Hornets Insider: Six Things to Know About David West

Hornets Insider: Six Things To Know About David West
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com
February 17, 2011

He’s made back-to-back All-Star appearances. He’s led his team in scoring over a full season three times. He’s been one of pro basketball’s most productive power forwards for a half-decade. So how is it, then, that compared to many of his peers with similar or fewer career credentials, David West has remained so relatively anonymous? The short answer: He prefers it that way.

“D West is an amazing dude,” Hornets first-year coach Monty Williams described. “He’s so unassuming and doesn’t want any press. When you look at his list of accomplishments, you forget it because of his personality. He just wants to come to work.”

“He’s very private,” said former teammate Hilton Armstrong, now with the Washington Wizards. “He is the type of guy who doesn’t care if he always has people around him. As long as he does what he needs to, to provide for his family, he’s fine.”

“I usually just hang with my family,” West says of how he spends free time. “I’m not a big go-out type of guy. That’s not my deal.”

Given how difficult it is to get the eight-year NBA veteran to boast about his basketball achievements, Hornets.com interviewed an array of Hornets coaches and teammates – past and present – to try to find out more about one of the league’s quietest stars. Here are six things you may not know about the 30-year-old, who’s spent his entire career with the Hornets after being drafted 18th overall in 2003:

1) He’s a man of very few words…

Williams recently told the story of West’s trip to his alma mater, Xavier (Ohio), for the player’s induction into the school’s Hall of Fame. When Williams pulled West aside the next day to ask how the ceremony went, he expected a recap of the event, with perhaps a few glowing descriptions of what it’s like to be honored by your school in that fashion. Williams instead got a one-sentence, four-word response.

“He said, ‘It was pretty cool,’ ” Williams said, laughing. “That was a lot for D West.”

While six-year teammate Chris Paul tends to be more vocal in dealing with younger Hornets players, West’s style can be best described as lead-by-example. Williams believes West’s quiet demeanor actually hurts him in terms of recognition around the basketball world. Despite the Hornets arguably being the NBA’s biggest surprise during the first half of 2010-11, West received little mention during All-Star roster discussions.

“I just think (it’s) because of his personality,” Williams said. “He doesn’t bring any attention to himself, he’s not out there campaigning, he doesn’t compare himself to anyone, and he doesn’t really care about the All-Star Game, at least vocally. And yet he plays like an All-Star every night. He should be in the conversation and should be an All-Star. You name three or four (power forwards) who are better than him in the (conference), and I’ll challenge you every time.

“He’s been efficient all year long. He’s scored 20-plus points a number of times this year. He’s hit game-winning shots. His defense is better than it’s been his whole career. And yet he’s not in the conversation nationally.”

2) …but he’s more talkative than he once was.
West admits that early in his career, he was a bit suspicious of the media, sometimes wondering what certain reporters’ motives were when they approached him. That eventually changed as he spent more time in the NBA.

“At some point I realized that (the media) are not necessarily the enemy,” West said. “A lot of times, especially when you come into the league as a rookie, you hear about bad things being written about your teammates or other players around the league, and you start to think that every reporter asking you questions is (negative), or trying to get information on the bad (aspects of a player). But you can’t do that. Everyone has their angle and every (reporter) is different. You can’t go into it thinking that everyone (has harmful intentions).”

West’s maturity and altered perspective have been important in the New Orleans locker room, because West is the second-most relied-upon Hornets player by the media (with Paul being first). His locker is often surrounded by reporters after games, requiring him to handle that responsibility on a nightly basis. He tends to be one of the more blunt players in the league, generally speaking in honest terms after losses or poor performances by the Hornets.

As Williams puts it, “David is a guy who’s not about a lot of fluff.”

3) There’s at least one unique reason why – as one popular sign states in the New Orleans Arena – it’s not a wise idea to “mess with D West.”
If you run into West in New Orleans somewhere and want to strike up a conversation, here’s one ice-breaking topic that may get him talking: Boxing. West is an avid boxing fan who can occasionally be heard analyzing some of the sport’s biggest upcoming fights. The 6-foot-9, 240-pounder has also spent parts of his summer training to box, something Williams took note of shortly after becoming New Orleans’ head coach.

