Reports of David West opting out were certainly a surprise and the supposed silence of West and the Pacers reportedly not hearing from the former team leader moved the situation into strange territory.
Giving up $12.6 million which will be difficult to match on the open market? Reports of the Knicks being a front runner to sign West? Larry Bird stating he hadn't heard from West prior to the draft?
None of it added up.
Fortunately, WTHR's Bob Kravitz was able to talk with West and sort out his side of the story which doesn't shine a favorable light on the Pacers' front office. Kravitz reports that, according to West, his agents notified the Pacers two or three days before the draft to be "respectable" to the organization.
Bird's continual denial of being notified is no surprise, despite the Pacers prez's reputation as a straight shooter. I've said it before and I'll say it again, PLEASE...he can withhold or obscure the truth with the best of them which is a job requirement when you are constantly dealing with 29 other teams.
But an honest assessment from Bird did turn off West. Following the season, Bird discussed the team's plans to alter their style of play and pointed toward the struggles of Hibbert in particular, putting the big fella on notice that his playing time was no longer a given should he return to the team. Those comments had West thinking, but eventually, watching the Warriors win a championship motivated his decision to chart a new course.
"That's one thing where I wish they would have handled better was the situation with Roy," West said. "I'll be honest with you, that bothered me a little bit, and I told Roy that. I'm the type of guy who feels like we're all in this fight together and I'm not designed in that way to put it all on one guy. That did rub me the wrong way. That threw me off. I started reading some of that stuff, I started thinking, 'Whoaa.' I just didn't feel good about that. I told Roy that it bothered me, that he's still my teammate.
"You know, obviously Roy wants to play, he knows he's unpopular right now, but we talked and he's going to be a professional. He's always been a professional. He's had his ups and downs but he's always been a pro and been diligent about his work. He's working to get better. He's going to fight. He's not going to be one of those guys who's going to become a locker room issue.
"But that was not the straw that broke the camel's back.
"I just watched those finals, and I thought, 'Man, I've got to give myself a chance.' That's the reason I made this decision.‘'
Please read the whole story from West's point of view. Great report from Kravitz.
During the first day of free agency, West's name was missing in action until the WTHR report. Grantland's Zach Lowe read the story and wondered aloud whether West would be able to find what he is looking for, even at half the salary he declined.
Honestly having trouble finding a contender, or even a pseudo-contender, with the need for D-West and means to give him MLE-plus offer.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) July 2, 2015
Raptors have the clearest need, but aren't close enough to justify leaving Indy with a clearly-stated goal of winning a ring.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) July 2, 2015
West considers the rumors he will go to the Knicks ridiculous. Lowe also mentioned that West may be the backup plan for San Antonio if they don't land LaMarcus Aldridge.
Regardless, West had a strong impact on the Pacers and an equally strong impact on the community in Central Indiana with the charitable efforts he and his wife were involved with throughout the years.
For that, West will always be remembered fondly in Indy, even if we'd rather forget the circumstances which created his departure.