For a while now, there have been a lot of hints that there are some serious chemistry issues in the Pacers’ locker room. With so many young players and no established leader, that isn’t exactly shocking. But it seems as though things have reached a boiling point.
And Larry Bird sounds to be pretty fed up with the nonsense, reports Mike Wells.
Player professionalism is being questioned. Some players have begun arriving for practice just before the scheduled start time. Others constantly joke around during workouts.
The lack of commitment in practice is showing up in games. The Pacers have lost by at least 10 points in five of their past seven defeats.
“You have to have the players behind you and they have to be willing to work hard,” Bird said. “I know what’s going on; the players know what’s going on. We’re just not getting the effort.”
Even more scathingly, Bird said that, not only does he “know what’s going on” — he tried to fix it at the trade deadline.
“Our problem is internally,” Bird said. “I see what’s going on inside the locker room. I’ve seen a lot of it all year. I tried to address it with different people at the trade deadline.”
Bird was unable to move T.J. Ford, Solomon Jones, Brandon Rush or Josh McRoberts, who has not been a locker room disruption, before the trade deadline last month.
I’ve only been inside Indiana’s locker room a handful of times this year, so I have no actual, first-hand understanding of this team’s collective mental make-up. Just following the logic of what Larry is saying, however, it stands to reason that at least one of the players who was reportedly almost shipped to Memphis or New Orleans at the trade deadline was part of the problem (or at least Bird’s perception of the problem).
Then again, who knows? When Bird said he tried to “address it” at the deadline, he may have been referring to another, unreported, failed deal that we never heard about. Lance Stephenson, most notably during and after the atrocious loss in Houston last week, has been at the center of recent displays of internal animosity, so perhaps Larry shopped the troubled, talented youngster to other GMs across the league to no avail?
I’m just speculating here based on Larry’s comments.
But as Tom Lewis of Indy Cornrows rightfully points out, these are Larry Bird’s players. So ultimately, he, as the man who acquired every last player on this roster, has to take some responsibility for the way that the guys have essentially stopped being competitive since the All-Star break. If the team is “just not getting the effort” from these players during a playoff race then it’s quite possible that these simply are not the right players.
And that — on top of the ongoing, tedious, dramatic soap opera that this season has become — likely means that the players are not the only ones with a waning interest in whether or not Indiana makes the postseason.
I’m sure many fans feel the same way.