The Indiana Pacers are currently the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and they have an excellent résumé at the quarter mark of the season. Indiana has impressive road wins against the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics among others, and they have yet to lose two games in a row. After five straight losing seasons, the Pacers have assembled a very talented team that is capable of making a deep playoff run if all goes as planned.
Who deserves the most credit for Indiana’s success? If you ask the players, they’ll say David West.
“David is the reason why we’re so high in the standings right now,” Darren Collison told HOOPSWORLD. “He means a lot to this team. He’s been good for us on the offensive end, defensive end and off the court. He has been really positive for our team in all aspects.”
The Pacers signed West to a two-year deal worth $20 million over the offseason, in an attempt to take the next step from up-and-coming team to legitimate contender. They felt that they were one piece away from competing in the Eastern Conference and jumped at the opportunity to sign West.
The 31-year-old power forward received interest from other teams, including the Boston Celtics, but he felt that Indiana was the best situation for him. With Collison, Paul George, Danny Granger, West and Roy Hibbert, the Pacers have plenty of weapons and are an extremely well-rounded team.
“It was just the best opportunity, that’s the bottom line,” West said. “It was the best opportunity to win. Collectively, this team is talented. It’s young, but it has a good mix of guys – there are guys that have some experience and guys that don’t have much experience but are super talented. Also, obviously, having a seven-foot-two guy that can score around the basket is a key in today’s game.”
“I think we have the right kind of guys here, unselfish guys who are ultimately trying to do the right thing on and off the court,” West added. “That’s the first part to being a successful basketball team.”
When asked if he can see himself finishing his career with the Pacers, West doesn’t hesitate.
“Yeah, I think so,” West said. “This was the best opportunity for me. It gave me the chance to have a good time playing this game again and not have to deal with some of the outside issues that we were dealing with in New Orleans.”
West has been on some very talented teams, including the 2007-08 Hornets squad that took the San Antonio Spurs to seven games in the Western Conference Semifinals. However, West believes that this team is even deeper, which is important during this condensed season.
“I think this is the deepest team that I’ve been on,” West said. “Looking at the amount of depth we have on the bench, we’ve got guys at every position that can come in and impact the game every night.”
While West is still getting acclimated in Indiana, the team has experienced early success. West is averaging 11.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists, but his biggest contributions have come off the court. He is the second-oldest player on the team, behind Jeff Foster, and he has tried to mentor the young core and become a strong presence in the locker room.
West has instilled confidence in the group and they now believe they’re going to win every single game.
As a result, the Pacers feel they are an elite team that will only continue to improve as they develop chemistry and gain experience.
“We’re just going to keep competing,” West said. “It’s still early in the season, but we had thirteen of our first nineteen games on the road and we got fourteen wins out of that. We feel good about that.”
The veteran power forward has made an immediate impact, but the Pacers hope his presence yields the best results come playoff time. At this point in West’s career, he’s focused on winning and feels that he has the pieces around him to do so in Indiana.