Pacers strengthen roster, add West

The Indiana Pacers' patience during the first part of the free-agency period has paid off.

David West, the Pacers' likely starting power forward, agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal Sunday afternoon.

"David looks at the Pacers as a good young team with a lot of potential," said West's agent, Lance Young. "He feels his experience and leadership will help a team like the Pacers. He was excited Jeff Foster re-signed with them. He feels like Indiana is the best spot for him and his family."

Pacers officials won't comment until West passes a physical, which is expected to take place today.

The Pacers nabbed West after the Boston Celtics and New Orleans Hornets could not agree to a sign-and-trade deal.

West agreed to the deal with the Pacers shortly after talks broke down between the Celtics and Hornets.

"He gives us a guy who is very talented on the offensive end," said Pacers point guard Darren Collison, West's teammate in New Orleans two years ago. "He knows how to space the court and he also makes sure the offense runs smoothly. Defensively, he makes sure everybody is where they're supposed to be."

The Pacers might not be done making moves. They've resumed talks with the Memphis Grizzlies about guard O.J. Mayo for the second time in less than a year.

The teams have discussed a potential sign-and-trade deal that would send free agent Josh McRoberts and Brandon Rush to Memphis for Mayo, whom Pacers President Larry Bird has liked for several years.

The Pacers and Grizzlies failed to pull off a deal in February because the paperwork was not submitted to the league office in time.

The Pacers made no secret at the end of last season that they planned to search for a starting power forward. Team officials still are high on Tyler Hansbrough but believe he's best suited as an energy player off the bench.

"Having David and Tyler team together will be a great combination for us at power forward," Collison said. "Tyler has played well in camp and adding David is only going to help."

The Pacers made Nene their top free agent target. Bird, general manager David Morway, coach Frank Vogel and assistant coach Brian Shaw flew to Denver to meet with Nene last week.

It didn't take long for Bird and Co. to realize Nene wanted more money than they were willing to pay. The New Jersey Nets reportedly plan to offer Nene a contract starting at about $15 million a year.

Age and health questions surrounded West.

The 31-year-old West tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in March and Pacers officials didn't want to sign him to a long-term deal and risk a setback in his recovery.

West treated his rehabilitation like a 9-to-5 job, working out vigorously, according to Young.

Getting West in a two-year deal is a bargain for the Pacers. The former All-Star averaged 18.9 points and 7.6 rebounds in 70 games with the Hornets last season.

He thrives in the pick-and-roll game and also can score on the perimeter and in the post.

"He's a veteran player who is very strong in the pick-and-pop game and he's been an All-Star," Pacers center Roy Hibbert said. "I'm really happy that we got him. He's definitely going to help us."

This move makes a lot of sense for Pacers

It was a couple of hours before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference playoff series between the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls, and Pacers President Larry Bird was sitting courtside at the United Center, laying out his vision for the team he hoped to build.

"We're never going to be able to get that huge free agent who everybody wants," he said, or at least words to that effect. (It was many months ago, so I'm reciting from memory.) "So what I want to do is build depth. I want a team that's going to wear people down."

Mission accomplished.

The Pacers, who are not close to being done with their offseason reconstruction, added a huge piece and a perfect fit Sunday, signing free agent power forward David West to a two-year, $20 million contract.

It is a deal that works for the Pacers on two levels:

It gives them a starting power forward who has been a regular 19-point, eight-rebound guy in the NBA for many years, a two-time All-Star and a player generally acknowledged as a true professional. All the reports say West is fully recovered from knee surgery and will join practice immediately.

It works because the Pacers didn't overpay or over-commit and were able to maintain salary cap flexibility moving forward. The Pacers were leery about giving the 31-year-old West a long-term contract, worrying he would be on the downside of his career at the same time the younger Pacers were just hitting their primes. This deal gives Indy the player it needs now and the financial freedom it needs later.

Give Bird and general manager David Morway credit for their continued patience during this sometimes tortuous rebuild: While others were signing/overpaying for free agents and making trades -- and having trades vetoed -- they sat back, circled, and waited for something that made fiscal sense.

They got point guard Darren Collison for a song. They grabbed guard George Hill for a middling first-rounder in a bad draft. Now they're adding West for the right price. (Don't be surprised when swingman O.J. Mayo shows up soon.)

