He looked at himself in the mirror, saw a man nearing 35 with a title still in the wanting and decided to leave $12.6 million on the table in Indianapolis—because at his age, it's all about rings.
"At this point in my career, I just want to win," West told WTHR's Bob Kravitz (h/t Deadspin's Kevin Draper). "I'm just not sure the Pacers are in title contention right now. I'm going into my 13th season. I'll be 35 soon."
Another factor West weighed was the dark cloud enveloping the Pacers front office and its relationship with Roy Hibbert.
Team management all but shooed Hibbert off the porch with a broom in April when head coach Frank Vogel and team president Larry Bird gave a press conference about the team's future. They spoke in unmistakable terms, saying the Pacers planned to go "smaller" and play a faster style of basketball moving forward—not exactly Hibbert ball.
The announcement appeared to be less a mission statement and more a naked stab at telling Hibbert to opt out of the final year of his contract. But with no other suitors willing to match the struggling center's $15.5 million salary, Hibbert opted in, and now he and the Pacers appear locked in a sour union until 2016.
The uneasy state of affairs disappoints West, who told Kravitz the Pacers threw Hibbert "under the bus" in unbecoming fashion:
That's one thing where I wish they would have handled better was the situation with Roy. I'll be honest with you, that bothered me a little bit, and I told Roy that. I'm the type of guy who feels like we're all in this fight together and I'm not designed in that way to put it all on one guy. That did rub me the wrong way. That threw me off. I started some of that stuff, I started thinking "Whoaa." I just didn't feel good about that. I told Roy that it bothered me, that he's still my teammate.
You know, obviously Roy wants to play, he knows he's unpopular right now, but we talked and he's going to be a professional. He's always been a professional.... He's going to fight. He's not going to be one of those guys who's going to become a locker room issue.
West's words add to a steadily growing undercurrent of unflattering noises coming out of Indianapolis.
Kravitz writes about remarks made by a testy Bird during a June press conference before the NBA draft. When asked about the Indianapolis Star's Candace Buckner reporting West had decided not to exercise his player option, Bird claimed ignorance and went for the good ol' ad hominem counterattack:
On draft night, Bird insisted that he hadn't yet heard from either Hibbert or West or their representatives, even going so far as to say he expected both to opt in. When some of us in the media persisted asking about West, Bird, who enjoys tweaking us just for fun, said, "Anybody else got any stupid questions??" then pointed to the Indianapolis Star's Candace Buckner, who last week broke the news that West was opting out. "C'mon, Candace, I know you've got some (dumb questions) in you."
Trying to keep personnel movement under wraps isn't new—it's usually in the front office's interest to give other franchises as little advance notice as possible concerning the team's plans.
Still, it seems like Bird's leadership is taking on an overly defensive tack as the Pacers navigate these uncertain waters. Trying to push guys overboard and ripping those who point out holes in the boat isn't a great look.
We'll see how this season plays out for Hibbert. As for West, he's a 6'9" role player with a solid elbow jumper, and if the Golden State Warriors taught us anything this year, there's a place for that kind of talent on a title-winning team.
Dan is on Twitter. Don't shoot the messenger, Larry.