Blame Pritchard as much as you like, but don't you dare blame Bird for the Paul George trade return

As was expected after the Thunder fleeced the Pacers for Paul George, the spin started to come out from the reporters that follow the Celtics. Reports are that the Celtics offered Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, and either 2 or 3 first round draft picks for George this month. Instead Kevin Pritchard accepted a deal for Victor Oladipo (Thunder were happy to get out from under his contract) and Domantas Sabonis a big man who had a disappointing rookie season and projects as a rotational bench player. All criticism towards Pritchard for taking a much worse offer is warranted.

Where the criticism needs to stop is when bloggers, writers, columnists, etc, start criticizing Larry Bird for not moving George at the deadline. Take this from SB Nation for example:
Below the surface, it’s clear that the Celtics’ failure to strike isn’t for lack of trying. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that Ainge offered Indiana three non-premium picks, Jae Crowder, and another Celtics starter (presumed to be Avery Bradley) for George during the draft. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald independently reported the same, and added that the Celtics made an even better offer at the February deadline: a 2017 pick swap that involved Brooklyn’s selection, which became No. 1 overall.

Larry Bird ran the Pacers in February. He should have taken that deal from the Celtics.

Supposedly the leaks now say the Celtics offered their 2017 Nets pick in the deal. First off, I highly doubt Ainge offered it without at least a #1 protection on the pick, so the Pacers wouldn't even have gotten it. Almost positive I remember the protections being a sticking point. Secondly, it's not like at the time of the trade deadline, Bird had a crystal ball to see the draft lottery drawing and knew if the pick would be #1 or #4. Thirdly, just like the Thunder are now trying to improve their team with Westbrook a year from free agency, the Pacers at the time were led to believe by Paul George himself that he'd stay in Indiana if they improved. So the Celtics leak that they made a better offer at the trade deadline? Shocking. Of course they did. You were trading for one and a half years of George then and twice the playoff years. He also hadn't announced he was heading to the Lakers. I'm sure teams made even greater offers a year before that.

You 100% do what you can to keep the superstar before entertaining trading him. If thinks go south (like they did with the Pacers getting swept in the 1st round and George not making any All-NBA teams, so Indiana couldn't offer him a super max) then you still have opportunities to move George before the draft and in the summer. And in fact based on the Celtics offer of Crowder, Bradley, and three first rounders the Pacers still could have gotten a pretty good haul even after thinks went south and even after George publicly ruined his trade value with the going to the Lakers news.
Larry accepts his 2012 NBA Executive of the Year Award

Bird was an Executive of the Year in the NBA (Coach of the Year and multiple MVP's too obviously ). Easy to say now that the Pacers held unto George too long. Bird is no dummy. He drafted both George and Myles Turner late in the lottery. Bird knew that Ainge was still going to offer a lot this summer (which he did). How was he to know the Nets pick would land #1 (and if it had protections on it again it's a moot point)? The best odds you have is 25% if you have the worst record. Paul George was saying he'd rather win in Indy. The super max option was still there.

Bird made the best decision he could at the time. Larry stepped down and even after the worst case scenarios came up with George not getting All-NBA and saying he was leaving, still there was an offer of Jae, AB, and three first rounders for his successor to take. And if Pritchard just waited a few days until Hayward made his decision, I'm pretty sure the Pacers could have gotten that Lakers/Kings pick out of Danny (Either Hayward signs with Boston because he wants to play with George and Danny makes it happen. Or Hayward signs elsewhere and with Jimmy Butler no longer an option, Ainge is more desperate to add a star).

Bird didn't leave the Pacers in a bad place. His replacement, Kevin Pritchard, simply blew it.

Related: CL Pod 024.6: Paul George to OKC emergency pod
Not even July 1st yet and summer plans already going to sh!t; Paul George traded to Oklahoma City Thunder