The Pacers owe Tinsley $21 million. Ooops.

Why's Jamaal smiling? The Pacers owe him $21 mil.

Larry Bird’s ability to unload Jermaine O’ Neal – and his contract – to the Raptors and reconstruct the team in a short amount of time is admirable. I still wonder how the Pacers got T.J. Ford, Jarrett Jack, Brandon Rush, Roy Hibbert, and Rasho Nesterovic for Jermaine O’Neal, Jerryd Bayless, and Ike Diogu. The Pacers now have cap flexibility and an influx of young talent, which is exactly what they needed. Well done Mr. Bird.

But when it comes to Jamaal Tinsley, the Pacers couldn’t have handled the situation any worse. Tinsley is owed more than $21 million over the next three years. He sat out the second half of the season with a bum knee and hasn’t kept his nose clean off the court. The Pacers want to trade him badly. So what do they do? Make it painfully obvious to every other team in the NBA that they can’t stand him anymore.

After saying forward Shawne Williams was on thin ice, Bird said Tinsley is right below him. Pacers coach Jim O’ Brien recently said he’d walk to Kokomo if Tinsley is a Pacer on opening night. He’d previously noted how hard it is to depend on Tinsley when he’s been undependable physically.

While it’s hard to disagree, that’s not the message you want to send to other teams. It’s become apparent if the Pacers can’t trade Tinsley, they’ll buy him out or cut him and eat the contract. So why would any other team want to be the ones to take on that contract? If anyone does want Tinsley, they’ll play the waiting game, let the Pacers cut him loose, and sign him cheap.

Maybe I’m missing something, but the Pacers should have boasted about how Tinsley’s knee is heeled, how hard he’s working to get back into shape, and what a model citizen he’s been off the court.

The way they’ve handled it is kind of like a real estate agent pointing out the loose shingles, worn down furnace, and poor construction of a house he or she is trying to sell.

Who knows, Bird might pull off another great trade – great meaning, Tinsley for Cherokee Parks if it gets him off the payroll. But I have a hunch when the Pacers tip off for the 2008-09 season, Tinsley will be clubbing … on the Pacers’ dime.