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A vindicated David West recalls Celtics snub

by: Ben Rohrbach on Sat, 11/23/2013 - 2:37am

When he turned down a three-year, $29 million offer from the Celtics in favor of a two-year, $20 million deal with the Pacers in December 2011, David West took a long look at Boston's roster and saw this coming.

"The age. More than anything the age. You go from trying to win a championship year after year after year, and then at some point you know the window is going to close," said West after amassing 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals in handing the Celtics their sixth straight defeat. "That’s just how the league works. I think most teams go through it at some point, and it just so happens that they’re going through it right now."

Of course, even West admitted his decision didn't seem so prescient when the Celtics reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals that first season and desperately needed his services to unseat the Heat -- the criticism levied by Ray Allen in the weeks after his decision only rubbing salt in the two-time NBA All-Star's wound.

"Once it got down to the end, I think his ego kicked back in," Allen told ESPN.com's Jackie MacMullan at the time. "He wanted the dollars. I guess it comes down to 'What is a championship worth to you?'

"Think of all the guys who have made $20 million and could be considered one of the best ever, but they get chided because they never won. We all had to do less when we won. We're still taking less to make it work. But it's worth it. No one can ever say to KG [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce] or me, 'You guys never got your ring.'"

But West feels vindicated now, helping lead the Pacers to the same situation this past June -- a Game 7 loss to Miami in the conference finals -- and a league-best 11-1 record to start this season. Meanwhile, he watched as Allen himself snubbed Boston for a brighter future and the Celtics dealt Pierce and Garnett to Brooklyn. The writing was on the wall two years ago, and that "absolutely" played into West's decision to choose these young Pacers.

"Absolutely," reiterated West, who re-signed in Indiana for three years and $36.6 million this past summer. "I felt like the window here was a little different. Boston may have been able to compete that first year, but now it’s different. That was part of the thought process: How long would they keep that group together? And ultimately at this stage I just wanted to be part of a team that was going to compete these next few years for a championship."

Now, as West's Pacers and Allen's Heat appear destined for a conference finals rematch, the Celtics are left wondering what might have been had the former college player of the year chosen Boston two years ago. Would an 18th banner be hanging from the Garden rafters? Would that championship window remain propped open?

“David West is a stud. David West has been a stud since he played at Xavier," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who was a low-level Butler assistant when West captured three straight Atlantic 10 Player of the Year honors some 100 miles south on Interstate 74. "And he looked like he does now when he played at Xavier, as a matter of fact. He's a winner. You read articles on them or you talk to people in that organization -- they’ve got a ton of talented guys -- and I think they would all say that David West is the rock. Boy, does he play like it.”

For what it's worth, the feeling is mutual between Stevens and West, who's "always been a fan of Butler and the way he was able to coach those teams up" but has no relationship with the Celtics coach despite their Indiana ties.

"Teams go through this," said West, a member of the Hornets' rise and fall last decade. "It just so happens this is the time they’re going to go through their rebuilding and try to get things back on track, but the team plays hard. He’s coaching them up. He’s got them running some pretty good stuff. They caught us off-guard in the first half. ...

"They’ve got some young pieces. They’ve got a good young coach. They won’t be in this situation for long."

The Celtics can only hope West is as good at predicting future success as he was their demise.