December 20, 2011
A few weeks ago, the Celtics beat out several suitors for two-time All-Star David West. Then, the sign-and-trade plans with the NBA-owned Hornets didn't work out, and West took more money to join the young and improving Indiana Pacers. So, if you're keeping score, he chose a good team, albeit one with a worse shot at a championship, in part because they could offer him a larger salary. That's the NBA equivalent of a "Dog Bites Man" story.
Boston guard Ray Allen is still upset, though. He voiced his opinion to Jackie MacMullan for ESPNBoston.com (via PBT):
"I'm shocked," Allen said. "I don't understand it." [...]
Allen first heard of West's potential interest in Boston last month when Allen was playing golf in Augusta with his private banker, who coincidentally also handled West's financial affairs.
"He told me how much I would love [West], that he and I were the same kind of guy -- cognitive thinkers," Allen said. "He said West was interested in coming to the Celtics and would be willing to come for less."
So why does Allen think West had a change of heart?
"Once it got down to the end, I think his ego kicked back in," Allen said. "He wanted the dollars. I guess it comes down to 'What is a championship worth to you?'"
In so many words, Allen said that West is more concerned with his numbers than winning. That would be a much more believable suggestion if the Celtics were in a positive state. As it stands, West wouldn't have even filled their biggest hole defending the paint. He's better as a scorer, not a lockdown defender, and it's likely he would have improved the Celtics without pushing them over the top. Allen understandably thinks he might have made the difference -- NBA players can't believe they don't have a chance to win if they want to succeed -- but it doesn't stand up to greater scrutiny.
Plus, the Pacers likely offer West more, and not just in terms of his paycheck. With the team improving, there's a chance for West to act as a building block and become a sorely needed veteran presence. It's not controversial to argue that might be more fulfilling than losing in the conference finals.
Winning is important to NBA players, as it should be. But it's not the only valuable experience in the league, and treating any team that finishes above another in the standings, no matter the context, creates a limited rubric for a successful career.