Pacers face ‘Big Brother’ David West for the first time since he moved on

David West never thought he’d last this long. As he said a few years ago, he’s in bonus time now.

He hoped for 10 years in the National Basketball Association. The 2003 National Player of the Year out of Xavier is now working on Year 13.

His time in the NBA has taken him to New Orleans (six seasons), Oklahoma City (two, due to Hurricane Katrina), Indianapolis (four), and now San Antonio. But still, he’s missing the elusive prize.

A ring. An NBA Title. Ultimate bragging rights.

Hill and West were good friends, and they frequently ran "1-4," a pick-and-roll with those two in tight situations late in games.

Hill and West were good friends, and they frequently ran “1-4,” a pick-and-roll with those two in tight situations late in games.

That’s the primary reason he opted out of his deal with the Pacers and signed with San Antonio, a contender every year, at a huge discount. Passing up $12.6 million for $1.4 million, to be exact.

“That’s what is always special about D-West,” Pacers guard George Hill told me.

“Guys didn’t know him off the court. For the past five years, I’ve known him as a teammate and as a big-brother figure to me. That’s something that, it wasn’t surprising to me. That’s the type of guy he is. Nothing matters but to win the game with him. No matter how many points he scored, how many rebounds, he just wants to the team to be good, the team to play well and for us to win.

“I’m happy that he’s in a organization like that. I’m sure he’s loving it. I’m sure he has great teammates all the way around him and he’s teaching the young fellas there.”

West played 285 regular season games in a Pacers uniform and was the backbone of the team. Monday night, he matches up against the Blue & Gold for the first time since moving on.

“It’ll be very, very strange,” Frank Vogel said. “Just a great leader and he did a lot for our franchise. Led to a lot of great years here, almost right at the beginning of my run here. We were very sad to see him go and wish him nothing but success.”

Vogel and team president Larry Bird were expecting him to opt in. When he didn’t, the Pacers had to alter their free agent plans and ultimately that’s why they pushed ever harder to move Roy Hibbert knowing that they had to move on.

Vogel talked with West after the decision in July, but he didn’t want to get into what they specifically talked about.

“We had a good conversation after he was headed to San Antonio and all the things he’s looking forward to with that opportunity,” Vogel said. “I just wish him well and thank him for everything that he did here for myself personally and for our organization.”

The frontcourt duo of Hibbert and West is no more in Indy.

The frontcourt duo of Hibbert and West is no more in Indy.

West had a couple of Pacers teammates that he could talk about the Spurs’ culture and organization, Hill and center Ian Mahinmi. Both players were drafted by that organization and have nothing but great things to say about it.

George Hill: “He asked me what it was like and I just said, ‘You have to make the decision off of your heart. I would love for you to stay here but I know how that is. It’s a business, just like how everyone else tells us it’s a business.'”

[Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on his special relationship with George Hill]

While the Golden State Warriors opened the season 24-0 and continue to receive all of the headlines, the Spurs, as usual, are quietly off to a 23-5 start … good for the league’s second-best record.

Down in San Antonio, West doesn’t have a starting role, obviously, and his minutes were sliced in half to about 15.2 per game. He’s averaging 5.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. It can’t be easy, but the 35-year-old has settled into his role with the team.

“He’s like a big brother to me,” Hill said of West. “I got the utmost respect for him. I know that he made a decision based off of his heart and when you do that, it’s not based off of money or anything. When it’s based off of heart, you can’t be mad at a guy for that.

“He’s a first-class guy. It’s gonna be good to matchup with him. Wish he was on our side still but I’m happy he’s still doing what he loves to do and he’s happy doing it.”

Never forget: The David West scowl.

Never forget: The David West scowl.

West was always the grown up in the locker room, assisting in so many areas. He was a sounding board, he’s a been-there-done-that guy, and he has greater goals beyond the NBA, like impacting lives. He would openly hold conversations in the locker room about hot topics, what was going on in the world, and cultural issues.

West came to the Pacers in 2011 seeking a championship. They got close. Oh, so close.

Back-to-back conference finals but then Paul George’s injury happened and he knew that it was going to be a rough season, ultimately troubled by injuries all around, including himself.

But his work towards building guys up and keeping a strong culture never faded.

“I think our culture here is a strength of ours year after year,” Vogel said. “As the faces change, we try to keep a good culture and great professional approach. He helped establish that more than anyone else probably. Just that professionalism approach and the focus and this winning culture that we have here.”

“Just happy that I had the opportunity to be his teammate,” Hill added.

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