teams have gone smaller, the toll isn't that bad.
"I think [the weight differential] is overrated," Bird said. "You go through all the different teams, it's not as bad as you think it is. LeBron does it all the time."
Unfortunately, LeBron also dislikes doing it so much that he wanted his team to add multiple power forwards to ensure he doesn't have to. James reluctantly took on that role more in the playoffs, but that was after Kevin Love went down. It's true that power forward has been getting smaller and smaller, but there's still a high number of large power forwards ... especially in the Pacers' division, the Central (Pau Gasol, Love, Tristan Thompson, Giannis Antetokounmpo, etc ...).
It's a bold vision, and it does seem to vibe with where the team is going. It just seems odd to move so dramatically away from the success that had the Pacers literally within just a win or two of the Finals. We'll see if the gamble works out.