INDIANAPOLIS Larry Bird's rebuilding project with the Indiana Pacers faces a big step with Thursday's NBA draft.
If things come together, the Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations could get an early start.
Bird said Tuesday he has been discussing trades with several teams in hopes of adding a second first-round pick to the team's No. 11 selection and perhaps a couple of veterans as he embarks on the task of remaking the Pacers.
"We're talking to a lot
of teams. Every team you talk to, they have a lot of things on the board like we do," Bird said. "A lot of times, someone will call right before you pick. I think if they call now, it's better than waiting till Thursday. But we're looking to make trades, and we're looking at all the possibilities."
There has been rampant speculation this week about a possible deal involving six-time All-Star Jermaine O'Neal. He has been the face of the team since Reggie Miller retired after the 2004-05 season, but Bird would not confirm whether O'Neal was the subject of any potential trades.
Trading O'Neal could be just the start of a major facelift.
The Pacers desperately want to shed their bad-boy reputation, and Bird indicated how committed he is to making it happen when discussing the future of former first-round picks Shawne Williams and Jamaal Tinsley in Indiana.
"Shawne is on thin ice," he said. "You know we've had enough really. If we can do something to get something back for him, we'll probably do it. But he's on thin ice. And Jamaal is just below him."
The concerns stem from a series of legal encounters, including when Tinsley was at the scene when then-teammate Stephen Jackson fired a gun into the air several times at an Indianapolis strip club in October 2006.
Williams, a forward and the Pacers' 2006 first-round choice, left early from a February game last season after learning a murder suspect in Tennessee had been arrested shortly after leaving Williams' Indy home.
And after a significant drop in home attendance last season, Bird wants players who can do three things stay out of trouble, work hard and win.
"Character is definitely an issue," Bird said. "The problems we've had before, we can't have again."
Some changes have already started. Longtime decision-maker Donnie Walsh is now in New York, team co-owner Herb Simon has become more involved in the team's predraft process and Bird has more responsibility in making personnel moves.
Fans are likely to see other alterations this week.
Bird wants to acquire another first-round pick, somewhere in the middle of the round. Only two teams, New Jersey and Memphis, have more than one first-round pick.
"I did talk to New Jersey a few times, but they never indicated they were willing to give up picks," Bird said. "Memphis, I think their second pick is 28, and I'm sure they'd like to move it but that's a little too deep for me. If I get another pick, I'd like to have it in the teens, maybe 20, about the highest."
Perhaps the more important question is who will still be available?
Indiana is believed to be interested in taking a point guard, such as Texas' D.J. Augustin, at No. 11 or include a point guard in a deal for O'Neal. Speculation has focused on either Chicago's Kirk Hinrich or Toronto's T.J. Ford.
"I'm not really worried about the point guard situation because we've got some things we can do there," Bird said.
Another possibility is taking Eric Gordon, the 19-year-old shooting guard who was Indiana's 2007 high school Mr. Basketball and last season's Big Ten freshman of the year at Indiana University. He could help win back fans, and Bird sounded interested.
"We'd have to take a hard look," Bird said.
Bird said forward Danny Granger and swingman Mike Dunleavy are the unlikeliest players to be included in any upcoming trades.
"They were pretty solid for us last year and they work hard," Bird said. "They're the two hardest workers we have, so it would be very hard to give them up."
Otherwise, Bird is ready to do whatever it takes.
"We've got to get a player who can help us move this franchise forward this year," he said. "Even if we get another pick, we feel like we've got to get guys who can help us right now."