THE Indiana Pacers may have bolstered their players’ personnel, but President for Basketball Operations Larry Bird still stressed the team’s need to work on its mental aspect if it is to contend for a championship in the coming NBA season.
The Pacers acquired veteran guard CJ Watson, shooter Chris Copeland, and veteran forward Luis Scola during the off-season and were part of the team that played the Houston Rockets in the first ever NBA pre-season game in the country.
“Everybody talks about a good game, but can they actually play a good game? We have a long schedule, and mental fatigue actually sets in because, just like coming over here (in Manila), we’re in a 12-hour time difference,” said Bird, whose Pacers lost to the Rockets, 116-96, Thursday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Given the back-to-back schedules during the course of the long season along with flights from one city to the other just a few hours after a regular season game, Bird said mental toughness is required if the Pacers dream of becoming NBA champions.
“We can make that (long season) an excuse or we can prepare ourselves and play the game that night and put the mental fatigue away. But I really think the mental aspect of the game is sometimes, as tough as anything,” said the basketball Hall of Famer, himself a native of Indiana.
“We play almost every night, play five times a week, we play a lot of back-to-backs. You really can’t make excuses. The teams that make excuses don’t last long in the playoffs. And everybody’s gonna get injuries and get beat up.”
But the 56-year-old Bird acknowledged the presence of Watson and Scola can give the Pacers additional locker-room presence and veteran leadership on the court, while the 6-foot-8 Copeland, who saw action for the New York Knicks last season, can bring his outside shooting.
“This time (off season), we went out and we’re fortunate to have CJ Watson first, great backup point guard who had some experience in the lane. Then, we got Chris Copeland from New York. We know he’s a dead-eye scorer, he can score points in a hurry,” noted the legendary forward from the Boston Celtics who was named part of the league’s 50 Greatest Players in history.
“Then Luis Scola. Everybody knows Scola, what he brings in the table. He’s a little bit older now, but for what we need is perfect.
“These three moves that we made, we feel this can make us stronger. If we want to compete in a high level, our bench needs to get stronger,” he added.
The Pacers and the Rockets flew out of Manila early Friday morning to proceed to Taipei for the final leg of the NBA Global Games in Asia.