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New Pacers F West used lockout time to heal

By Cliff Brunt
AP Sports Writer / December 13, 2011
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INDIANAPOLIS—David West is fine with the late start to the NBA season.

Indiana's new forward is one of the few players who benefited from the lockout. Last season, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a victory at Utah on March 24. The 31-year-old West had surgery April 12 and was told he'd need six to nine months to recover.

Thanks to the extended break, he will be ready in time for the start of the season.

"For a guy like me, it helped me," the two-time All-Star said. "It would have been a lot of time missed. I just attacked my rehab and knew this lockout was looming."

West agreed to a two-year deal with the Pacers on Sunday that his agent, Lance Young, said was worth $20 million. The two-time All-Star was drafted 18th overall by New Orleans in 2003 and he started 70 games for the Hornets last season.

He didn't rule out a return to New Orleans, but he is looking forward to a new home in Indiana.

West, who trained in Raleigh, N.C., said it was a challenge rehabbing without the help of a team. He said he is ready to show he can produce like last season, when he averaged 18.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.

"I've been running and dunking and jumping for a very long time, probably sooner than I should have been," he said. "I trust my rehab, I trust the work and the time that I put in, but you can't simulate what an NBA practice is, and definitely not an NBA game. I've got to have some time to get myself into that sort of grind."

Pacers president Larry Bird said he isn't worried about West's knee.

"I leave it up to my medical staff," he said. "I think we've got one of the best, if not the best, medical staffs in the league. They're very comfortable with it. They thought the knee was very healthy."

West said he's anxious, but he'll be careful.

"I'm going to be smart about it," he said. "I want to be ready to go when these games count and start adding up. I'm going to be very open with the coaching staff and very attached to the training staff and be aggressive about this."

West said he signed with the Pacers because he believes the team is ready to win big. Indiana reached the playoffs last season, then added guard George Hill from San Antonio in a draft-night trade. West also is glad to be reunited with Darren Collison, who was a point guard for the Hornets two seasons ago.

"This is one of the teams, especially in the East, that can make a lot of noise," West said. "They're one of the deepest teams in the league. They've got quality guys at every position."

West will take advantage of the new scenery.

"I just felt like where I was was just too comfortable, and I wanted to be uncomfortable," he said. "I wanted to go into a situation where I have to earn the trust of guys, earn the trust of coaches. Especially at this point in my career, I felt like I wanted a challenge."

West looks forward to teaming with 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert.

"I've never played with a big guy I could just give the ball to and let him work," he said. "That's always been my role."

He also likes forward Danny Granger, Indiana's leading scorer last season.

"Obviously, Danny Granger is the horse on this team," he said. "I'm going to have some conversations with him and Roy because, playing against them, those were the guys we identified as their guys. I want to add to those two. I want to use what I bring to the table to help improve them as ballplayers."

Bird said there will be more moves ahead.

"We're not done," he said. "We've still got $14-15 million in cap space. Not that we're going to use it all, but if we see somebody we like, we're going after him."

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cliffbruntap

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