When NBA free agent forward Carl Landry agreed to sign with Sacramento recently, the fans of the Indiana Pacers exhaled a collective sigh because they were hopeful that the former Purdue standout could be an invaluable piece of a championship puzzle in Indiana over the next few seasons.
However, the accountants in the Pacers' front offices more than likely weren't exactly crying over the fact that Indiana wouldn't be taking on a reported $27 million salary over the next four years.
The Pacers are in the process of trying to strengthen their bench through free agency, yet president of basketball operations Larry Bird understands the difficulty of doing so taking every thing into account from a financial standpoint.
“There are people out there that say 'Why don't you just go get this player,'” Bird said recently. “We just can't do that. We have to be very selective in the guys that we draft and very selective in the guys that we bring in through free agency.
We have to have a plan on what we are going to do and how are we going to make our bench better? We don't have $20 million.”
In guiding this franchise, Bird has to be very judicious in player acquisition because there is little margin for financial errors.
The team ranked 18th in player salaries last season, but with one of the worst attendance averages in the league (25th out of 30 teams), that makes it hard to swallow a bad contract signing.
“We've got to have fan support,” Bird said. “Obviously in the playoffs, we had the support. But we need the support throughout the year. If you get fans to your games, it generates revenues. Revenue puts you in position to go get players.”
Indiana has made efforts recently to strengthen its bench, which Bird said was a “glaring need.”
The Pacers added point guards C.J. Watson (Brooklyn) and David Sloan (New Orleans), as well as drafted wing Solomon Hill out of Arizona with its first round selection in the draft, and on Friday, reports circulated that New York Knick forward Chris Copeland has agreed to a two-year, $6 million deal with the Pacers.
The team also made its biggest move by re-signing starting forward David West (three years, $36 million). Indiana has 14 players under contract for next season, so one more signing (more than likely a back-up power forward) remains on the docket.
A pair of reserve power forwards have chosen to leave Indiana, as Jeff Pendergraph reportedly will sign a two-year deal with San Antonio, while former first round draft pick Tyler Hansbrough had his qualifying offer from the club rescinded earlier this month and is now an unrestricted free agent.
While Bird is being somewhat critical of the fans lack of support, he has been careful not to go to far in that regard.
“We have fair prices for our tickets,” Bird said. “We're not going to sit here and say 'We've done our part,' because this is Indiana's team. We need support. If we have support, it drives revenue, and if we drive revenue, we can get the players that we want.”
Last season, the Pacers had nearly $67 million in total salaries and have already committed over $63 million for next season.
“It's hard enough for a small market team to compete with a major market,” Bird said. “Because of the revenue factor. You look at some teams and they are in the $80, $90, or $100 million (revenue dollars) range. We're in the $60 million range.
“So if the fans come out, it'll drive the revenues and we'll have a better team.”
Pacers add pieces
Here is a look at the 2013-14 Indiana Pacer depth chart:
Roy Hibbert (starter)
David West (starter)
probable remaining acquisition
Danny Granger (starter)
Paul George (starter)
George Hill (starter)
Here are some of the free agent power forwards still remaining on the market:
Elton Brand, Dallas
DeJuan Blair, San Antonio
Jason Maxiell, Detroit
Antawn Jamison, Los Angeles Lakers
Kenyon Martin, New York
Chris Andersen, Miami
Lamar Odom, Los Angeles Clippers
Austin Daye, Memphis
Ivan Johnson, Atlanta
Anthony Tolliver, Atlanta
Hakim Warrick, Orlando
Louis Amundson, New Orleans
Chris Wilcox, Boston
Yi Jianlian, China
Kurt Thomas, New York
Jared Jeffries, Portland