Indiana Pacers’ president of basketball operations Larry Bird announced that he wants two major parts of this past season’s team to return next year. Since the Pacers’ season came to a close on Friday night in Miami, Bird stated that head coach Frank Vogel will be back on the sidelines. Bird also said that he would like to see shooting guard Lance Stephenson return to the Pacers.
Vogel has guided the team to the playoffs in each of his four seasons with them. The last two seasons the Pacers won the Central Division and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.
“His job was never in jeopardy,” Bird said in a press conference, reports ESPN. “I always felt it was going to be [Vogel’s] hardest season, and I think it was. Even though he grew as a coach, he was challenged at times, but he prevailed and he ended up doing a great job for us.”
This past year, Indiana went 56-26 in the regular season and captured the best record in the Eastern Conference. For the third straight year the Pacers lost to the Miami Heat in the playoffs. All three of these series went at least six games.
“They set their goals to have the best record, and they did in the East,” Bird said. “They set their goals to play Miami again and have home-court advantage, and they did. But they ran into a better basketball club; Miami was better.”
As for Stephenson, Bird said that he would like to see him back suiting up in the Blue & Yellow. Stephenson, who will be free agent this summer, averaged career-highs in points, rebounds and assists this past year. He posted 13.8 points per game, 7.2 boards and 4.6 assists, reports basketball-reference.com .
Stephenson has been given a lot of attention recently due to his actions during the series with the Heat. He trash talked the Heat’s LeBorn James and was especially physical in the series. Though Bird did not like these antics, he realizes that Stephenson is a special player.
“I think his ceiling is what he wants it to be,” Bird said, according to CBS Sports. “I always want him back. You just don’t let talent like that walk away if you can help it.”