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Return to Pacers could be in cards for Walsh

by Peter Vecsey

NEW YORK — Larry Bird, who has sold his Indianapolis home and is moving back to Florida where his son plans to finish college, GM David Morway and coach Frank Vogel are on the precipice of becoming ex-Pacers, it says here.

I’m not saying owner Herb Simon won’t try to re-enlist Bird . . . though that’s a distinct possibility. Should an offer be extended, however, it definitely won’t by remotely near the $5 million he will have banked for eight straight seasons; more like $1 million, tops, per year for three or four.

And, you know what?

Larry Legend is liable to accept such a proposition with pleasure.

When the lone steady job you could get after dropping out of Indiana University was working on a garbage truck you quickly learn to appreciate that every NBA player, coach and executive is overpaid, it’s just a matter of how much from year to year.

What’s more, during Bird’s lengthy withdrawal from the NBA following his Hall of Fame playing career, he didn’t like it one bit when his young kids would ask him all the time, “What do you do for a living?”

For whatever reason, if Simon and Bird do part ways, the natural progression is for Donnie Walsh to return from whence he came and where his wife, daughter and dogs still live on adjoining properties.

Regardless of whether James Dolan wants Walsh back next season or not, it’s easy to conceive the Knicks president concluding his health would be better served by escaping New York’s laboratory and its microscope-wielding multitude, and perhaps re-stake his claim to his former Pacers position, if not re-control of Conseco Fieldhouse.

And if that’s purely fantasy it’s certainly not hard to imagine the 70-year-old day-dreaming boy dreaming about coming home to his bundles of joy, for more than sick leave, a stolen weekend or a harried vacation.

I have no idea what Walsh is thinking these days. Our three-decade personal connection got abruptly pre-empted by our increasingly edgy business relationship.

For the most part during his three years on the job, I don’t ask and he doesn’t tell. And if I do ask what’s going on about this or that by e-mail, he rarely responds.

Still, I love Donnie dearly. He is one of the few people in my life who always speaks the truth. He is one of two men (former Nets owner Joe Taub is the other) my wife has never minded me spending time with — encouraged, actually — no matter how late into the evening, if that doesn’t say it all.

The point being, I’ve been around Walsh long enough and know him far too well to think it will be Dolan’s choice whether he stays with the Knicks past June 30. That decision will be made solely by Walsh.

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An especially annoying antagonist, who routinely makes too damn many keen observations for my comfort, enthusiastically endorsed Danny Ainge’s wisdom/moxie immediately following the Celtics-Thunder exchange. He saluted Boston’s addition and pooh-poohed its deletion.

“Nenad Krstic can give the Celtics a solid 20-plus minutes, shoots the mid-range jumper, makes his free throws and is an OK boarder,” my nemesis e-mailed. “Meanwhile, Jeff Green gives Rajon Rondo a running and jumping mate. So, the Celtic just became more athletic, whereas Ray Allen and Paul Pierce will save some wear and tear.

“Here’s the kicker: The Magic must win their playoff games before the Celtics need to worry about (Dwight) Howard. Against other teams they don’t need Kendrick Perkins. Against the Western champions, who knows? The rest of the time, (Kevin) Garnett and Big Baby can give them some time at center, as well as Shaq and Jermaine (O’Neal).

So, I’m bolted to my couch Friday night and voila; there’s Green and Krstic combining for 31 points and 22 rebounds against the 76ers. For non-math majors, that’s 31 and 22 more than Perkins was giving them.

Yet, the injury-plagued Celtics (second unit, anyway, except for Shaq) lost in Philadelphia.

What’s more, they gave up 100-plus points for the fourth time in their last seven games.

I couldn’t resist. I fired off an e-mail to my archenemy, stressing how Pierce, Allen, K.G. and Krstic missed 29 of 46 shots against the quicker, younger (exempting Elton Brand), amped-up Sixers.

Parenthetically, I mentioned, Boston’s defensive system designed by Tom Thibodeau is built on meat and motion in the middle, even when security is as slow-moving as Shaq.

“If they weren’t going to keep Perkins, who might have been nice to have around to abuse Joakim Noah (for a third straight playoffs), Ainge would have been better off signing Tip and Tatum vs. Jermaine and Shaquille,” I said.

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How many games do you figure David Stern threatened to suspend Stan Van Gundy should he dare again to publicly joust with the commissioner regarding referees’ allegedly picking on Dwight Howard, or any other taboo subject?

I’m guessing plentiful, without pay, plus a $1 million fine of the Magic if owner Rich DeVos can’t control his coach.

Tune in to see whether Stern’s gag rule applies to Jeff Van Gundy and if ABC/ESPN will be held in contempt should the younger brother choose to defense his older brother regarding the commissioner’s clampdown on free speech.

Peter Vecsey covers the NBAfor the New York Post.