By the Associated Press
---- — David West’s value to the Indiana Pacers goes well beyond the roughly 17 points and eight rebounds he averaged per game last season.
The 32-year-old power forward has been at the center of the Pacers’ tough play the past two years, and that approach has been a key to Indiana’s return to the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.
“A lot of people talk about a player that’s going to put somebody in their place when they step out of line,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “People don’t step out of line around David West. He doesn’t have to put people in their place.”
The Pacers said keeping West was their top priority heading into the offseason, and they announced Wednesday that they have re-signed him, along with signing free agent point guard C.J. Watson.
Team President Larry Bird said during a news conference at Bankers Life Fieldhouse that West is a rare player and person.
“He’s done more for this franchise than he can ever imagine,” Bird said. “Coming in here, he established himself as a great player, not only on the court, but in the locker room and in the city, doing special things.”
His contract is for three years and $36.6 million, according to his agent. The third year is a player option.
Watson has played six years in the NBA for Golden State, Chicago and Brooklyn. He has career averages of 7.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He averaged 6.8 points, 1.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 80 games for Brooklyn last season.
Bird said Watson upgrades the point guard position with his ability to defend, hit open shots and keep the ball moving. Vogel recalled how Watson embraced taking over at point guard for the Bulls two seasons ago while Derrick Rose was injured.
Watson said the Pacers impressed him with their run to the Eastern Conference finals last season.
“I thought this team had a bright future,” he said. “They’re right at the hump from winning that championship, getting to the Finals and getting past the Heat.”
Bird said first-round draft pick Solomon Hill also adds quality depth to the team.
“He can fit right in,” Bird said. “He can play right now. He’ll help our bench. He makes plays, he plays under control, he can hit open shots. He’s a great fit. He’s a worker and he don’t say much.”
West said the additions fit the mold of the kind of players the team needs to take that final step.
“I just feel like if we come together, get these new guys involved and adjusted to the way we do things, Day 1, we’re competing for the top seed in the East,” he said.
Around the league
Just about every NBA team would like Dwight Howard.
Only the Houston Rockets could get him, and on Wednesday some of his other suitors either announced their backup plans or were still working on them.
Paul Millsap is headed to Atlanta. The Dallas Mavericks are considering Andrew Bynum. The Golden State Warriors have acquired Andre Iguodala.
The Los Angeles Clippers never had to look beyond their top target, with Chris Paul committing to stay on the first day of free agency. They also added Darren Collison, Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick to a team that won the Pacific Division last season, surpassing the Lakers as the best team in Los Angeles.
It’s hard to see that changing after Howard passed on re-signing with the Lakers and instead opted for the Rockets in a deal that still hadn’t become official as of Wednesday night.
That was the first day transactions could be completed and contacts signed following the completion of the NBA’s moratorium period. The Rockets couldn’t wait to talk about their All-Star center, getting fined $150,000 by the league on Tuesday for premature comments about Howard on TV and in social media.
The rest of the league waited until rules allowed Wednesday.
The Clippers held a press conference for Paul, the three new players and the re-signed Matt Barnes and Ryan Hollins on what Paul called “one of the biggest days in franchise history.”
While they were celebrating, Bynum was meeting with Dallas, another team that wanted Howard.
Bynum was part of the four-team trade that sent Howard from Orlando to Los Angeles last summer, but never played a game for Philadelphia because of knee problems. The Cleveland Cavaliers have already offered him a contract, and the Mavericks are weighing the risk.
“At this point, we’re having medical discussions and we’ll have the opportunity to get with him and his agent and better understand the risks involved and make a good decision for our franchise,” said Donnie Nelson, the team’s president of basketball operations. “Currently, we still need help and support in our front court and we’re going to turn over every stone.”
Charlotte got bigger by adding former Utah center Al Jefferson, while his former Jazz teammate Millsap is also bound for the Southeast Division with the Hawks.
Atlanta missed out on Howard, and forward Josh Smith left for a $54 million, four-year deal with Detroit, but the Hawks bounced back by giving Millsap a two-year, $19 million contract.
Chris Andersen signed a $1.7 million, one-year deal to stay with the Miami Heat, who will have to hold off some stronger challengers next season in the Eastern Conference. Indiana re-signed power forward David West and added C.J. Watson as a backup point guard, while the Chicago Bulls improved their outside shooting by signing Mike Dunleavy.
The New York Knicks hope they did, too, with the acquisition of Andrea Bargnani. However, the former No. 1 overall pick from Italy struggled during an injury-plagued 2012-13 season for the Toronto Raptors, who shipped him to New York for Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson, Marcus Camby and three future draft picks.