They could have made big headlines by signing Nene, but he wasn't worth the mammoth numbers the New Jersey Nets reportedly were offering.

It made no sense to commit to West -- a 31-year-old player coming off knee surgery -- for four years, as the Celtics were prepared to do if they could have pulled off a sign-and-trade deal with New Orleans.

It was a risk to sit back and wait. It was a competitive risk and an even bigger public-relations risk.

In the end, though, they got one of the big three free agents at the power forward spot, the others being Tyson Chandler and Nene. And they got him at the right number.

What they're building now is a deep, young, interesting team that should battle for the fifth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and maybe even better. West doesn't give them everything they needed; he's not a huge rebounder or shot-blocker, but he's a solid, consistent, smart pro who can post up, play the pick-and-pop game and give the Pacers points at a spot where they desperately needed to improve.

West also adds a locker-room presence the Pacers needed. This young team has long lacked any real in-house leadership. But now you add West and George Hill, two grown-ups, and it changes the dynamics of the group.

Before the West signing, I asked Tyler Hansbrough how he felt about the Pacers' continuing efforts to add a power forward, and he didn't flinch.

"I'm fine with it," he said. "If they bring somebody in, I'm going to compete with him. Anything we do that makes us a better team is great. It's about winning."

Can you imagine Hansbrough now leading the charge off the bench, giving the Pacers 20 to 25 minutes of raging-bull basketball? The Pacers' second unit, which may be strengthened even further if they can make that trade for Mayo, will give them one of the strongest benches in the league.

This is not a championship team, obviously, but then, how many championship-quality teams are out there? Nobody expects them to compete with the Miami Heat, but this group has every reason to believe it can win at least 35 games in a 66-game season, and can make some noise in the playoffs.

Foster returns, Pendergraph joins Pacers

After having just three big men available for the first day of training camp, Frank Vogel was glad to see that number grow Saturday -- not just for the quantity but the quality.

Veteran Jeff Foster and free agent Jeff Pendergraph both signed contracts and hit the practice court at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Foster is entering his 13th season with the Pacers, second in franchise history to Reggie Miller. However long he plays, the 34-year-old big man hopes to finish his career where it began.

"This is my home," Foster said. "There were some mixed emotions when certain teams called with different opportunities. I knew the right decision was to come back here and be one of the few people that have an opportunity to play an entire career in one city. That's something I've always admired about old-school guys.

"David Robinson was my idol growing up and he was fortunate enough to do that. I was fortunate to come in here and have a mentor in Reggie Miller who was able to do that. If I end up second in years played in Pacers history behind Reggie Miller, in my opinion that's a pretty darned good accomplishment."

Foster, who ranks third in franchise history in offensive rebounds (2,083), fourth in games (753) and fifth in total rebounds (5,206), averaged 16.8 minutes, 3.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in 56 games last season. Beyond his defense, rebounding and energy, the veteran's leadership presence will be extremely valuable for this otherwise young team.

"He's a tremendous leader," said Vogel, "and it just adds to the value in having him back here."

The 6-9, 240-pound Pendergraph is a high-energy player who can play both frontcourt positions off the bench. He spent his rookie season with Portland in 2009-10 but was waived after tearing an ACL during the preseason and sat out last year.

Despite his long absence from the game, Pendergraph showed few signs of rust in his first practice with the Pacers.

"He fits this team because he is a scrappy type of player," said Vogel. "He goes hard. We did a rebounding drill and our blue team couldn't keep him off the glass. It was just one rule: you've got to get three rebounds in a row. And they could not get him off the glass. He was just that relentless. And he took about four charges today. He's a dirty-work player."

That's a tag Pendergraph embraces. He's carried it with him ever since his days as a high school teammate of Darren Collison in Etiwanda, Calif.

"He's another version of Tyler (Hansbrough), he's real energized on the court, he's extremely competitive and regardless of how he does in a game he's always going to play hard," said Collison. "As soon as he comes off that bench and comes into the game, look for him to get after it right away.

"… He doesn't care about his offense. He's going to get the rebounds, he's going to make sure he screens his man, he's going to do all the dirty work. He can shoot the ball extremely well but that's not even on his mind. It's just about playing hard."

An outgoing, upbeat and engaging personality, Pendergraph relishes the role.

