David West has no intentions of sugar-coating the challenging season that lies ahead for the Pacers.
"The biggest key is giving yourself a realistic outlook of what you are and who you are," West said to open his Media Day interview on Monday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Losing Lance Stephenson was tough. Then West watched on TV as Paul George broke his leg during the Team USA scrimmage. That "punch to the gut" was unexpected and quickly changed everything for the Pacers this season. No sense running from the truth, though.
"You have to give yourself a realistic starting point," West said. "So obviously we can't be talking about competing for a championship, even being in title contention, we've just have to talk about figuring out a way to get the best lineups on the floor, the best guys on the floor to give us a chance to compete."
The Pacers spent the past two training camps fine tuning their approach with lofty goals for the season. While the ultimate goal of winning the next game on the schedule remains, they are nowhere near fine tuning their approach this time around.
"We've got a challenge in front of us and we've gotta figure it out," West said. "That's the bottom line, you've got to figure out the lineups, you've got to figure out the defensive approach, offensive approach. We've gotta change all of that and at the same time have to go out and compete."
He went on to mention how Atlanta and Washington, two teams the Pacers put away in the playoffs last year, improved since they last met. The division they now play in, with LeBron James in Cleveland and Derrick Rose back with Chicago, make things even more difficult.
Figuring out how to compete from their new spot in the pecking order won't be easy. It will be particularly tough on West who signed twice with the Pacers in hopes of finishing his career on a team that could talk about competing for a championship. He doesn't expect to play much longer and that window to making another championship run is now shut.
"What your intention was in Indiana (when West signed), that reality is no longer here," West said. "That's just me being me. I'm not going to create this persona like we can just sort of keep going at the pace and direction that we were going. I think you just set yourself up for failure in those moments."
Despite the frustrating turn of events this summer, West is still a pro's pro who will prepare accordingly with an understanding that he and his team will have added obstacles in their way. Unfortunately for West, time is no longer on his side.
"I'm not one of those guys that's going to play forever, that's just never been my intention. I always said I was going to play ten years and everything beyond ten years would be an added bonus and that's where I am now."
Following last season, West and Frank Vogel planned to keep his workload just under 30 minutes per game to save his legs for the long haul in the playoffs. That likely won't be the case now as the team has to learn what works best and who has to adjust. If they need more out of West, then Vogel will have to adjust how they practice and find ways to keep his body fresh. Other players may need to accept different roles to step up or step back when needed.
Heading into training camp, the Pacers season remains a big puzzle that will require time to solve. But the goal to win games remains the same and for West, remaining rooted in reality is the first step toward a positive solution.
"We have to be in reality about where we are. It doesn't matter what style of play you play, ultimately you want to play to win the game," West reiterated. "That's why we play, we play to win the game."