by Leo Sepkowitz | @LeoSepkowitz

Last season, the Pacers fell one win short of the Finals. But they were underdogs—upstarts who nobody expected to get that close in the first place. This season they won’t be sneaking up on anybody. This season, it’s title or bust, according to Larry Bird. From IndyStar.com:

“Larry Bird doesn’t play around. He doesn’t soften expectations, doesn’t keep goals artificially low so he can say at season’s end, ‘See, we overachieved.’ So the question was asked of the Indiana Pacers president just a few days before the start of training camp Saturday. ‘Does this team have the potential to win a world championship?’ He never blinked. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘We’re all in.’ Why wouldn’t he feel that way? Why wouldn’t there be title aspirations for a team that took the Miami Heat to a seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals? Why wouldn’t he be bullish on a team that accomplished all of that without Danny Granger or a decent bench? ‘Anything less than (a Finals appearance or a conference finals appearance) would be a disappointment,’ he said. ‘I think anything over 50 wins is a good season, but I believe we’re built more for the playoffs than we are for the regular season. Because we’re deep and we’ll have time to prepare. It’s hard to beat 10 or 11 guys.’”