By CLIFF BRUNT
I attended the Pacers’ press conference announcing the signings of David West and C.J. Watson. While the media surrounded West, I went the other direction and got six minutes one-on-one with coach Frank Vogel. Here are the best quotes from that interview. There will be two bonus pieces of info after Vogel’s quotes. At the bottom of this story is the link to my Associated Press story on the signings.
On the reported interest in Chris Copeland:
“We haven’t signed Chris Copeland yet, so I think I can’t comment on that until next week.”
On David West’s intangibles:
“A lot of people talk about a player that’s going to kind of put somebody in place when they step out of line. People don’t step out of line around David West, so he doesn’t have to put people in their place.
“He has a presence about himself where everybody just carries themselves with the same level of professionalism and work ethic, and that has a dramatic impact on your culture and your ability to win basketball games. Certainly, he does the scoring and the rebounding and all the things that are fancy on the court. It’s just a very small part of what he brings to the table.”
On adding Nate McMillan as an assistant coach:
“Over 900 games of head coaching experience, most of them in overachieving cultures where they are dealing with injuries and they’re still finding ways to win. He just has done a great job as a head coach, and also has a great playing career to draw from as well. He’s just a big-time asset to our staff. Just a wealth of experience we’re adding to our staff to help improve our group intelligence, our group leadership. Our interactions have been great. We talk every day about what we do, what our schemes are, things he did in Portland and with the Olympic team (he was an assistant).
On C.J. Watson:
“He’s kind of been a thorn in our side the last couple years, whether it’s with Chicago — one of the things that was most interesting for us was their winning record when he was the point guard in Chicago when Derrick Rose was hurt. He would step in and play at a starter level. He’s just a really, really strong quality backup. He did the same for Brooklyn last year. Really can shoot the three, but he’s a crafty finisher inside as well. Good with the pick-and-roll game and a really solid defender. And he’s been around winning teams, winning cultures, and that’s something we’re interested in.”
On Tyler Hansbrough heading to Toronto:
“Tyler Hansbrough was — he’s the face of smashmouth basketball. He’s the reason I came up with that term. He and Roy — we were going to pound people in the post, hit people, play with physicality. He just exemplifies that. I consider that sort of team with him and Jeff Foster and Roy as kind of the founders of smashmouth basketball. Obviously, a big loss for us. A major part of our identity the last couple years. One heck of a basketball player. It’s the right thing because he deserves more minutes than I’m able to give him. He’s a starter in this league, easily, and we certainly wish him the best.”
On being at a point where the team is just looking to add pieces rather than rebuilding:
“When you have the core in place like we have, you know that that group is going to win you a lot of basketball games. It comes down to finding the pieces to complement that group. That’s an exciting stage to be at as a franchise. So many franchises in this league, year in and year out, are trying to establish that core, trying to find that core that can succeed. We have that core in place. Now, it’s just a matter of complementing them and rounding them out and putting the whole puzzle together.”
On Brad Stevens becoming the Celtics’ coach:
“I’m thrilled for him to become an NBA head coach. I think it’s a great move for him professionally and for his family. He’s joining a great organization in Boston. Great front office. My interactions with him have been we’ve talked a few times in each other’s offices, chalk talking and talking hoops. We’ve stayed in touch, text messaging and over the phone frequently over the past couple of years. We really pull for each other and support each other and I think he’s going to do great in Boston.”
Bonus quote: I asked West about what is expected of Paul George now:
“P is going to be key for us. He’s going to be prepared coming into this year in terms of his role. Last year, we asked PG to take on the role that he took on probably sooner than everybody expected for him to be in that situation because of Danny’s injury. He handled it fine. Everybody’s going to expect for him to come back better. We’ve spoken a few times. He’s fully capable. He’s doing the work to prepare himself as best as possible.”
Final note: West’s agent, Jeff Austin, texted me the particulars of West’s deal — three years, $36.6 million with a player option the third year.