INDIANAPOLIS — The goatee covering the chin of the oldest Indiana Pacers player is grown out to more than an inch in length.
This forest of dark whiskers is the unofficial exclamation point to David West’s menacing triple threat. The ideal complement to a chiseled 6-foot-9, 250-pound frame complete with Venice Beach-worthy arms responsible for more ink than most term papers.
West’s tattoos offer a glimpse inside the man who clearly doesn’t mind a good needling now and then.
The large “X” at the top of his left limb honors Xavier University, West’s alma mater and a place he could have bolted from early for the riches of the NBA had he not been so dedicated to teammates and the late Skip Prosser, his college coach as a freshman and sophomore.
The West file
Name: David West
Family: Wife, Lesley; daughter, Dasia; son, David
Born: Teaneck, N.J.
High school: Garner (N.C.) Magnet, 1999
College: Xavier University, 2003
Drafted: 18th overall by New Orleans Hornets in 2003
Did you know: Xavier retired West’s No. 30 jersey, making him one of three Musketeers to be so honored, along with Bryron Larkin and Tyrone Hill ... was a three-time Atlantic 10 Player of the Year.
Immediately left of the “X” are the words, “My life.” To its right: “My way.”
David West, in other words, is not one to be easily persuaded beyond the boundaries of his own beliefs.
He’s a man strong both physically and in terms of character — someone who even with nine NBA seasons and two All-Star Game appearances in his background continues to approach every second of court time as if still a rookie trying to make a favorable impression.
The consummate professional, West is in his second season as Indiana’s starting power forward. At 32 he’s enjoying one of his finest winters, his present per-game averages of 17.5 points and 7.7 rebounds ranking third and fourth, respectively, in just under a decade of pro hoops.
Frank Vogel can’t help but shake his head and flash a knowing smile when West’s name is mentioned. The Pacers coach understands West’s importance to the franchise as it continues to aspire for fruits higher than the usual low playoff seeding.
“He’s just as low-maintenance as you can be. His heart is always in the right place, and he’s as pure as anybody I’ve ever coached,” said Vogel, whose squad plays at Philadelphia tonight. “He’s tough. Not only physically but mentally.”
Jersey No. 21 didn’t carry any sort of historical weight within the Pacers organization before West’s arrival in December 2011 after signing a two-year, $20 million contract.
Long-forgottens such as Etdrick Bohannon, Wayne Radford, Norm Richardson, Malik Sealy, Jose Slaughter, Bryan Warrick and a pair of Stricklands (Erick and Mark) all wore it at different junctures in franchise history. Radford is probably most recognizable, seeing that he previously played for Bob Knight at Indiana University.
West wears it best. A common first impression when one notices West during pregame warm-ups is that he must play offense with his back to the basket and his right arm raised in anticipation of the basketball. He’s deceiving this way, as West possesses an outstanding midrange shooting touch and can shoot with either hand when stationed closer to the basket.
The deception continues in the form of West’s dead-eye accuracy from the free-throw stripe, his percentages usually bunched in with NBA guards. West’s career percentage of .829 (his best was with the New Orleans Hornets in 2008-09 when he converted 367 of 415 for .884) is somewhat mind-boggling for a player who has both launched and made in excess of 2,000 charity tosses.
The New Jersey native also has been known to let it fly with his high-tops planted in 3-point range. West has buried four treys this season, 40 for his career.
One aspect of what West brings to the Pacers unseen in articles and box scores is his intelligence. The ability to make the correct pass at the right time and how to gracefully navigate around would-be screens in order to continue shadowing the player he’s guarding.
“I’ve always been a student of the game. That’s always been my advantage whether it was middle school, high school or whatever,” West said. “It’s about spacing. Pace. Seeing the game a couple steps ahead. I just try to show my consistency and set an example every day through my preparation and focus.”
To better demonstrate West’s value to the Pacers, consider he ranks 24th in the league in scoring this season and is between Nos. 30-37 in the league in rebounds, blocks and field-goal percentage. West also is No. 58 in steals.
Not counting Friday night’s home game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Indiana is 82-48 (.631) since West hit town. Conversely, eight seasons as a member of the Hornets netted West three winning seasons.
He’s winning now and playing winning basketball. Of the 63 games he’s played in this season, West has produced a double-digit point total 58 times without fouling out once.
That’s consistency. On top of that, West is having a good time doing it.