by Kent Sterling
I liked David West, but it’s hard not to see his decision to leave $11.1 million in Indiana to play for the San Antonio Spurs as a smack to the jaw of the Pacers organization, his former teammates, and Indiana in general.
His desire to win a championship is laudable. Putting potential wealth beneath winning as priorities are set is usually viewed as a positive, but this cash dump is not just a statement about West’s desire to win, but his thirst to do it in a lesser role for a city other than Indianapolis.
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The Pacers for which West played last season were on win away from earning an unlikely spot on the playoffs despite injuries that robbed them of any semblance of continuity. Paul George’s fractured leg was especially difficult to overcome, but if they had beaten Memphis in the season finale, they would have played an Atlanta Hawks team they had vanquished during the previous two postseasons.
So close, but not close enough for West to see the Pacers situation as hopeful enough to return to the team for the $12.6 million his player option would have activated. Instead, he opts out, and signs with the Spurs for barely more than 10% of that amount.
Sure, the Spurs have a better chance of winning an NBA Championship than the Pacers, but in the Western Conference with Houston, the LA Clippers, Oklahoma City with a healthy Kevin Durant, and the reigning champion Golden State Warriors, the road through the playoffs will be arduous.
The Pacers might be in a period of transition toward a faster style of play, but with George returning, George Hill back for what he hopes is a full season, rookie Myles Turner replacing struggling center Roy Hibbert, and the explosive Monta Ellis coming over from Dallas, the Pacers look to be significantly better than last season.
As Indiana fans look for reasons to hope the Pacers will be successful in moving toward the kind of small and fast basketball toward which the NBA is enacting and enforcing rules, West leaving eight figures worth of money on the table to serve as a back up behind Tim Duncan and newly acquired LaMarcus Aldridge does not qualify.
In fact, West leaving appears to be a resounding repudiation of the Pacers culture and future hopes for the franchise’s first championship.
Sure, West seemed unhappy with the vibe of the team last season, but turning your back on over $11 million is a hell of a demonstrative way to show it. He could have opted in, pocketed the cash, and become a free agent next offseason.
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Maybe this will be the last chance for West to be a part of a team with Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker, but when season tickets to watch one of the greatest threesomes in NBA History cost less than $50K, is it really worth over $11 million to play with them?
West has always marched to the beat of his own drummer, but when that rhythm is so far out of cadence with the Pacers expectations for 2015-2016 and with the appreciation of Pacers fans for his effort – whether well-earned or not – questions need to be asked and judgments need to be made.
David West abandoned ship – turned his back on teammates and fans. He has shown himself to be worse than a money grubber; West is a win grubber – eager to play a limited role on the Spurs rather than a prominent role on a Pacers team trying to rebound from a disappointing season.
As a result, West has shown himself to be unworthy of the respect once granted to him by Pacers fans. What a disappointment.
I think part of the narrative that you miss and lends a lot to David West’s character is that, I believe, much of this is a reaction to Bird’s treatment of Hibbert. West has a lot of respect for Hibbert and a lot of loyalty for his teammates. When the organization, Bird specifically, chose to throw Hibbert under the bus. Hibbert’s trade to LA, I suspect, was the last straw for West.
In these times of ring chasing,I can understand David,he wanted to give it one final shot. Probably had retirement on his mind anyhow. Good luck David!! Except with Pacers.
I wouldn’t ever say throw Hibbert under the bus. Larry Bird and Frank Vogel gave Hibbert every possible chance to succeed and Hibbert never responded. For 2 years while Hibbert is scoring 0 points and 0 rebounds in a game they stuck by him. Had him start reguardless. That lasted all but what the last 12 games of last year when they would see which Hibbert they were going to get that night and it usually led to him sitting on the bench. Larry Bird even paid BIG money for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who only works with Lakers players, to coach Hibbert and get him productive again. Which that never did help really. I like Hibbert a lot but as a organization stand point you have to decide when to let go. I wish him well but I think his prime has come and gone and I don’t know if he will ever find it again. David West to me has shown his true colors and good riddance.
I would be stunned to learn that even a minuscule portion of West’s thought process had anything to do with Hibbert. Not sure those two got along great. Leaving $11M on the table is a hell of a way for West to show loyalty to his teammates.
I don’t know what Mr. Sterling’s problem is!! Antonio Davis said on ESPN, he would have done the same thing as West!!! Sterling can’t understand that everybody doesn’t think Indy is the next coming of Heaven!! Indy is a nice town, but the weather sucks and the town itself is a dump! (Other than downtown!!)
San Antonio has the best organization in the NBA, has 5 titles since 1999 and has far better weather than Indy!! Plus, West has made $80 million, so he has enough money!! Maybe that is all you care about, Sterling!! The Pacers aren’t coming to come close to a title for many years, but when have they ever? I’ll answer that! When they were in the ABA, in the early 1970’s!!
PS- Wilson never was on the staff at OU when they last won a NCAA Championship. OU won it in 2000, and he joined the staff in 2002!!
The Pacers have made the Final Four of the NBA many times over the last 20 years, and were in the NBA Finals in 2000. Indy is a great city to live in for anyone – but especially for pro athletes who are treated like regular people around town. Indy provides a mostly normal life, and that’s one of the reasons David West came here in the first place.
OU won the Berryman National Championship in 2003 if you want to get picky, and last played for a national championship in 2009.