He's carving out a new title for his career resume during the 2013 playoffs—tough as nails.
We knew before Saturday night's Game 6 showdown between the Pacers and Miami Heat that West missed the morning shootaround, but the minor setback was not expected to keep him out of the lineup in a must-win game against the defending champions.
After Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported how high his fever was during Saturday night's 91-77 series-extending Pacer win, it might be time to conjure up the comparisons to Michael Jordan.
It might also be time to rewind to 2011, when another All-NBA-caliber forward played through sickness and taunting to lead his team to an important, series-equalizing victory against—you guessed it—the Miami Heat.
That player was Dirk Nowitzki. Two years later, West has taken center stage as the newest NBA pro to put his team's success over sickness in a big win over Miami.
A league source told Wojnarowski that West played the majority of Game 6 with a 103-degree fever, a number that is closer to needing medical assistance than being needed to contribute in the middle of a playoff game.
West finished with a double-double—11 points and 14 rebounds on 5-of-14 shooting—and was once again the model of leadership and toughness that characterizes Indiana's current run in which it is just one win away from the NBA Finals.
To understand a little bit of the mindset that West had to play with, here's his quote to an Indiana radio affiliate following the conclusion of Indiana's Game 6 win (via Indiana's official Twitter account):
In the first half, it was clear that West, who was averaging 16.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in these playoffs heading into Saturday night, was fighting through fatigue.
As ESPN's Brian Windhorst noted, the first half ended up being more about West's absence of production than the suspension that kept Chris "Birdman" Andersen from locking horns with the Indiana post men:
He didn't register a point and appeared to be lacking the amount of lift it would take to make an open jump shot and the strength to bang in the post with the Miami forwards he's dominated during the series. West did grab eight rebounds, but questions of him being a liability were more prevalent than celebrations of his resolve.
The second half, though, was a different story.
West dug deep enough to register his 11 points, grab six more rebounds and provide enough of a spark to allow Roy Hibbert and Paul George to carry the offense with help from George Hill and Lance Stephenson.
George and Hibbert carried the Pacers on the stat sheet, but it was clear they were feeding off their emotional leader as they withstood a late Miami run. After West's jump shot put the Pacers up by 14 in the final few minutes, head coach Frank Vogel had seen enough—West's night was done, reported via Indiana's Twitter account:
As you can see based on this tweet from NBA.com/Stats during the game, West is vital to what Indiana wants to accomplish on offense. Vogel had a tough choice in keeping him in the lineup during the first half, but his patience was rewarded in the second.
Now just one game away from a shot at San Antonio, West and the Pacers' toughness appear to be attached at the hip. If reports of his high fever are true, this is a game and a performance that will be a calling card of the 2012-13 Pacers long after this season is complete.
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