Caught in the Web: West not only "a bad man," he's very, very good


"David West is a bad man," the coach said, "and I am not talking about the altercation at all."

As West demonstrated Thursday night, he not only is bad -- as Milwaukee's Larry Sanders confronted him in the late-game scrum, it appeared to this amateur courtside lip-reader West said "you (messed) with the wrong man, young fella," or words to that effect -- he is very, very good.

The line in the box score was remarkable. West had 21 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, shot 9 of 14 from the field and committed one foul while playing 32 typically physical minutes in an atypically physical game.

"David West is the enforcer," said Paul George. "He's the player that's not going to let the ticky-tack stuff happen down low. He's our backbone, when it comes to our toughness."

In New Orleans, he put numbers like those up with more frequency because that's what the team needed. With the Pacers, the stats have been more modest but the impact has been profound.

'What's been so pleasant about having David here is the team-first mentality, the selflessness, the desire to just fit in and contribute to the whole," Vogel said. "You never really know what to expect when you get a guy as accomplished as he is coming into a new environment. It's just been a breath of fresh air all year."

When West joined the Pacers, he was still recovering from ACL surgery and hadn't played basketball in months. Understandably, it took him awhile to get his legs back under him, build his conditioning, find his rhythm -- all while adapting to new teammates and schemes.

His overall averaged (12.3 points, 6.5 rebounds) scarcely reflect his contributions to the team. Almost without fail when the team has needed him, he has been there.

"That's one guy you don't want to make mad," Danny Granger said. "He's a monster under the goal and he plays the game the right way. He scores when it's there, he passes, he rebounds, he does everything you want your power forward to do. That's why he's such a special part of this team."

West likes to say when the weather warms up, so does he because that means the finish line is in sight and the postseason is on the way.

In the last three games he has avearged 18.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and shot 52.3 percent. He had 22 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in less than 23 minutes against Minnesota, and was again a dominant force inside against the Bucks.

"I just think that at this time of year, the group, we're growing closer and we're starting to lay it on the line for one another and that's kind of fueling us down this back stretch," West said. "We're genuinely out there playing for one another. The starting group, we've improved on how we start games and how we come out and set the tone and it's helping."

As for his role in the Sanders situation, West simply became the tip of the spear and the human shield.

"I know I can handle myself in the midst of all that ruckus," he said. "I wanted to make sure our guard was out of the way. If there was anything, which wasn't going to happen, I take the brunt of it."

The quiet man in the background most of the season, West has stepped very much to the forefront down the stretch.

Playoff time is coming and, when you get right down to it, this is why he chose Indiana over Boston.

"He is playing at an extraordinarily high level ... and driving this team to be great, leading us in competitive spirit and determination and will and physicality and toughness and mental toughness," Vogel said. "He's a big part of what we're doing right now and I can't wait to see how far he leads us in the playoffs."