I don't know why I've never been a fan of David West. I don't have a good reason for it. He's never been obnoxious that I can recall. He's never been a goon. I've never thought of him as a "Spurs killer," though there is ample evidence that he's been exactly that.
West has averaged 17.7 points and 7.9 rebounds in 29 career games against the Spurs. He's only bettered that scoring mark against the Warriors and Thunder, and just the Bucks, Warriors, Lakers and Nuggets on the glass. He was on that "New Orleans Hornets" team with Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler that took the Spurs to seven games in the 2008 Western Conference Semi-Finals and averaged 20 and 9 with 38 points and 14 boards in Game 5.
Maybe it was just the grimace. West was one of those dudes who seemed to have a perpetual scowl, like a Kendrick Perkins, Derrick Rose or Chris Kaman. Even though I suffer from "resting grouch face" I can't seem to manage any sympathy for it in others.
West has always been a solid player, though his efficiency numbers -- career .492 eFG -- have never been very good and he's never gotten to the free-throw line very much or been a monster on the glass. His defense could be best described as functional. But when you consider that he's only 6'9, with limited athleticism and that he came out of a mid-major school, the view gets rosier. West's career has far exceeded any reasonable expectations for someone who wasn't even a lottery pick.
He's always been an interesting guy, and this isn't the first time he's chosen to play for someone for less money than what was offered elsewhere. As a free agent intent on moving on from the Hornets in 2011, West agreed two a two-year, $20 million contract from a nondescript Pacers squad instead of taking a three-year $29 million offer from a Celtics team that had won the Finals in 2008. Indy, with Paul George in his rookie season, had gone 37-45 the year before West signed on. Why choose them over a contender in Boston?
Maybe he just wanted to make a difference on the court and off. The Celtics had Kevin Garnett entrenched at power forward and the locker room belonged to him and Paul Pierce. The Pacers offered not only the promise of starting minutes, but also a bunch of impressionable youngsters like George, Roy Hibbert, Lance Stephenson and Darren Collison looking for a steadying veteran presence. He helped the Pacers to a 42-win season the next year (in a 66-game campaign), then 49 wins, and then 56, along with a couple of trips to the conference finals.
It couldn't have been the easiest group to play with, and West, who will turn 35 by the coming season opener, sensed that time was running short to win an elusive championship. He said that he was turned off with how Pacers president Larry Bird and coach Frank Vogel made Roy Hibbert the team's scapegoat for past failures and didn't like how they publicly tried to goad him into opting out of his contract by saying he'd be benched if he returned.
So he opted out, walking away from a contract that would've paid him $12.6 million to pursue a ring with San Antonio for the veteran's minimum. He's banked nearly $90 million so far so there's no need to nominate him for sainthood or anything, but it's interesting that he chose the Spurs over the Warriors or Cavs, who both reportedly offered more money. Veterans searching for bling always seem to follow LeBron James, and West played at Xavier and still has family in Ohio.
Playing time might have factored in his decision. Gregg Popovich uses his bench liberally, especially during the regular season, and he'll want to rest Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Boris Diaw all he can for the playoffs. With the Warriors, West would've taken over Marreese Speights' role, and would've been the third power forward in Cleveland. Certainly the idea of going to a stable no-nonsense locker room free of drama -- even George had issues behind the scenes a couple of seasons ago -- had to be appealing. Unlike Garnett's Celtics or James' Cavs, there isn't an overwhelming amount of media distractions in San Antonio, and Duncan's understated leadership style lets everyone else breathe.
I'm not sure how he'll fit in on the floor with Duncan, Aldridge and Diaw. His numbers took a dip last season and he's definitely entered his decline phase. If he can give the Spurs 15 good minutes a night, it'll be a win.
All I know is, after what went down in the league Wednesday between the Clippers, Mavericks and DeAndre Jordan, I've definitely gained a whole new appreciation for West before he's even played a minute for the Spurs. Pop continually says that he's fond of players who have "gotten over themselves," and I have no concerns about West fitting into San Antonio's culture quickly.
A guy like Jordan may seem like a lovable goofball from the outside, but the thing about goofballs is you always have to worry about them doing something goofball-ish, on the floor or off. The Jordans of the world make the league more interesting no doubt, but you sure don't want to have to rely on them.
The only national headlines West is going to make will be for the discount he took to join the Spurs. There won't be emoji wars or jokes at his expense. He won't need a crew of teammates and enabling coaches to hold his hand and placate him with a slumber party, to protect him from a boogeyman owner he's afraid to call. He'll just be a pro on a roster full of pros.
Maybe that's why I've never been a fan. You catch a dude play a handful of games each season and nothing about him stands out or catches your eye. He just plays, pretty well but not well enough to catch attention, and all you remember is that trademark scowl.
He probably should've been a Spur all along.