I fully expect that at least one of TJ Ford, Mike Dunleavy and Jeff Foster will be traded during this season. All three are in the final year of their contracts and between then and the soon-to-end buyout the team gave Jamaal Tinsley, Indiana will will shed more than $31 million in payroll next summer.
Cap space is great to have but this summer is not 2010. There are a few guys I’m sure the front office would love to target, but I think we all understand that even an improving team playing in Indianapolis is not the marquee free agent draw that, say, New York or Miami is. So it would probably make sense for Larry Bird to use some of this expiring salary as an asset to make a deal. I imagine that the closer we get to the deadline and the impending lockout that is nearly certain to happen next summer while the players and owners haggle over the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the more NBA owners will be pressuring their GMs to shed some salary if they can. Just makes sense to cut some payroll in times of uncertainty.
So Bird will almost certainly get a few decent offers. Maybe he opts to keep the team together as is since they are (at least as of now) exceeding expectations. But I don’t think a 7th seed in the playoffs is his ultimate goal, so I’m sure he would be willing to shake things up a little bit if he thought it would improve the team for the future.
“It’s extremely important,” Foster told HOOPSWORLD on the significance of ending his career as a member of the Pacers organization. “I never thought about going anywhere else. Those thoughts have never even crossed my mind.”
“I guess in a way it’s a scary thought,” continued Foster in regards to the prospect of ever having to play elsewhere during his career. “But we’ll see how things go the rest of the year and see what plays out with the lockout next year. But nothing would make me happier than to finish my career as a Pacer. So that’s what I plan on doing and hopefully we’ll be able to follow that through.”
Even if he does need to be included as a trade asset in February, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bird bring him back next year. Age has taken its toll and he’s not even close to being the player he once was, but he has been a Pacer lifer and I think, even if he is traded, we’ll see him back in Conseco next season.
After that? Who know?
Maybe after his playing days are over he will go on to found the Jeff Foster Center For Children Who Can’t Read Good (And Who Want to Learn to Do Other Stuff Good, Too).