David West will reportedly sign with the San Antonio Spurs later this week to officially bring a close to his four-year career with the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers were 171-114 in games West played during that time, but last year's injury-ravaged season took its toll.
In fact, West appeared done in Indiana even before what would become his last season with the Pacers started.
Following a pair of deep playoff runs, the broken leg Paul George suffered in the summer prior to the 2014-15 season seemed to break West's spirit for what remained of his future with the team. During Media Day interviews prior to the team's first practice last year, Frank Vogel, Roy Hibbert and George Hill took their turns speaking to the assembled media and tried to put a positive spin on the situation without PG, expressing expectations for the team to continue to compete in the East.
"You have to give yourself a realistic starting point," West said that late September day. "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."
A day later, West claimed he was comfortable with the hand he was dealt and wouldn't try to force a trade to a better situation, according to Candace Buckner.
West also never envisioned himself as a ring hunter near the end of his career. The thought of trying to wrangle his way to a title contender just doesn't appeal to him.
"I'm not going to be one of those guys that's just out here chasing that. I'm not going to be one those guys out here sacrificing who I am, the things that make me me, to go out and get a material goal. That's just not the way I'm wired," West declared. "So, I understand we're not in that space anymore in terms of this group, but that's fine. It's just a reality you have to deal with, but you got to accept it and face it in order to get yourself moving and producing positively."
Those sentiments changed this summer after West opted out of a $12.6 million option to instead chase that ring, saying he wanted to find a team where they could "taste" a championship opportunity. According to reports, West will take the veteran minimum salary of $1.4 million this season to backup Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge for the San Antonio Spurs.
So West will give up $11 million dollars and a strong role on the floor to get a taste of the Finals. Of course, with the Spurs, West will likely play plenty of minutes in the regular season as Duncan's minutes are micromanaged. But when the playoff season begins, West will likely have to be more cheerleader than team leader, but I for one hope he gets the hardware he's hunting for next season.
West played fewer than 300 games for the Pacers in four years, fewer games than 40 other players in franchise history, but he leap-frogs many of those players in terms of impact on the franchise. Yes, his age had his impact appearing to fade away last season, but that shouldn't diminish the four years West spent with the Blue and Gold.
Those four years included two trips to the Eastern Conference finals and three epic battles in the playoffs against LeBron James and the Miami Heat. With that success the Fieldhouse was on fire in May once again and the local love for the Pacers was reignited.
While making a big impact on the court, he was also the go-to professional voice for thoughtful answers following both wins or losses. His voice and presence in the locker room was huge and impacted the culture change Frank Vogel was spearheading.
The community will also miss West, although I imagine he will still have a presence with his local charitable endeavors. But the high-profile events he sponsored at the Fieldhouse with his wife, Lesley, feeding hundreds at Thanksgiving and providing prom dresses for local students, won't be the same. Unlike some former Pacers, West's only trips to jail were to meet with inmates and deliver a message of hope and encouragement, as he did for juvenile youths already behind bars.
Despite playing only four years and 285 games with the Pacers, West should be considered one of the team's all-time greats. For once, I'm hoping Gregg Popovich rests Tim Duncan when the Spurs make their annual visit to the Fieldhouse next season.