“Personally, the thing that freaked me out was when I first got here, (West) was doing some interview and they asked him what was his best off-the-court attribute,” Williams remembered, smiling. “I thought he’d say something like (a conventional, tame hobby such as) poetry or hiking. But David said, ‘My left hook.’ ”

A laughing Williams adds: “(When I saw that), I thought, ‘OK, note to self, don’t mess with D West. He loves to box.’ ”

4) The stretch run of the 82-game season is when West’s at his best…
While some players tend to run out of steam a bit as the lengthy NBA schedule progresses, the Teaneck, N.J.-born West has consistently peaked in the months of March and April. It’s a testament to West’s conditioning and discipline that his production frequently climbs after the All-Star break, when mental and physical fatigue can set in as a result of constant travel and frequent back-to-back games.

“This is not a sprint,” West said of the NBA regular season. “You don’t want to start out like gangbusters, and then tail off over the last 30 games of the year. That’s never my intention. I always try to make sure I’m going the right way toward the end."

The numbers convincingly demonstrate West’s knack for performing at a high level when the Hornets are jockeying for playoff seeding over the final few weeks of the season. Of West’s 39 career games in which he’s scored 30-plus points, 24 of them have occurred after the All-Star break. The month in which he’s tallied the most 30-point regular season games is April, with 11, which is even more impressive when you consider that April always includes fewer games than other months due to the start of the NBA playoffs.

5) …he also ups his play in the second game of back-to-backs.
Back-to-back games are an unavoidable part of life in the NBA. During the pre-All-Star break portion of the 2010-11 season, for example, the Hornets were scheduled to play 14 of them, a total of 28 games that accounts for nearly half of their 58 contests. While it would be understandable for players’ statistics to dip in the second game of a back-to-back set, especially after nearly always having to travel to another city between the pair of games, West actually improves.

The durable player – who has only missed two games combined in 2009-10 and 2010-11 – has averaged 20.9 points in the second game of back-to-backs this season. In all of West’s other appearances, his scoring average is 18.5.

“He’s a mentally tough guy, I think we all know that,” Williams said. “I think in the offseason, what he does with his conditioning program, his body is ready to take on the rigors of a back-to-back.”
Williams was immediately impressed with West’s willingness to play while not being 100 percent physically, something the coach didn’t fully understand as an opposing assistant coach with Portland. Perhaps the most memorable game of West’s career – and certainly one of the best individual performances in Hornets history – took place in Game 5 of the 2008 Western Conference semifinals. West racked up 38 points in a victory over the then-defending champion Spurs, despite limping around the court and nursing an aggravated back injury.

“I remember a few years back he had twisted his ankle badly, and guys had to help him on and off the floor,” Williams said. “I was thinking, ‘Why don’t they just take him out?’

“I understand why now, because David refuses to take days off. He doesn’t like to come out of games, and he’s just a tough dude.”

6) He’s underrated, partly because his game’s never been SportsCenter-worthy.
In a sports-media environment where flashy, highlight-reel plays go viral on YouTube within minutes of them occurring, West’s style of play is kind of like the NBA’s version of a black-and-white TV. He’s not a great leaper, so many of his slam dunks are of the basic, no-frills variety (with a few exceptions - see above). He has one of the smoothest perimeter shots among frontcourt players in the NBA, but he doesn’t shoot fan-friendly three-pointers, sticking mainly to the 15- to 20-foot range. He’s also generated very little news away from basketball throughout his career, with no off-the-court travails or product endorsements to speak of.

In fact, in a somewhat fitting twist, perhaps the only times West assures himself of making the nightly highlight shows are when he scores game-winning baskets, as he did Jan. 24 vs. Oklahoma City.

“If he was a guy who beat his chest or had a scandal off the floor,” Williams said sarcastically, “he’d probably get a lot more notoriety. But he doesn’t do that and that’s why we love him.

“I think he’s underrated because he’s not a dunker. He’s not a guy who’s going to be running on the break and throwing it down backwards. The thing that people don’t realize is that David can shoot three-pointers – he just refuses to, because that’s not (the strongest part of) his skill set. He probably won’t get the recognition, being in a small market, but you look at his stats at the end of the night, and you’re wowed because he always ends up in that 18 points, 10 rebounds (range), and he’ll get a couple steals. He’s not afraid to take the shot, and always makes big plays at the end of games.”

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