Pacers President Larry Bird met with free-agent forward Shawn Marion over dinner Monday night to gauge his interest in playing his 16th NBA season in Indianapolis.
“What I came away with is he’s undecided where he wants to play or what he wants to do,” Bird told reporters at a press conference Tuesday morning. “But he did say that he would like to be on a contender and try to win a championship. I know he’s talked to Cleveland. We didn’t talk about Cleveland but I know he’s been there. And I don’t know who else he’s talked to.”
Marion met with Cleveland’s new head coach David Blatt, among others, last week and LeBron James’ team has reportedly been the frontrunner for the 36-year-old. Primarily, because they’re in the hunt to win now.
“I came away with the feeling that he wants to be on a championship team, a team that’s got a chance to win it,” Bird added. “He knows that we’re probably not going to do nothing for a while (but) he has a place here if he wants to come.”
Marion, a defensive presence, has averaged 10.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists over his successful career. He’s been a double-figure scorer every season since he entered the league in 1999. He’s played for Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks the past five seasons.
The Pacers have a huge void at the wing spot due to Paul George’s open tibia-fibula fracture that is expected to keep him out all of the 2014-15 season, and the loss of Lance Stephenson in free agency. The league office informed the Pacers Tuesday afternoon that their application for the disabled player exception had been approved.
The exception allows the Pacers to spend up to $5.3 million on a free agent, like Marion. However, they are just about $1.6 million under the tax and Bird is under strict instructions from owner Herb Simon not to go into it.
“We’ll never go over the tax,” Bird said, re-affirming his stance. “My owner’s told me that that’s a place he don’t want to go. We’ll do whatever we can to stay under.”
Bird was asked about the recent report from Ekipa, that Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic said he was told the Pacers offered Roy Hibbert, Chris Copeland and cash considerations for him — and the Suns declined.
“Really? Like I always say from people that are 2,000 miles away, they start rumors,” Bird said matter-of-factly. “It’s pretty hard for me to sit here and really talk about them. I’ve never heard that one so maybe you can tell me something I don’t know.”