OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - David West checks in to start the second quarter and the rest of the Warriors know to have their hands up and ready to catch his passes, because they will come fast and right on target. He has a knack for finding the open man before the man is even open, somehow seeing a play develop before it has even developed.
For all the years West yearned to be part of the great San Antonio Spurs franchise, he finally got that chance last season. Now, he is facing them from the other side with Golden State and doing his part to chase a championship. His old coach, Gregg Popovich, believes West has found a perfect fit in the Bay Area alongside Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the others, as hard as it is for Pop to see him in another uniform.
“We’ve got a lot of experience and guys who have seen just about every sort of mix you can find in the NBA, so that’s been the joy, also just sort of figuring out what works for us defensively with all the different moving parts we have,” said West, a 14-year veteran who returns to San Antonio for Saturday’s Game 3 of the Western Conference finals with his new team up 2-0.
“Personally, I expected us to take a little bit longer. That was a surprise just how well we all sort of meshed.”
The 36-year-old West is a big reason why. He has experienced a special two-year stretch deep into his successful NBA career, finding an important role with the Warriors’ second unit that strives to take the pressure off while maintaining the high level of the starters.
“Ah, man, one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” forward Draymond Green said after Thursday’s practice. “He’s a special person. I didn’t know he could pass as well as he does, he’s as smart as he is, on and off the court, just a brilliant person, someone who always has your back. Anybody on the team, he’s riding for you. It’s just been great having D-West here. Hopefully we can keep him for as much longer as he wants to play.”
West always wanted to play for Popovich in San Antonio, then once he’d done so decided to move on to Golden State. It seemed like the next intriguing move to be part of the Warriors’ roster of superstars.
Still, the Spurs miss him.
“He was wonderful. He’s a class act. He’s a contemplative guy. He thinks about things,” Popovich said. “Beyond basketball, it’s fun to be around him to talk about social situations. We’d share that sort of thing. As a player, he’s in the perfect system. They’ve got the big guys out on the court and passing and everybody’s running splits and back door and slipping, and he’s a good passer. If you get off, he can shoot the shot. So I’m happy for him in that situation. We hated to lose him.”
West has been a steady contributor, initially surprising many teammates with just how spot-on a passer he is and how he immediately makes things happen while providing much-needed boosts during important stretches.
“David is such a good passer. He loves to get to those elbows,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He has good cutters around him. We have a lot of guys on the floor who really like to cut and move without the ball so David has fit in beautifully with the way we like to play anyway. He’s really added a dimension to our game this year to be able to play through him when he’s out on the floor.”
West dished out a season-best seven assists in Game 1 against Utah the last round, his most in a playoff game since getting eight three years ago with Indiana. He notched six assists in just 15 minutes last month against Minnesota, five during a short second-quarter stretch.
Golden State is fortunate to use three distinct centers: starter Zaza Pachulia, dunk master JaVale McGee and West.
“I got the freedom just to pick a place to go play ball and leaving there wasn’t tough,” West said. “Obviously, it was just something I wanted to do. It was sort of one of those things on my bucket list. I always wanted to play for the Spurs, see what the inside of the organization felt like. Really last year was the only opportunity I had in my career to do it. Took a shot at it. I felt like coming up here to play, experience this environment. It has all worked out.”
Notes: F Andre Iguodala, who missed Game 2 with soreness in his left knee, practiced in full Thursday while Pachulia participated in some of practice then worked out on a stationary bike as he nurses a bruised right heel that sidelined him for the second half of Game 2. Both were listed as questionable to play Saturday.
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