Kevin Durant could sense a moment was brewing.
The world’s foremost basketball assassin cautiously dribbled 40 feet from the basket, draining the final seconds off of the third quarter during Game 2 of the 2018 NBA Finals. The Cleveland Cavaliers, trailing 87-79 at the time, were teetering from several haymakers from the Golden State Warriors.
As the hysterically bloodthirsty Oakland crowd rumbled in anticipation, the Cavs staggered around in a daze. They were on the verge of breaking from the unrelenting golden onslaught; they just needed one final reason to give up the ghost.
Durant carefully surveyed the final possession of the period, calculating how to break Cleveland’s will with a well-timed dagger. He summoned a screen, which the wearied Cavs gamely thwarted. With the game clock reaching single digits, the “SlimVP” dipped his head and attacked with a swift dribble move. As four alarmed Cavaliers converged into the paint, Durant suddenly whipped a pass into the corner, directly in front of the Cleveland bench.
David West was there. The muscly, grizzled, veteran deftly snatched the high pass with his giant mitts and smoothly lined up his shooting motion. A Cavs defender frantically motored out there to contest the shot, but like a fearless old cowboy from days gone by, West never flinched.
He drilled the contested three, sending the building into delirium, and quickly turned to taunt the deflated Cavs sideline for being foolish enough to leave him open.
It was his first three-pointer of the playoffs... what a timely moment to hit it.
The Old West
You know those older guys at the 24 Hour Fitness basketball court who are always in the right place, at the right time, despite never accelerating past “Brisk Jog” mode? They’re constantly bellowing wisdom: “He’s on your left!”, “Backdoor! Backdoor!”, and my personal favorite, “That’s OFF!” when they expect an opponent will launch an errant jumper.
We call those guys “O.G.’s,” and they are the elder wizards of the game. They are obsessed with playing the game “the right way,” and with their diminished athleticism, they serve to facilitate for their younger teammates.
That’s David West, except at the highest damn level.
Kevin Durant’s succinct description of David West: “Perfect veteran.”— Monte Poole (@MontePooleNBCS) December 12, 2017
The well-preserved 37-year-old former All-Star is in the twilight of his career, but his basketball knowledge and enthusiasm are at a beautiful peak. He shot 57% from the field during the 2017-2018 regular season, a career-high, and assisted on about 20% of his teammates’ field goals while he was on the floor.
Despite limited minutes, and sometimes not playing at all, West was always ready to contribute. As a consummate professional, he filled his bench role with vigor. He set monster screens, rebounded with vigor, and just might have the best passing-IQ on the entire team.
When West gets the ball in his favorite spot, the high post, his teammates instinctively dash toward open areas on the floor. They know he’s calmly waiting for them to dance away from their defender for a split second window in which he will laser them an accurate pass.
Look at him HOLLER the youngling Patrick McCaw open for an uncontested layup.
The man who once terrorized the prime Tim Duncan-era Spurs in the playoffs still retains the versatility that many moons ago made him a marquee name. At 6-foot-9, 250 pounds, he has the bulk to bully down low in the paint, yet the feathery outside touch to drill jumpers. This makes for hilarious conundrums for defenders paranoid about the younger Warriors zipping around, because if they leave West when he’s holding the ball, he’s going to hit the open shot.
But, close out too quickly, and he might just remind you that the O.G. is still handing out frequent flyer miles.
Welcome to the West Side
He’s not just a technically sound veteran, however. He’s also an old wardog that has spent the majority of his career on the losing end of hotly contested battles against the greats. He’s never backed down from a challenge and has an inner fury that emanates rumbleshocks of intimidation whenever he gets involved.
When he was an Indiana Pacer, his then-teammate Paul George was quick to vouch for the menacing demeanor: “David West is the enforcer,” said George. “He’s the player that’s not going to let the ticky-tack stuff happen down low.”
Not much has changed since West arrived to the Warriors last season, and he even cranked it up a notch this year. Watch as he stonewalls former Warriors fan-favorite Marreese “Mo Buckets” Speights and let him know there’s room for only one bald, Ninja-Turtle-body power forward in Oakland.
I love you Mo, but you can’t just run up on the O.G. like that.
Of course, to be a true O.G. one must be able to pass the game down to the ballers to come. West is noted as an avid reader, entrepreneur, and voice for social change off of the court. It should be no surprise that he’s as eager to share his wealth of knowledge with his curious teammates as he is to dish them the rock from the high post, as Karl Buscheck for the SF Examiner wrote.
West is always happy to dispense knowledge to his fellow Warriors. Asked who his most attentive student is, West surveys the Warriors’ locker room but doesn’t have to think long.
“I’d probably say the question asker is Draymond,” West said. “He probably asks me more questions [than anybody]. I answer his questions. He’s probably the one that presses me the most in terms of just, ‘What do you think about this? What do you think about that? What does this mean?’”
From the way Green talks, it sound like most of the Warriors enjoy drawing on West’s wealth of knowledge.
“He’s kind of the guy we all go to and just pick his brain,” Green said. “ He’s a guy who we kind of all go question about the world, politics, gold, bitcoin — you name it. He’s a very smart, intelligent guy and someone we love having around..”
West’s presence in the locker room has provided an enlightening, emboldening effect that has strengthened the team’s unity. Even when he cryptically mentioned that the public had no idea of mysterious drama behind the scenes, it was complimenting the togetherness of the Warriors’ brotherhood.
David West: “We’re so tight, people don’t even know what we went through. They trying to find out. We don’t have suckas on this team.”— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) June 9, 2018
Heading Out, West?
West sacrificed millions of dollars to hunt championships with the Golden Empire, and he has been rewarded with two titles for his great efforts. Still, after 15 seasons, the sun is setting on the cagy veteran.
Head coach Steve Kerr had this to say when asked about West’s future with the team:
“David is going to take some time to decide whether he wants to continue playing or retire. I think the safe thing to say is we’re not going to have the same look next year in terms of having sort of five or six vets. We’re going to be younger, we’re going to have more youth, more energy to try and help us through the regular season.”
If this was West’s last season serving with the Golden State, he emphatically carried the standard for veteran professionalism, toughness, and wisdom.
He also became the first man I’ve ever seen get a technical foul for riding a bike.
Why they always gotta hate on the O.G.?
How would you grade David West’s 2017-18 season?
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