With free agents signed, Pacers have high hopes for 2013-14

With a big smile on his face, David West wasn’t ashamed to admit it. Though he has been a basketball fan for almost his entire life, there were a few games this past June that he couldn’t bear to lay his eyes on.

“I’ve been a basketball fan, since dude, ’83 or ’84,” said West. “I was a baby. This is probably the first NBA Finals that I didn’t watch a complete game from start-to-finish. It was just one of those things that I just couldn’t do it.”

Of course West is referring to the 2013 NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the champion Miami Heat, the same squad that defeated the Pacers in a seven-game series during the Eastern Conference Finals. West seems to be ready to get back on the court and put the past behind him, but of course before all that could take place, the business side of the Association had to be taken care of first. On Wednesday the Pacers held a press conference at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to announce that West, along with point-guard C.J. Watson, have officially signed their free-agent contracts to play with Indiana.

See: West’s new contract best move for Pacers, himself

“Just the environment that we have, the things that we have done here, I wasn’t going to find a match anywhere,” said West about his three-year, $36 million dollar contract that keeps him a Pacer through the 2015-16 season.

“Again we are right there in terms of how close we are to our ultimate goal. I just didn’t want to mess with that. The guys, and the relationships that I have with some of the guys in this group, and the communication that we have. When you find it, and it fits, you don’t play with it.”

West, who the Pacers got on a discounted two-year $20 million dollar contract due to past knee problems two year ago, has been a force down-low for Indiana. By the numbers he averaged 17.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, and played 73 games during this past season. Just as much as he has contributed on the court, West has been one of the main voices in the Pacers locker room, an established veteran that many of the younger players have looked up too over the two years that he has been in Indianapolis.

“He has done more for this franchise than he could ever imagine,” said President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird.

“Coming in here, establishing himself as a great player on the court, in the locker room, and in the city doing special things. You don’t find men, or players, with the caliber of just being tough, honest, and competing every night as you do in David. David has been so valuable to this franchise, you just don’t see it very often in this league. There are special players that come through and are great players, but they don’t give their heart and soul on the court and in the locker room to make other players better.”

After the free agency nightmare that Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard put himself through, among the many other players that each off-season tend to sell their goods to the highest bidder, it seems that West’s decision to stay with the Pacers and not spend time shopping around his options is something not seen very much in the game today. For that, the Pacers organization seems very grateful.
“It is very rare,” said Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel. “It’s just a blessing for our franchise. The opportunity for our organization, and everybody who seems to be falling in love with the new Indiana Pacers, it is just so fortunate that you have a guy of that caliber that wants to be here. He doesn’t even want to consider anywhere else, that knows that this is the culture that we hope to be the gold-standard over the next ten years.”
Now that West has his contract signed with the squad, he set out the mission-goal for his team for the upcoming 2013-14 season. Not only does West want the Pacers to be in the Eastern Conference Finals again, but he wants the team to wrap up the number-one seed in the Eastern Conference Finals, perhaps putting them in better position to win throughout the playoffs.
“We are all going to be pointed in the same direction and that is from the top-down,” said West.
“From the front-office to the locker room, everybody is looking at the same goal and the same direction. We aren’t going to regress, and I think guys got a taste. I remember a week or so after the season that everybody was still kind of buzzing, the coach still had that feeling buzzing, and we all had that feeling that we should have been playing. We are going to prepare as early as we can to be in that same spot at the end of next season, but we want home-court advantage.”
Wednesday afternoon wasn’t just David West’s day however, as six-year veteran point guard C.J. Watson also signed with the Pacers for a two-year deal. Watson, who averaged 6.8 points and 2.0 assists in 80 games for the Brooklyn Nets last season, will replace D.J. Augustin as a substitute for starter George Hill. Bird had noted that improving the bench was one of his priorities this off-season, and believes the signing of Watson takes that into the right direction.
“We wanted to bring in the guys who can come off the bench, hold the lead, or even get a bigger lead for us,” said Bird. “I’m very happy to have him.”
Watson, who along with Brooklyn has had stints in both Golden State and Chicago, seems to be very excited about the chance to play for a contender.
“Hopefully I can do that from day one and end it on a good note,” said Watson. “Hopefully we can get to the Finals and win a championship for the city.”
The Pacers also have a deal set in place with former-Knicks forward Chris Copeland, a sharp-shooter off the bench that will be with the team for two years and $6 million.
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