Monday, January 23, 2012

The Man Inside the Man: David West

This offseason, (however short), had some interesting personnel moves. Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups to the Clippers, Tyson Chandler to the Knicks, Lamar Odom left the Lakers, Big Baby Davis found a home in the Magic Kingdom. Some crafty vets found a new niche in new places, the likes of Tracy McGrady and Jerry Stackhouse to the Hawks, Shane Battier taking his talents to South Beach, and Rip Hamilton helping D Rose in Chitown. One that not very many people talk about though, is the quiet signing of David West to the Indiana Pacers. It was not a huge headline. It was nowhere near the largest signing of the year. However, it's one that is having one of the biggest impacts on it's team.

Let's be honest, this isn't the first time that DWest has been stuck behind more flamboyant players in the headlines. When you think of the 2003 Draft, you can't help but think it's one of the most talented pools in NBA History. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh all drafted the same day. With big names like those, it's not hard to overlook the 18th overall pick, David West. He was brought in by the New Orleans Hornets where he began as a modest power forward. Easy numbers, nothing stellar. Then 2005-2006 rolls around. David West begins breaking out. He finishes second in the league in Most Improved Player Voting. He and Chris Paul teamed up to give the Hornets a good inside-outside game, and they were a good duo. People close to West, though, will be the first to tell you that his prowess on the court is easily matched by his prowess in life.

Chris Paul said that he would "not like to play with any other power forward in the league other than David West" and also that West was the "smartest Hornet". Those aren't statements to be taken lightly, especially the first one. Needless to say, the guy is a consummate professional sure to bring maturity to any team he is on.

Fast forward a bit and think about this timeline:
March 25, 2011: David West tears his ACL
June 27, 2011: Goes on record that he will not pick up his final year option
December 11, 2011: Signs with the Indiana Pacers

Take a look at the last date. It was a move that left quite a few people around the league pretty much saying, "Wait...the Pacers?". Which was a fair question considering he had a 3-year, 28 Million Dollar deal lined up in Boston with Gang Green and their vets. Instead, he took a shorter deal for less money. Which left pundits everywhere wondering....why? Nobody answered the question better than West's agent, Lance Young, when he said: "David looks at the Pacers as a good young team with lot of potential." Plain and simple. 

The argument makes sense. The Pacers put on a better show than anybody expected them too last year against the Bulls and seemed to respond well to the new system that Interim (now permanent) Head Coach Frank Vogel was playing. The only drawback? They were young. That was the story of the Pacers. Their only real veteran was Jeff Foster, who, while a steady hand, was not a star and couldn't exert himself over the young players enough. The Pacers were lacking a mature hand, the Pacers were lacking a professional hand, the Pacers were lacking a guy who could show that you could be mature and still play at a high level. The Pacers were lacking David West.

There were reports out of the Pacers' camp of a post-game locker room environment where players would pick up stat sheets and point out the other players' shortcomings in the game. They had a coach who didn't do anything about it, until (equally young) Frank Vogel became coach. Finally, they had a Commander in Chief that held them accountable. They rallied under him, posting a wining record in his 38 games at the helm. They made the playoffs as the 8th seed, and faced high-powered Chicago. In a series that turned into much more than it was supposed to be, the Pacers played the Bulls tough. And while the whole world wasn't watching, one guy was: David West. And boy did he like what he saw.

He got on the phone with Larry Bird, they kicked out a deal, and David West was a Pacer. Now, we talked all about the maturity he brought. He easily has turned the Pacers into a more nuclear team. He's the third leading scorer on a Pacer team with 7 double figure scorers. He's second on the team in rebounds. He brings a deadly mid-range game as well as a crazy inside presence. He's built like a tank. Broad-shouldered, very toned. He's no guy to mess with on the block, and he causes headaches for defenses. The acquisition of David West is easily the biggest reason for the Pacer's improvement to the second best record in the Eastern Conference and a recent Power Ranking of 6. 

David West, a leader on the hardwood as well as in the community.


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