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David West: Indiana Pacers’ Unsung Leader
Posted By Richard Hardy On March 20, 2013 @ 3:45 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The Indiana Pacers have a big concern to address this offseason. Veteran power forward David West, a vital component to their recent resurgence, is set to become a unrestricted free agent. The 32-year-old may be highly coveted, which is an issue for the Pacers since West is arguably the team’s most important player. Ask anyone in Indiana’s locker room and they’ll say that they can’t afford to lose their anchor.
“David West is a leader, man,” Paul George told HOOPSWORLD. “[West] means everything to this team. He’s really been our most consistent player this season. He doesn’t get the credit or the recognition around the league, but he’s one of the best power forwards in this game.”
With an average age of just 25.7 years old, the Pacers have found success through developing draft picks such as Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and Paul George into All-Stars. With a core of young talent, the Pacers felt they just needed one more piece, a veteran presence in the locker room, to emerge as a contender in the East. West was brought in on a two-year, $20 million deal in the winter of 2011.
In West’s first season with the team, the Pacers won 42 games and finished with the third-best record in the conference. It was the first time Indiana had won more than 40 games in six seasons and the team reached the Conference Semifinals, losing to the Miami HEAT in six games.
“I think it’s important in every team’s culture to have guys like David,” Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s a veteran who knows all the tricks, all the savvy, all the secrets. Even as a young player, he was a guy that just knew how to play the game.”
At 32, West is the oldest player on the Pacers. He’s an understated big man, capable of guarding the league’s best power forwards and sometimes even the opposing center. The Pacers, who are ranked second in points allowed, have established themselves as one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. According to basketball-reference.com, West’s defensive rating is 97.68, which is fourth in the league.
On offense, West has the ability to not only post his opponents up, but also spread the floor by knocking down jump shots. This season, he is shooting 49 percent from the field. He’s also 24th in the NBA in scoring per 48 minutes. His offensive contributions have made life easier for his teammates, specifically Hibbert.
“It’s a blessing having [West] out there every night,” Hibbert said. “He takes pressure off of me and allows me to play my game. He’s a fighter and you need guys like that if you want to be successful.”
What separates a leader from the platoon of star players that populate the NBA is their ability to fire up their team when the morale is low, sometimes even barking at a teammate when mistakes are made. West falls under this category because of his ability to take over games for the Pacers, but also because of his profound effect on the team’s younger players.
“David’s taken on the mentorship role to some of our young players,” Vogel said. “They learn just by watching him work. I think guys like Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff Pendergraph have both benefited greatly from being on the same team as David West.”
“He can do a lot of different things on the court,” Hansbrough said. “He’s one of the most underrated players I’ve ever played with. When he’s on, he carries this team. Off the court, the way he carries himself, he’s someone that I look up to. He’s a true professional.”
West, who’s dealing with a sprained lower back, has missed the Pacers’ last two games. When asked how he could still lead his team from the bench, he quickly turned the question around and displayed his admiration of his teammates.
“We have continuity in the frontcourt,” West said. “Tyler Hansbrough, Jeff Pendergraph and the rest of the guys are always ready to step in when their names get called.”
“This team prides itself on togetherness,” Vogel added. “It’s a word we put on the board before every game. Pulling for each other and trying to make your teammates better, that’s Pacers basketball.”
For a team that has four players averaging at least 10 points a game, it’s hard to imagine that the Pacers would have a de facto leader. But inside the team’s locker room, West seems to be the one name on everyone’s mind, making it all the more evident that re-signing West should be Indiana’s top priority when the clock strikes midnight on July 1.
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