INDIANAPOLIS - Despite a challenging year for the team, Pacers President Larry Bird says he has his eye on the championship.
Bird sat down for a candid one-on-on with RTV6 sports director Dave Furst, and he didn't pull any punches, saying his team hadn't played up to par this season.
"If you really watched us play, and you analyzed the games, we weren't playing our best basketball. We were struggling [in December]," Bird said. "But a lot of this had been brewing for a long time. I knew we had some problems. So what I tried to do at trade deadline – I tried to fix those problems."
But, Bird admitted, the problems were not solved.
"And now we're not playing well at all," he said. "We're all out of sync. Our defense is not carrying us the way it did earlier in the year. And for us to have success, we have to have a top-notch defensive team."
While some fans have levied criticisms toward head coach Frank Vogel, Bird says he stands by his man.
"I back Frank 100 percent," he said. "There's some things early on this season … I went to him and told him we need to clean everything up."
As to the team's playoffs aspirations, Bird says the goal is to go all the way.
"Our goal is to get to the Eastern Conference Finals, and we believe Miami is going to be there," Bird said. "They're the world champions. They're a well-oiled machine. And we want a shot at them. To do that, we've got to start playing better, and we can't look past anybody we're playing. We've got to think we're the underdog every game."
Still, he said the road to the championship game has been as hard on him as any other fan.
"I think they'll come through this," Bird said of his players, "but it's painful getting there."
Watch Dave's entire interview with Larry Bird in the video player above.