Remember when Larry Legend, an Indiana icon, stepped away from the team in 2017? At the time he said it was because he wanted to do other things away from basketball. That's his right obviously, but according to Jackie Mac, someone I would say is rather plugged in with Bird, there was another reason as well
Indiana is a small-market team that consistently has not gone out and paid big money. We know that this was something that frustrated Larry Bird, who is a legend in the state of Indiana and elsewhere, I might add. It frustrated him enough that he stepped aside.
What a shock that a small market team wanted to keep a small market budget! You'd think Larry would know that when he signed on to run that team. This is a franchise that hasn't paid the luxury tax since like 2006. How could we forget just a few months ago Paul George told a similar story and that's why he bounced to OKC
Then there are all the rumors surrounding Victor Oladipo and what the team is willing to pay him on his next extension
There's no denying that small market teams have to operate a little differently, and to the Pacers credit they've managed to stay competitive despite never really spending big money. They've made smart trades to help their rebuild, they basically were paid by PHX to take TJ Warren off their hands, and they've done a great job in terms of player development. They pretty much make the playoffs every year, but the last four have seen them bounced in the first round. You could argue that's a talent issue and unfortunately talent in this league costs money. It's very very rare that you find a contending team that is not paying a luxury tax. It's the pill an ownership group has to swallow to contend in today's NBA. I can understand a team that is not competitive refusing to spend money, but with the Pacers being so close to that next level, maybe it is time they pony up.
They did reach an extension with Sabonis for 4/74M which is decent money for him, and they did pay Myles Turner 4/80M that started this year, so it looks like they realize they have to open up their wallets. If I'm Larry Bird though I'd be a little annoyed that all this spending came immediately after I left. Bird came back to run the Pacers in 2013 and from that point to 2017 there were some big time free agent classes available. For example the massive 2014 class was loaded with names. Who did they end up with? CJ Miles on low money. In 2015 there was another great crop of players. They spent 4/44M on Monta Ellis. That's not nothing, but there were certainly better players to be had if they ponied up. It was the same story in 2016 as well.
Over that span the Pacers were 15th, 13th, 21st, and 24th in team spending. No wonder Larry Legend was fed up and decided to bounce. He knew they were wasting the prime of his franchise player by not adding elite talent around them. It'll be interesting to see what this team now does moving forward as they have a big decision to make about Oladipo. The Pacers have proven that they can be competitive with a middle of the road payroll, but I'm not sure how they get over the hump unless they do it like everyone else and pay for it.