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NBA PLAYOFFS | NOTES

Bird Ready to Make Indiana Proud Again

May 13, 1997|From Associated Press

Larry Bird, perhaps the most celebrated player to come out of basketball-mad Indiana, was back home Monday to take over as coach of the Indiana Pacers, the team that passed on a chance to draft him in 1978.

"The Pacers passed me up in the draft in 1978. I never thought I'd be here," Bird, 40, told a news conference at Market Square Arena. "Now I'm here. I want to do whatever I can to make them proud."

Bird, a 12-time NBA All-Star with the Boston Celtics, retired as a player in 1992 because of chronic back problems. He said he never missed playing and never seriously thought about coaching until about two years ago. He had been a special assistant to the Celtics.

"I felt if I didn't take the opportunity now, this might be my last opportunity," Bird said.

Bird, who reportedly will be paid $4 million to $4.5 million per year, said he would probably begin searching for a coaching staff next week and begin immediately to contact each of the Pacer players.

"I feel they can compete. If we can make a few moves and get a little better defense and get the ball and run, we're going to improve right away. You don't have to do a lot. Of course, you have to have the talent, and I feel we have the talent."

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Chicago Bull Coach Phil Jackson said television replays showed that referees have been picking on forward Dennis Rodman, who has verbally berated officials for years and was suspended for head-butting a referee last season.

With Rodman getting called for what Jackson considered several phantom fouls against the Hawks, the six-time NBA rebounding leader played only 18 minutes in the two games at Atlanta.

"I think that the league looked bad. NBC made the league look bad on TV by drawing focus to it. I think they'll ease off. I think they know that they're overdoing it," Jackson said in Chicago.

"It's obvious. They're punishing the team for his presence on the floor."

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