INDIANAPOLIS -- Larry Bird is tired of losing, and the Indiana Pacers president will do whatever it takes to win now.
On Tuesday, Bird even defied conventional wisdom by announcing his draft-night strategy -- adding a point guard, upgrading Indiana's overall talent level and looking for a trade to make it all work.
"I want to win, our team wants to win and if the right deal comes up, we'll look to move forward," he said. "You never know what's going to happen, but it is time to start winning."
The Pacers missed the playoffs for a fourth straight season, lost out on getting one of the top three picks and are still trying to negotiate a more palatable deal to run Conseco Fieldhouse. Callers on local radio talk shows have increasingly expressed a desire to get rid of Bird and coach Jim O'Brien, and yet some are suggesting the Pacers' rebuilding process can't begin in full until 2011-12 when they'll finally have room under the NBA's salary cap.
Bird, a three-time NBA champion and the only coach to lead the Pacers to an NBA Finals, is running out of patience, too.
He acknowledged Tuesday the Pacers have talked trade with teams around league, deals that could finally land them the point guard they need. The only potential partner Bird identified was Minnesota, and that was to deny a report that the Pacers would send the 10th overall pick in Thursday night's draft in a package deal to the Timberwolves for Jonny Flynn and the 16th and 23rd picks.
"We did call Minnesota and we've called a lot of teams, but that [the Flynn deal] was never on the table," Bird said.
The bigger question is what Bird will do with Indiana's three draft picks.
Then it's anybody's guess.
Clearly, the Pacers need another point guard with A.J. Price expected to miss four to six months after fracturing the patella in his left knee, Earl Watson about to become a free agent and T.J. Ford's time seemingly nearing an end in Indy.
But with this year's draft class short on point guards, the Pacers have paraded a litany of forwards and centers through Indy. The list includes North Carolina's Ed Davis, Georgetown's Greg Monroe and Baylor center Ekpe Udoh -- all expected to go in the top 10. Udoh is one of a handful of players who has worked out twice in Indy.
"It's a great team that I think is on the rise," Udoh said. "I think I'm a good fit here."
Keeping the pick could put Bird in a bind, too.
On Monday, the Pacers evaluated hometown favorite Gordon Hayward, the forward who led Butler's improbable run to the national championship game -- much like Bird did at Indiana State three decades earlier. Hayward would give the Pacers a natural drawing card and a young shooter around which to build.
The problem is Indiana already has All-Star Danny Granger playing the No. 3 spot and veteran Troy Murphy, another 3-point shooter, starting on the front line. Hayward's ball-handling skills and court vision could make him a viable option at guard, too, though Bird thinks Brandon Rush will develop into a solid NBA shooting guard.
That combination could rekindle memories of the 1987 draft when fans booed then-Pacers president Donnie Walsh for selecting UCLA's Reggie Miller with the 11th pick instead of Indiana's Steve Alford. Alford didn't go until early in the second round, and Miller eventually became the face of the franchise.
If the Pacers pass on Hayward, well, the boobirds could be back.
"That really has no bearing on it," Bird said when asked about fan reaction. "I just know he [Hayward] is a good player. He's got good skills. He's a player."
Even if a first-round trade doesn't happen, there's a good chance Bird could move the 40th or 57th picks. Or both.
Bird acknowledged "everyone" is talking to him about at least one of those two picks and many teams are trying to get out of the first round.
"We're going to two good players there," he said.
Will it be enough to get the Pacers back in the playoffs?
Bird isn't sure.
"This is a strange draft. Obviously we're looking at point guards and there are not a lot in the draft, so if we do get a point guard, it will probably be a [veteran] player," Bird said. "There are a lot of options out there, but there's nothing concrete yet."