Pacers President Donnie Walsh and general manager Kevin Pritchard had their pre-Draft availability at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse this morning. Walsh was asked about Larry Bird’s possible return, free agency, Danny Granger’s future, and who they may be targeting in the draft. Here are some of his answers to Indiana’s big question marks:
On Larry Bird’s status
“I don’t know what Larry wants to do. I’d love to see him come back, he knows he can come back, but I haven’t talked to him since the playoffs.”
On David West
“He’s priority #1. We think he’s one of the anchors of our team, and we want him back as much as you can want anyone back.”
Team's priorities this offseason
“I know there’s a lot [of talk] about the bench, and that’s a rash judgment in some cases. We can get more shooting, a defensive player or two, playmakers… I feel like the bench will get better as time goes on. There were mostly new guys here with a new system, and I thought the guys that played in the playoffs did what we expected them to do.”
On outside free agency pursuits (not including West, etc.)
“We’ll be looking. We work both with the cap, and the luxury tax, and an internal budget that we’d like to stay within. You have to make sure that you have flexibility in your roster, and that’s the way we look at it.”
Impressions of last year's rookie class
"One thing we don't do is make judgments on rookies in their first year, because you know right way they're not going to play a lot. We like the two rookies we chose last year, and we think they have a future. I'm not making any judgments on Miles Plumlee and Orlando Johnson on last year's analytics. We've had a history here of developing [players], particularly big men, after their first year. [They said] 'You have to get rid of Rik Smits!' after the first year. It you takes two or three years to mature in this league into an NBA player."
On Danny Granger
“We’re very optimistic that Danny will be back for training camp and should be 100%. Now, you say that about every player and something could happen, but that’s how we’re looking at it. If you watched him on the bench, I didn’t see any limps or anything like that. So, I’ve been encouraged by what I’ve seen so far. He looks good, he says he feels good… looks like he’ll be good.”
Hear the full press conference here: http://chirb.it/1aGNJ9.
In case you missed it last night, a huge benches-clearing brawl took place at Chavez Ravine during the Dodgers/Diamondbacks game. The fight ensued after Ian Kennedy hit Dodgers star rookie Yasiel Puig in the face with a pitch, and then went after opposing pitcher Zack Grienke's head after Grienke plunked Arizona catcher Miguel Montero in the top half of the inning.
Watching the video, I wasn't really focused on Puig, Kennedy, or Greinke. I was much more concerned with Don Mattingly, Kirk Gibson, Charles Nagy, Alan Trammel, Matt Williams, Don Baylor, and Mark McGwire, all of whom are coaches in the Los Angeles and Arizona dugouts. They also all played in the 1980s, when I grew up watching them as a kid.
Mattingly, the 1984 AL batting champ and 1985 AL MVP, had to be restrained from Gibson, whose walk-off shot in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series is one of the most memorable home runs in baseball history. Donnie Baseball then threw 1984 World Series MVP Alan Trammell to the turf during the fracas. Matt Williams, the third overall pick of the 1986 MLB Draft, bear-hugged Mattingly, but then got tangled up with 1987 AL Rookie of the Year Mark McGwire as the two shouted at each other. McGwire, who was also the 1987 AL Home Run champ, was seemingly screaming at everyone. I can't forget about 1985 Roberto Clemente Award winner Don Baylor, playing the role of peace-maker. I'm not sure if D'Backs pitching coach Charles Nagy, a gold medal winner with Team USA's baseball team in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, instructed Kennedy to retaliate for a second time. That's what really set off the brawl. Nagy's L.A. counterpart, Rick Honeycutt - a 1980 and 1983 All-Star - wasn't happy.
Since all of these coaches competed aganist one another as players, maybe some of the bad blood from a quarter-century ago still boils. Gibson's legendary '88 homer came at the expense of McGwire's teammate Dennis Eckersley and the A's, who ended up losing that World Series to the Dodgers in five games. One year later, Williams' San Francisco Giants team was swept in embarrassing fashion by McGwire's high-powered Athletics in the 1989 World Series.
Paul Myerberg of the USA Today summed it up best:
Amazing scene with LAD-ARI. It's like my 1989 Topps set came to life and decided to come out swinging.— Paul Myerberg (@PaulMyerberg) June 12, 2013