"I don't take nothing from nobody," he said with a smile. "I'm always in everybody's faces regardless of who it is -- in a respectful way. I'm not like crazy dude. But regardless of the situation my presence is known.

"I just try to bring energy and toughness and all the little intangibles you can control doing every day. I can't control how many minutes I have or how many points I can get. I might not even touch the ball. But I can set good screens, I can crash the boards, box my guy out, just the little stuff. I think that's what I'm pretty good at."

D-League rookies Jarrid Famous (South Florida) and Matt Rogers (Southwest Baptist) also joined the team, giving the Pacers seven frontcourt players among the 16 in camp.

Foster was the first of the Pacers' free agents to sign and may well be the last.

Mike Dunleavy (Milwaukee) and T.J. Ford (San Antonio) already have signed with new teams, while Josh McRoberts has drawn interest from Portland, Memphis and the Lakers.

"(Foster) has been and is the kind of player we want in our uniform," Larry Bird said. "His work ethic, his competitiveness, his hustle, the spark he brings to a game and his locker room presence set an example for every player. We are elated to have him back."

Reports: West to join Pacers

With his first major move in the 2011 personnel market, he appears to have accomplished just that.

Both West and his agent, Lance Scott, confirmed the deal in interviews with the various outlets.

"Indy was a team that I was really giving a good, hard look at," West told "They've got a good balance in terms of a couple good veterans and some really good young players. There are some budding guys and I think that's a team that I can help in the next couple years."

The Pacers can not comment on the reports until the deal becomes official. West must first pass a physical before signing the reported two-year contract.

"David looks at the Pacers as a good young team with a lot of potential," West’s agent, Lance Young, told The Star. "He feels his experience and leadership will help a team like the Pacers. He was excited that Jeff Foster re-signed with them. He feels like Indiana is the best spot for him and his family."

Young told West "is ready to help them win a championship."

West appeared headed to Boston in a sign-and-trade deal with the Hornets that reportedly would've involved former Pacers big man Jermaine O'Neal but opted instead to sign with the Pacers.

The 31-year-old West brings career averages of 16.9 points and 7.3 rebounds to Indiana. He was enjoying one of his best seasons in 2010-11 with averages of 18.9 points and 7.6 rebounds before going down with a torn ACL late in the season. He underwent surgery in April and received medical clearance to resume his career in late October.

West opted out of the final season of his contract with the Hornets to become a free agent this summer.

West rejoins former Hornets teammate Darren Collison with the Pacers and gives the team a strong pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop option at the power forward position. A rugged defender with solid all-around skills, West brings consistent production and veteran presence to an otherwise young roster.

"He gives us a guy who is very talented on the offensive end," Collison told The Star. "He knows how to space the court and he also makes sure the offense runs smoothly. Defensively, he makes sure everybody is where they're supposed to be."

Though he would supplant Tyler Hansbrough in the starting lineup, the Pacers' young forward from North Carolina said before camp started he would welcome a move if it improved the team.

"I'm excited, whoever they bring in here to help the team," Hansbrough said. "That's what I'm about is winning so whoever they feel can help us win ballgames, that's who I want on the team. If we get a good power forward, which we need some help at, I'm willing to compete or do my role to win."

Should West pass his physical and sign, the Pacers' training camp roster will grow to 18 players. They play the first of two preseason games Friday against Chicago in Conseco Fieldhouse.

Pacers Keep Working On Moving Up In The East

Anyone else getting excited to see the Pacers play on Friday?

Preseason, schmee-season, with the positive vibes pumping out of the Fieldhouse it will be nice to get a peek at how this team is coming together for the 2011-12 NBA season when they play their only preseason game on Friday against the Chicago Bulls.

The big news of the weekend broke Sunday afternoon with the team adding David West to the roster and heavy buzz around O.J. Mayo arriving some time soon. That news drowned out the official additions of Jeff Foster and Jeff Pendergraph to training camp over the weekend, with reports on both players showing the Pacers are fortifying the team's culture Frank Vogel is espousing to deliver hard-nosed, high-energy play as a team trademark.

Vogel is pushing his guys hard, while letting them breathe throughout the process. He even allows a little fun after a solid practice. Mike Wells reports that after Sunday's second practice, Vogel and the coaches challenged the players to a free throw shooting contest.