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Thursday, December 1, 2011
Larry Bird says Pacers will be careful

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird plans to spend a lot of time on the phone with executives from other teams in the coming days.

"We've got a lot of cap space and we've gotten a lot more calls," he said. "It's interesting. It's just begun, but we figure in the next week or so, it's going to be pretty active."

Bird said he can afford to be extra careful, because Indiana will be in a strong negotiating position again next year.

"It might be a slower process than our fans want it to be," he said.

Bird says he wants to add pieces to a solid young core that features Danny Granger, Darren Collison, Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough, Paul George and newcomer George Hill. Of that group, only the 28-year-old Granger is older than 26. The Pacers for years have targeted a top scoring option to go with Granger and an elite power forward.

As players began to arrive back at their teams' facilities across the league Thursday, Bird wouldn't address the team's rumored interest in Boston point guard Rajon Rondo and Utah forward Paul Millsap.

"Over the course of the next two or three weeks, you're going to hear a lot of rumors, and there's going to be a lot of things out there that's going to have us right in the middle of a lot of it," Bird said. "I wouldn't believe any of it. We've talked to teams about players. We don't like to talk about any other team's players."

General manager David Morway said the Pacers will be good, even if they don't make a move.

"We don't feel like we are in a position where we have to add a player," he said. "We've got very good players right now at every position on this basketball team. We want to continue to add to this team, but we want to do it with diligence and with prudence."

The Pacers made the playoffs last season and lost to the Chicago Bulls 4-1. Bird wouldn't make a prediction about this season.

"You don't know what to expect because of injuries and different things," he said. "I know we're a better basketball team than we were last year when we started, and I think we're going to be even better after we get through this process."

The process will be unique because there's no preseason and the players have been working out on their own.

"It makes it a little bit more difficult, but we spent the summer preparing," Morway said. "I think we have a good game plan, and we're going to stay disciplined."

Once the team is assembled, it will need to adjust to a new coaching staff. Frank Vogel had his interim tag removed in the offseason, and he hired Brian Shaw and Jim Boylen as assistants to go with holdover Dan Burke.

"I think they're excellent," Bird said. "I think Frank did a great job of going out and getting some guys that's been on championship teams. They're all on the same page. They're excited about the team. They want to go to work."

Bird said he's happy there will be a season, not only for the Pacers' organization, but for the local businesses that depend on the team.

"I can tell you there's a lot of people out of work here," he said. "I think it's huge for downtown, and it's big in a lot of other ways. I like to watch our players compete. I like what I do. But I also know that outside of this building, there's a lot of people hurting because we're not playing."