After years of being stuck in mediocrity and hovering around the final spot in the playoffs, the Indiana Pacers finally took a huge leap this year. David West’s addition this offseason was a big reason why. West not only brought an offensive post presence to the Pacers, but he brought playoff experience, more toughness to an already gritty team, and leadership qualities to a team that needed that badly. While the Pacers are a team built without a superstar, there is a lot of depth and a lot of talent on the roster and they should be able to get past the Orlando Magic in the first round. After an early exit in last year’s playoffs, that would be another great step for a team whose future looks bright.
David West joined 1070 the Fan in Indianapolis to talk about how he feels heading into the playoffs, whether he has brought a veteran, leadership presence to the locker room, if he thought the Pacers would be as good as they were in the regular season, on the match-up against Orlando and if he looks at himself as the guy the offense should run through late in games.
How he feels heading into the playoffs:
“In terms of my health I feel great. I’m really locked in mentally to what we’re trying to do. We challenged ourselves to finish the season as one of the hottest teams and we were able to do that. We finished 12-3 and there was really only one team and that’s the Spurs that had a better record than us during that stretch. It’s just about us being locked in as a team and obviously when our individual parts are performing well our team performs well.”
If he has taken on the leadership qualities for Indiana:
“Guys look for me in certain instances where maybe there’s some uncertainty but we have a great group. Leandro (Barbosa) has helped in that regard and he’s had some incredible playoff runs with the Phoenix Suns and we’re able to say a few things to these guys just in terms of what to expect but this group is talented, is a very confident group. We know our work is cut out for us but preparing the right way for a better opponent.”
If he thought the Pacers would be this good:
“I’ve been telling people for the last week or so that just in terms of the talent that’s here, the size of the team, the makeup of the guys, I think where we are is exactly where we felt like we could be at the start of the season competing as one of the top teams in terms of home court advantage in the East. We never doubted it for a second. I thought we did a great job in terms of a unit and growing, putting our hard hats on, humbling ourselves when needed to be and putting ourselves in a good situation.”
On the match-up against Orlando:
“They don’t have that inside presence that Dwight brings them but they’re a dangerous team because they’re shooting more threes than anybody and really spreading you out. Our defense is really going to be put to the test in terms of handling their spread offense and guys who can shoot the three from all over the floor and they’re doing it at a very high rate. We just have to guard against that letdown. We have to come prepared to play, guard the three point line and depend on one another.”
If he thinks he is the option late in the game on offense:
“I consider myself to be another option. I think what happens is we throw me into the mix and there’s a little uncertainty from opposing teams in terms of how they’re willing to help off me, how much they’re willing to give me in terms of my space. We’ve done a great job of playing off of that. There are times where I know I’m going to be a decoy and free other guys up. The last month of the season we’ve been able to get kind of a good rhythm in terms of knowing who is going, when to go to the guy and it’s been working out for us. We’re going to have to be that much more precise. We have to be very determined in our movements and what we want to accomplish on every single offensive possession.”