LaMarcus Aldridge is the big-name free agent acquisition for the Spurs, the superduperstar who's supposed to be the sherpa that guides them back atop of the NBA mountain. Obviously getting him was quite the coup, even for the league's most well-respected organization. He was the big story of the summer, he'll continue to be all season long, and he'll be the centerpiece of the team for the conceivable future.
However, as amazing it was to get Aldridge to sign his name to the dotted line, it wasn't a shock. It was a move that was heavily rumored well before the free agency period started and the Spurs were always regarded as the favorites to get him for various well-documented reasons.
It's another veteran power forward choosing to come to San Antonio that really caused heads to spin and jaws to drop, both inside and outside of San Antonio.
Even months after the fact, people still can't get over David West leaving $12.6 million on the table with his former club, the Indiana Pacers, to sign with the Spurs for the veterans' minimum of $1.4 million. Tim Duncan, who's taken considerably less than market value himself the past few years so that the Spurs could surround him with the talent to win, said he was "floored" by West's sacrifice, while Manu Ginobili described the move as "a shocker," while conceding that Aldridge was in the team's plans from the get-go.
"I thought it was incredible that he would say that he wants to be on a winning team, a winning organization and pull the trigger, to give up what he gave up and commit to coming here," Duncan said. "Not only that, but being around him the last couple of weeks, I think he's gonna have a tremendous influence on our team and be a tremendous help for us."
Similarly, Gregg Popovich, who'll be West's new coach, admitted he was impressed by West putting his money where his mouth is, so to speak. "What he did was real and true," Popovich said, while noting that Danny Green also took less than he could've gotten elsewhere to stay in San Antonio. "Everybody has their own motivation... we're happy that he thought enough of us to join us."
Ironically, West said that he almost thought of himself as "selfish," for passing up on all that dough.
"It was me and my agent, we kind of just put it out there," he explained. "My agent knew where I was going with it. I don't think anybody expected it. Everybody was kind of hearing it, but then when it was reality they were like ‘Yeah, okay, that's what's up.' For me it was the right decision to make for me, for my situation, being a little selfish, wanting to be a part of this organization, learn, and get in this mix."
While I can't quite picture Pop or R.C. Buford saying, "Yeah, that's what's up," I don't doubt the sincerity of West's feelings, especially as he expounded on it.
"It wasn't really a difficult decision," West insisted. "I guess it's just nature, everybody is just focused on money right now, I guess it's just the society that we're living in, but truth be told it wasn't a big decision for me or my family. I've been preparing to put myself in this position to choose what I wanted to do in my career from day one. I've always been very strategic in that manner. This was a very calculated decision, it wasn't something that was made using emotions or anything like that, it was a very calculated, very thought out. I examined where I was, who I am as a player, as a person, and felt like this environment would be best suited for me at this moment, so it wasn't necessarily about what I was giving up but more about what I'm looking to gain."
What West's looking to gain, obviously, is a championship. He's a two-time All-Star and has maxed out his ability for someone who was the 18th overall pick out of Xavier in 2003 and never all that explosive of an athlete or possessing ideal size for his position. The closest he's gotten is a pair of trips to the Eastern Conference Finals with the Pacers.
West said the Spurs were on his radar from the outset, but them being able to sign Aldridge was what cinched it for him, which is usually the opposite of how these things go. Most free agents would look elsewhere once a potential suitor signs a guy who plays the same position.
"He's one of those guys that's an elite talent," West said of Aldridge. "I'm looking at the landscape and I'm saying ‘If he goes there, they've got another shot at it, so I've got to be a part of it.' I was already thinking about coming here and just wanting to be a part of this environment, to see what it's all about, I've heard so much about it, just wanted to be a part of it, so when he made that decision, I was like ‘Yeah. Now let's go and experience it.'"
How long the experience lasts remains to be seen, but West has already shown he's all in.
I'd also encourage you to check out Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports' story on West. It's quite good.