REPORT: David West Opts Out of Contract

Dec 20, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Indiana Pacers forward David West (21) during the game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 20, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Indiana Pacers forward David West (21) during the game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

David West could have played for the Indiana Pacers next season on the final year of his deal and earn $12 million. But he won’t do that, according to Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star.

This comes as a surprise not only to the person currently typing, but also to Larry Bird.

In response to the news, the Pacers president announced that “I have been in touch with David or his agent, Jeff Austin. So, until then he’s a member of our team.”

Weird stuff.

While I wouldn’t doubt the Indy Star report, this does add some intrigue in the sense that whoever the source is may have been misinformed. Then again, West simply might have told some people his decision in private and they leaked that info before he was able to get in touch with the team. By all accounts, West is one of the more professional players in the league, so I would imagine one of his first moves after coming to a final decision would be informing bosses he respects as much as Bird and others in the organization. I would imagine we’ll hear a confirmation in one direction or the other in the very near future.

If he is gone, the presumption is him leaving in free agency as opposed to trying to re-sign for a longer deal in Indiana (for, say, $20 million guaranteed over two years). I would consider that second possibility slim if the team hasn’t heard from him yet and likely wouldn’t want him around at that price for two more years.

So … free agency it is.

Though this doesn’t make a ton of sense either in some ways.

Is he really forgoing $12 million just to move to another city and be a reserve for some brand new organization? I’m no personal friends with the man, but doesn’t sound like him.

Right after Paul George broke his leg last summer,  West stated that he wasn’t much of a ring chaser, in an article by Buckner in Indy Star.

"“I’m not going to be one of those guys that’s just out here chasing that. I’m not going to be one those guys out here sacrificing who I am, the things that make me me, to go out and get a material goal. That’s just not the way I’m wired,” West declared. “So, I understand we’re not in that space anymore in terms of this group, but that’s fine. It’s just a reality you have to deal with, but you got to accept it and face it in order to get yourself moving and producing positively.”"

Then again, a lot of people see themselves as one thing one day and end up dong something else later. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as there is nothing wrong with wanting the miles you put on your 35-year-old body to actually have a chance to help a team win a title.

In the same piece, however, West also said that he knew retirement was coming soon.

"“I was already close to retiring a couple years ago,” West said after practice. “I was telling guys then, if we had won the championship [in 2013], I probably would have walked away.”"

So maybe he has just had enough. Enough of the NBA, enough of the pounding on his body, enough going through such a long season.

Or maybe it is as simple as it seems and he’s just had enough of Indiana.

The 2013-14 team looked like a juggernaut before it unraveled late in the season, limping to the Eastern Conference finals and getting pasted by LeBron in the Heat. Nothing much has surfaced in terms of some catastrophic locker room fallout, but there was clearly some interpersonal and/or psychological issues that led to the meltdown.

Then the team’s franchise player shattered his leg three months before they tried to redeem themselves. Then West sprained his ankle in preseason and missed the first month of games. Then the team was awful to mediocre to boring to promising to disappointing all year.

So it’s fair to assume that any feelings he had 82 games ago have changed.

Regardless, West has already solidified himself as a Pacer great. He was the keystone of a culture change that led to the team’s first run of success in a decade. He was the one in the locker room that demanded everyone’s respect.

He will be missed.

Though the good news for the Pacers if he’s gone is that they will have some cap room to play around with. This could vary a bit depending on some payroll nuances, but they are probably looking at about $9 million to sign a free agent (perhaps Monta Ellis?).

(Again, there is still some possibility that West doesn’t want to leave and instead just is trying to re-sign for, perhaps, something like two years, $20 million. But, again, since the team hasn’t heard from him, per Bird, then that seems remote.)

The cap-room news could get even better in a few days, too. If Roy Hibbert now looks at a reduced role on a team without its patriarch and decides to opt out as well, than that number is more like $24 million.

Indiana has a reputation as a team that struggles to lure free agents, but that kind of cheddar will get you an excellent player or two.

Next: Better Fit in Indiana: Willie Cauley-Stein or Myles Turner?

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