David West is headed north to Indiana, where he will join forces with Danny Granger and former Hornets teammate Darren Collison.
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West agreed to a two-year deal with the Pacers on Sunday that his agent, Lance Young, said was worth $20 million.
”Indy was a team that I was really giving a good, hard look at,” West said in a phone interview. ”They’ve got a good balance in terms of a couple good veterans and some really good young players. There are some budding guys and I think that’s a team that I can help in the next couple years.”
The Pacers have not yet announced the free-agent signing, but West said he planned to be in Indianapolis on Monday.
West, a two-time All-Star who was drafted 18th overall by New Orleans in 2003, started 70 games for the Hornets last season, averaging 18.9 points and 7.6 rebounds before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a victory at Utah on March 24.
The 31-year-old had reconstructive surgery on April 12 and opted out of a deal 2 1/2 months later that would have paid him $7.5 million with the Hornets this season. West said he has been rehabilitating vigorously and has felt strong enough to play for a number of weeks now.
”I just feel good. Obviously you can’t really simulate what the NBA environment and atmosphere is, but I’m anxious to get back on the floor and play,” West said. ”I’m confident in the rehab that I’ve done and I’ll be eight months out of surgery. So the timing is pretty good and I just feel like once I’m able to get back on the floor and get a rhythm, just getting my basketball flow back, it should be great.”
When West decided to test free agency, he said the main reason was because he wanted to find a place where he could win right away. He did not rule out a return to New Orleans, but said he wanted to explore every opportunity.
West saw the Pacers as a team on the rise. He called Granger ”one of the best small forwards in the league,” and said the Pacers have ”a good young center” in Roy Hibbert.
West also said he was comfortable playing with Collison, who shined as a rookie in New Orleans two seasons ago while Chris Paul was hurt.
”It’s just an opportunity for me to go up there and make my mark and really help them,” West said.
Hornets general manager Dell Demps said when last season ended that bringing West back would be one of his priorities, but West was concerned about things that at this point seem to be beyond the control of both Demps and Hornets coach Monty Williams, namely, the ownership situation.
The Hornets have been owned by the NBA since December 2010 and the league is trying to find a new owner who will keep the team in Louisiana.
The Hornets also went into the season with only five returning veterans on the roster, and with Paul, their marquee player, the subject of incessant trade talk.
”I’ve got the utmost respect for Monty, what he is and what he’s about. But at this time in my career, I just needed something more certain, something more stable, and the same thing goes with Dell,” West said. ”Those guys are really good at what they do. It’s just an unfortunate situation that both of those guys have been put in. Same thing with the players down there. It’s just too much uncertainty in terms of the direction the team is going in, the ownership situation.
”There just really is no direction with no legitimate owner, so that just makes it tough. It really made it tough for me to see myself going back there,” West continued. ”Obviously, I have nothing but respect for the City of New Orleans and the people. It’s one of the most unique places to be in the United States and I’m going to miss that. My wife and I, we’ve been down there for eight years and it’s really a part of us. We made some lifelong friends down there, people that are really special. That’s probably the hardest thing in terms of walking away.
”But at this moment in my career, there’s just too much uncertainty about what the situation is down there.”