MANILA, Philippines – NBA legend and current Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird finally addressed the media after being aloof since he arrived in Manila a few days ago for the Global Games Philippines.
The three-time NBA Most Valuable Player graced a 15-minute press conference with the Pacers at the Mall of Asia Arena Wednesday, discussing various topics while humorously and intelligently answering queries from the press.
Asked which between being a player and being a team executive comes with more pressure, the former Boston Celtics star amused media members with his witty remarks.
"Pressure? I don't know what that pressure is," said Bird, drawing laughter from the crowd. "Obviously you've never seen me play.”
Bird started the conference by praising and thanking the country for having his team because they have been having a great time in the basketball-crazed country.
"I'll start off by saying I'm very happy to be here. I'm glad we were able to bring the team over. It's our first time to be here and I already have a lot great things to say about it (Philippines) even though we are here for a short time. Thanks for having us here," said Bird, the 2012 NBA Executive of the Year.
The Pacers were within one game away from reaching the NBA Finals last season but lost to the eventual champion Miami Heat in a grueling seven-game series. Bird, however, believes they have improved this in the offseason, especially their bench.
"I think we're pretty much set where we are right now. Last year, with the performance of our bench I think they (Miami) hurt us by not being able to score the basketball," said Bird, who solely owns the distinction as the only player in history to win the MVP, Coach of the Year (1998) and Executive of the Year awards.
"We got CJ (Watson) a good back-up point guard, Chris Copeland from New York, a shooter, and of course Luis Scola. Of course everybody knows who Luis Scola is," he added.
Bird was clear on what the team needs to improve on, with the Pacers addressing their weakness with the addition of the Scola, Copeland and Watson. He also believes luck will play a huge part in their success this season.
"Bench has got to be better than last year. We got a good starting five already. I know how hard it is to win a championship. It’s not easy, but we got a good group of guys who play together and pull together," said Bird.
"I think we just have to be lucky and believe in ourselves and when the playoffs come, we are going to be ready," he added.
Even with a revamped lineup, the cautious Bird remains wary of the competition and believes this year is going to be tougher for all of the teams.
He still thinks Miami is the team to beat.
"It's not easy out there. Chicago got Derrick (Rose) back from surgery. The Brooklyn nets and New York Knicks and of course Miami Heat. It's a challenge, no question about it. If a team gets lucky and stays healthy and plays together, everyone has a chance," said Bird
"Right now, Miami is the best team. They won two in a row and until somebody beats them, they are still the best team," he added.