October 23, 2012; Cleveland, OH USA: Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel during a preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Eric P. Mull-USPRESSWIRE

Indiana Pacers Front Office Deserves Credit for On-Court Success

Give credit where credit is due.

It came as somewhat of a surprise this NBA offseason when Pacers President Larry Bird decided to step down. Bird had finally turned the tables in the basketball state, scratching the contracts of Jermaine O’Neal, Jamaal Tinsley and Troy Murphy, among others, while building a likable team for Pacers fans. Not only did The Legend do an excellent job of staying within the salary cap while carrying those heavy contracts, he was able to free up space to sign the now-beloved Indiana Pacers players such as hometown hero George Hill, big man in the middle Roy Hibbert and up-and-coming Paul George. Not to mention Bird extended Danny Granger’s contract back in 2008, and Granger has since been the Pacers leading scorer. He also made Frank Vogel the permanent head coach after letting Jim O’Brien walk.

Give credit where credit is due.

Following the departure of Bird – but with his help – were many more positive moves toward creating an even better franchise. Bird decided he wanted to “work the draft” before he left the team, and took Miles Plumlee with the 26th overall pick and Orlando Johnson in the second round. Not long after the draft, Pacers owner Herb Simon brought back former Pacers President Donnie Walsh to resume Bird’s duties and promoted Kevin Pritchard to general manager. Two incredible basketball minds are now at the helm for the Pacers.

A tough loss to the Miami Heat in the second round of last season’s playoffs made clear the Pacers’ bench needed improvements. With the additions of Plumlee and Johnson already set in stone, Walsh and Pritchard studied the bench. They knew Darren Collison, now with the Dallas Mavericks, struggled with the second unit after being replaced in the starting lineup by George Hill. Dahntay Jones wasn’t much more than a defensive presence for the squad. Lou Amundson was not a true center and was a no-show for the majority of the postseason. Leandro Barbosa, a late-season acquisition from Toronto, played probably the worst basketball of his career in the playoffs.

Gone now are all four of those players. Collison in Dallas; Amundson signed with Minnesota; Barbosa is with the Celtics in Boston. Dahntay Jones was included in a trade package with Collison to Dallas in which the Pacers received backup athletic center Ian Mahinmi. That was move numero uno. Pritchard and Walsh struck again, signing former 2005 first-round draft pick and high-flyer Gerald Green to a 3-year contract worth $10 million. Green had been in and out of the NBA for a few years until returning to play for New Jersey last season and averaging over 12 points a game. He is most known for his highlight reel jams, but coaches and teammates have noted his ability to shoot the ball as well.

Finally, the Pacers were in need of a backup point guard. Enter D.J. Augustin. A player unnoticed because he was playing for the lowly Bobcats in Charlotte, the Pacers front office signed Augustin to a one-year deal. He brings a different mindset to the basketball court that the Pacers haven’t seen since Jamaal Tinsley’s rookie year: a pass-first point guard. Augustin showed his ability in the final games of the preseason, posting numbers of 11 and 13 assists, respectively. The young guard also has tremendous outside touch from behind the arc.

Give credit where credit is due.

I’m talking about Larry Bird. I’m also speaking of Kevin Pritchard and Donnie Walsh, who are responsible for three of the Pacers five key bench players. And don’t let me forget Herb Simon. Simon has dealt with the death of his brother Mel, a struggling franchise in years past with the Pacers, rumors of the franchise moving, and still has stuck it out through it all. Check out your finished (for now) product. A Pacers team that is fun to watch night in and night out. A team that is expected… let me repeat that… expected, to make it in the playoffs. People would have laughed at the idea of the Pacers being in the playoffs back in 2010-2011.

Exit Jim O’Brien, enter Frank Vogel and you have a playoff team. Vogel took the same players and led them to a 20-18 finish in the final 38 games and a first-round matchup with the Chicago Bulls. Give credit to Frank Vogel – where credit is due.

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Tags: Donnie Walsh Frank Vogel Herb Simon Indiana Pacers Kevin Pritchard Larry Bird

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