WALTHAM - The Celtics’ bold pursuit of former Hornets forward David West ended yesterday when the free agent signed with the Pacers.
Indiana, which entered this offseason with $21 million in salary cap space, signed West to a two-year contact worth $20 million, his agent, Lance Young, told the Indianapolis Star. The Celtics had orchestrated a sign-and-trade deal with the Hornets to get West, but could only offer about $8 million.
West is recovering from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that may have limited his free agent opportunities. The Pacers had been seeking an All-Star-caliber player to add to their young core and made a late push for the 31-year-old West, after it appeared that the deal with the Celtics was done.
West’s decision robs the Celtics of a versatile forward who would have teamed with Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce to carry the club into the future, but it also clears up several roster ambiguities that had plagued practice the past few days.
Jermaine O’Neal, whose expiring contract was dangled to New Orleans for West, was at practice yesterday and can rest easy, at least for now. Rookies JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore sat out for the second consecutive day because of the holdup on paperwork for their contracts and their potential involvement in the West deal.
Coach Doc Rivers moved today’s practice to 2 p.m. to hopefully allow those matters to be solved.
West would have added depth to the Celtics’ frontcourt, but losing O’Neal would have subtracted their only legitimate center. If O’Neal stays, Kevin Garnett could log fewer minutes at center, and Jeff Green could spell Pierce more often at small forward.
Rivers cannot envision rotations or chemistry because of the lack of bodies available to practice.
“The first day we have camp is when we have everyone,’’ he said. “Right now, as far as I’m concerned, we haven’t started camp yet. We’re just doing preseason work.’’
Brandon Bass also has yet to practice because the trade with Orlando has not yet been approved by the NBA. Green did not practice because the paperwork on his one-year deal is not yet final.
Pierce sat out practice with a sore right heel, while Rondo left after spraining his right ankle. Rivers said both injuries are minor, but the Celtics aren’t pushing players at this point, allowing them to get into basketball shape after the lockout.
Pierce walked around the court in practice gear and didn’t appear too concerned. Rondo was gone by the time the media was allowed into the workout. It is uncertain if he will practice today.
With O’Neal as the lone center, Rivers said the team’s defensive philosophy will have to change slightly to utilize the Celtics’ athleticism and compensate for their lack of size.
“We may have to trap more,’’ he said. “I’m not a big fan of the trap, but if we have to do it, we have to do it. I’ll be prepared for that. I think our guys should be able to guard a guy one-on-one, but if they can’t they have to give help, and we can’t be stubborn about it. We’ve been that in the past at times.’’
Keyon Dooling said he expected to be traded after the Bucks acquired Beno Udrih and Shaun Livingston to play point guard. Dooling’s close relationship with Milwaukee general manager John Hammond helped foster the deal to Boston.Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com.