NBA PM: The Unsung Hero of 2013 Free Agency?
When the curtain goes up on the NBA’s 2013 free agency period, most of the fervor and focus will be on Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul and Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith. Perhaps a bit lost in the shuffle is the one player who may have had the most profound impact on his current team.
Indiana Pacers All-Star power forward David West keeps his name out of the headlines, for the most part, but when it comes to putting in the work and pushing his team to new heights, it’s hard to quantify just how valuable West has been for Indiana.
“I don’t think you could give him enough credit for what he’s done for our team and our culture,” head coach Frank Vogel told HOOPSWORLD. “He’s the lion in the locker room, our heart and soul, and he gives us the swagger of knowing that we’re playing with one of the best in the game at the power forward position. He has great toughness, he’s our defensive quarterback and he’s our primary offensive guy down the stretch. I don’t think you can put in enough words to describe what he means to our team.”
After growing into an All-Star playing alongside Chris Paul in New Orleans, West found exactly what he was looking for when he opted to sign with the Pacers two summers ago.
“Yeah, this is what I needed for my career in terms of last year, making the decision to come here with the young talent,” West said. “Obviously, having a couple of bigs helped in that decision. We’re just going to continue to move forward, push forward. We’re going to worry about how we finish up this year and what we’re like heading into the playoffs and the chips will fall where they may after that.”
West’s value certainly isn’t lost on Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard, who wasn’t yet a part of the organization when West was added but has quickly come to appreciate his impact on the team.
“I don’t think there is a doubt that David West is us,” Pritchard told HOOPSWORLD. “You know what I mean? He talks about our leadership group and we don’t have one guy who leads us. There’s a couple guys, George Hill, [Roy] Hibbert, Paul George and David, obviously, they set the culture. It’s about the players and what they’re about and it trickles down to everybody else. So David is a part of the culture, George, a couple of other guys. Again, that’s sort of a fit, right? That’s what we look to as important, how a guy fits, and David fits awfully well.”
Frank Vogel put it a little more simply when talking about West’s upcoming free agency.
“There’s no way we’re letting David go,” Vogel said.
There’s no doubt that Howard and Paul are impact players, and they will get plenty of attention as they make their decisions in Los Angeles. That said, neither Paul nor Howard has had the kind of impact that West has had in Indiana, helping lead the Pacers to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and a legitimate shot at the Conference Finals or even NBA Finals this season. All things considered, West just might be the best free agent in this summer’s class and if the Pacers have their way, he might also be the least attainable.
Poll: Should the Miami HEAT Be Fined?
When the San Antonio Spurs made their only trip to Miami this season to take on the HEAT, they did fans across the NBA a huge disservice by electing to send Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, in particular, home for a rest. The NBA took a dim view of the Spurs’ actions, which were not done in accordance with league rules regarding “injured” players, and fined the Spurs a whopping $250,000 for the action.
Yesterday, NBA fans were treated to a similar display as HEAT head coach Erik Spoelstra elected to sit LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers in the team’s lone visit to San Antonio, basically offering a tit-for-tat response to the Spurs’ previous actions. The Spurs cheated HEAT fans out of what should have been a game featuring some of the top players in the NBA and a possible Finals preview, so the HEAT returned the favor.
Is this really what the NBA wants? Nationally televised games between depleted powerhouse teams turn into something even the most avid fan can’t watch because the implications of the final score are basically nil and hardly worth the time they take to watch. Miami may have gotten the last laugh in this one, since they won the game and increased their lead for the best record in the NBA and home court advantage throughout the playoffs, but that isn’t anything the Spurs have been proven to care about anyway.
The real issue, however, is that the losers in this game of cat and mouse between teams are the fans, especially those who paid big bucks to be sitting in the stands for the games. The HEAT may have jumped through the right hoop, but does that make yesterday’s game any less of an injustice for the fans? Should the NBA now make another resounding statement against the growing practice of resting superstars when they are not injured? Sound off in the poll below!
If Healthy, Can Knicks Contend?
The New York Knicks aren’t getting nearly as much hype now as they were earlier in the season, but if it’s possible for a team based in New York to do anything quietly, the Knicks seem to be quietly putting together their best basketball of the season.
“Well, guys are starting to get healthy,” Carmelo Anthony said of his team’s current eight-game win streak while talking to WFAN in New York. “That is the most important thing. I think we kept our composure throughout that little scare that we had on that road trip. We came back, we bounced back and guys are starting to have fun again, guys are starting to get their confidence back as individuals and as a team. We are taking it one day at a time. We know it’s a long season. You’re going to have ups and downs and it’s just a matter of how you bounce back from that.”
There is no chance the Knicks can catch the Miami HEAT for the best record in the conference, but they are currently sitting atop the Atlantic Division with a 4.5-game lead on the Brooklyn Nets.
“That’s our number one goal, to win the division,” said Anthony. “That was our goal coming into the season. Right now we’re sitting right there at the top where we want to be at, where we belong. We feel like we have a chance to do that. We control our own destiny at this point.”
The thing that has impressed Anthony most about this year’s Knicks team is their ability to take a hit, face some challenges and come right back ready to fight.
“Just how we’ve been able to respond to different circumstances and bounce back,” Anthony explained. “Every time we hit a little bump in the road we’ve bounced back. That’s something I love about this team. At the end of the day, regardless of what is being said about us, in that locker room nobody can take that away from us. We understand each other, we get each other, we’re around each other all day long and we know what we have to do. We had to figure out some of the reasons why we had that little skid.”
Now Anthony and his teammates are anxious to get the playoffs started, believing this year could be the year they prove they can compete for a championship.
“I can’t wait, I can’t wait,” said Anthony. “It’s something I have been looking forward to. Even before I first came here, I always told myself and the people around me, ‘this is going to be a three-year process to get back to where everything needs to be as far as basketball goes.’ This is the third year. We just have to get into the postseason healthy, confident and with a division title and keep it going.”
HOOPSWORLD’s March Madness Coverage
The Final Four match-ups are set. Michigan will face Syracuse and Louisville will face Wichita State. HOOPSWORLD has plenty of content to ensure you’re up to speed on the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
You can find previews for every game here. They have in-depth stats, players to watch and a poll so that you can vote on which team will win. Once it tips off, feel free to discuss the game in the comment section.
If you want to take a look at the bracket, we’ve been updating it here.
We will continue to push out NCAA Tournament coverage over the next few days so be sure to check back regularly.