20130429-135523.jpgRemember when Larry Bird used stealth technology? Not anymore. It seems the Pacers President can’t make a move these days without some agent or GM leaking it to some national media type.

Last week, of course, we had the Goran Dragic lightning bolt from Marc Stein, but as much as the thunderclap turned our heads when it happened, it faded just as quickly. Now? Nothing.

More recently, stories have broken about Lance Stephenson’s perception that the Pacers lowballed him with their 5-year, $44 million contract offer, fueling his pursuit of a better deal, as well as the rumblings that they are “quietly” shopping to see what they might be able to get for Roy Hibbert.

Quietly?

Not when it hits the Internet.

Let’s take a look at the latest headlines, and what they really mean.

THE HEADLINE: SHOW LANCE THE MONEY

ESPN’s Chris Broussard posted the Stephenson story this morning, and while the over-arching theme may not exactly seem like breaking news, there are quite a few interesting morsels here.

Citing the ubiquitous “sources close to the situation,” Broussard wrote Lance was “disappointed” by Indiana’s “low-ball offer,” hence his pursuit of a better deal elsewhere.

Don’t expect a particularly quick resolution here. Stephenson looks like a fall-back option for the teams that fail in their quest to land either LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, so the two biggest dominoes have to fall before the market can be fully set.

Broussard also added the Mavericks and Lakers to the list of teams that have secondary interest in Stephenson. Both teams reportedly would prefer Luol Deng or Trevor Ariza ahead of Stephenson, with Chandler Parsons also in the mix.

Also of interest was Broussard’s report that the first-year salary offered by the Pacers was $7.6 million. If you do the math, that would indicate salaries of $8.2 million, $8.8 million, $9.4 million and $10 million in succeeding seasons.

WHAT IT MEANS: TIME FOR A DEADLINE

By all accounts, the Pacers have little wiggle room to improve their offer, unless they cut other players with non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed contracts (IE Luis Scola). If Stephenson and his agent are truly put off by an average of $8.8 million over the next five years, it’s time for the Pacers to put a deadline in place: the offer will remain on the table for 24 hours. Accept it or both sides can move on.

The longer this lingers, the fewer options will be available to the Pacers for replacing Stephenson, if it comes to that. It already is getting a little more personal, and therefore a little uglier, with each new headline, and nothing would put a stop to that quicker than a resolution.

THE HEADLINE: PACERS QUIETLY SHOPPING HIBBERT

Sean Deveney’s report for The Sporting News on Sunday comes as absolutely no surprise. If they are to make a substantive change to the starting lineup, Hibbert is the obvious place to start. A two-time All-Star center, even one plagued by offensive inconsistency, is a convertible asset.

The most interesting part of Deveney’s report was this quote, attributed to an unnamed NBA general manager:

“They’re open to making major changes, if they’re there. I think they’d be disappointed to see that same core group back intact, so it is a matter of, how drastic can the changes they make be? Moving Hibbert for multiple pieces would be a pretty drastic change, but they’re asking.”

This would represent a 180-degree turn from Bird’s “keep the core together” statements after the draft, but it’s also possible Bird didn’t define the core as the starting lineup. Maybe he considers the core to be Paul George and David West.

WHAT IT MEANS: GO WEST, YOUNG MAN

If Stephenson bolts, the Pacers will need a starting shooting guard and they’ve already used up their mid-level exception to sign C.J. Miles and Damjan Rudez (it’s unclear wither Lavoy Allen signed a veteran minimum deal or for the remainder of the MLE). So the only avenue available to them is a trade and even with $30 million and two years left on his contract, Hibbert will attract suitors.

Though the Pacers certainly would prefer those suitors to come from the Western Conference, they shouldn’t limit their options. Fewer teams out West play a style that reflects a need for an old-school rim protector; that approach is far more prevalent in the East.

This doesn’t necessarily mean Hibbert will be traded, but it sends the very clear signal that Bird’s idea of “core” was smaller than we thought.

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