The AP reports:

Pacers president Larry Bird is urging fans to remain patient through the team’s struggles.

Indiana enters the All-Star break with an 18-34 record, well out of the playoff race after missing the postseason for the past three seasons. Last month, some players were openly wondering if their “weak-minded” defense could be righted and attendance woes have been a problem now for years, along with assorted off-the-court issues.

Yet Bird says the rebuilding phase that began when the Pacers traded Ron Artest in 2006 is on target, and will move into high gear after next season when the team gets salary cap space.

“We knew that we had to clean it out and rebuild it, and we knew we were going to go through some tough times,” Bird told The Associated Press this week. “Nobody likes to lose, and everybody wants to be a part of a winner. We think we’re on the right track to get there.”