Larry Bird Will Try to Re-Sign Free Agents Stuckey and Scola This Summer but Not Watson

Mar 10, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Rodney Stuckey (2) reacts to making a play during a game against the Orlando Magic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Orlando 118-86. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Rodney Stuckey (2) reacts to making a play during a game against the Orlando Magic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Orlando 118-86. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

Larry Bird headlined an end-of-season press conference for the Indiana Pacers today, and the main takeaway was the team president’s indifference towards Roy Hibbert’s future.

Depending on how you read his comments, it could even sound like Bird hopes Hibbert opts out of his deal this summer and takes his talents to St. Elsewhere.

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It was surprising to hear. I fully expected Bird to maybe try to move Hibbert this summer, but I also expected Roy to decline his option and probably remain on the team next season after Larry called around the league and realized he would have to take back contracts he didn’t want in order to move the big fella.

This was not a get-rid-of-Roy strategy I saw coming.

And @the_k_fowler summed up that sentiment pretty well.

But that’s why Larry is The Legend, I guess.

Just when there didn’t seem to be any good options for moving on from the status quo, Bird cut the brakes and hopped out the back of the van.

The press conference wasn’t all about inviting Hibbert to kick rocks, though.

Bird revealed a lot more about the team’s future plans than just daring the the big fella to turn down his $15 million option this offseason.

Most notably, Larry Bird expressed his desire to retain super-sixth-man Rodney Stuckey.

Bird made another notable comment that, while not mentioning Stuckey directly, seems like it is clearly about the Pacer guard who scored 15 or more points in 12 out of 26 games after he moved to the bench full time in February.

Stuckey joined the Pacers last year on a one-year, minimum-salary contract. After years of mediocrity — and, according to Stuckey, a smear campaign against him by the Pistons — Rodney just wanted to find somewhere he could thrive more so than wanting a payday.

It’s clear he fit in great in Indiana, so it only makes sense that he would prefer to stay on this team and enjoy the next few years of his career rather than hold out for a few million more and roll the dice on a new environment.

The situation is a bit complex because the team doesn’t have Bird right for Stuckey, so they have restrictions on how they can go over the salary cap to re-sign him. If Hibbert does leave this summer, that concern is eliminated, but presuming Roy stays then the Pacers will most likely try to re-sign Stuckey with part (or all) of the mid-level exception.

Blah blah blah on all the salary cap nuances, I know, but basically here’s the gist: If the Pacers want to keep Stuckey they can offer him around $5 million per year (for up to four years) to stay. Bird would certainly like that number to be lower so he that he could also divide the mid-level exception between two players (like he did last year, giving most to C.J. Miles and using the rest to take a, seemingly successful, flier on Damjan Rudez with the rest).

I can’t see Stuckey passing up $5 million per year to stay in a place he wants to stay, and I don’t know that he could make much more than that anywhere else. Maybe a bit more. But especially presuming Bird could get him to sign for $16 million over four years (or $12 million over three), I expect Rodney will be back next year.

Not surprisingly, if Stuckey does return (and we may as well say “when” really since it’s probably that much in the bag), he will continue to come off the bench.

The future is much less certain for C.J. Watson, however.

And by “less certain,” I mean Watson has probably played his final game as a Pacer. Giving the salary cap realities, he was probably going to be a casualty regardless. But the constant injuries this year were likely the final nail in the coffin.

Had Indiana only had to deal with the George Hill injuries at point guard this year, they probably would have made the playoffs. But since Watson missed so many games, too, they were forced to rely on the likes of Donald Sloan and A.J. Price for major minutes. That was no bueno and had Indiana looking like a D-League offense at times.

Watson was a very effective player for the Pacers over the past two years when he was on the court. His numbers weren’t always blazing, and he was a streaky shooter who made ball-handling mistakes. But he seemed to come up with big steals and big buckets all the time.

He will be missed, and finding an adequate replacement for the back-up point guard spot will be one of the larger challenges for Larry Bird this summer.

Luis Scola is the other main free agent who may leave the Pacers this summer.

I had him in the same “probably gone” camp as Watson, but Bird — at least publicly — says they want to bring back the 35-year-old power forward.

This makes some sense.

Scola knows the system, is a pro’s pro, and stepped up huge late in the year when the Indiana Pacers were playing their best. He was a big reason that the team came as close to making the playoffs as it did.

Scola averaged 17.0 points and 12 (!!!) rebounds per 36 minutes after the All-Star break while shooting 48.0%. Still, he is old as dirt and the team needs to get younger while thinking about the future, so I would surprised to see him return.

All this brings us to David West.

Like Roy Hibbert, West can opt out of his deal this summer. And like Roy Hibbert, West would be leaving a ton of money on the table if he does.

The difference with West — other than his GM not ethering him in public today — is that he likley wants to retire soon and he doesn’t seem the type who wants to go uproot his family for one year just to go chase a ring.

He will almost certainly remain in an Indiana Pacers uniform next season, and according to Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star, West is already talking about “next year” like this is still his team.

Yes, he is old and he was at times bad this season. But he is also still David West, he made big shots against the Wizards in a must-win game, and he took his set-up game to career-high heights this year.

He remains the patriarch of the locker room, and even with another year on his odometer can be the perfect granddad to sit at the head of the table while Paul George fully takes over the franchise next season — on and off the court.

Next: Is Roy Hibbert's Career in Indiana Over?

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