MANILA, Philippines – Indiana’s All-Star forward David West acknowledged that the NBA remains "Miami’s league" and that the Pacers will have to go through the Heat if they want to be the new “Beasts of the East.”
“It’s Miami’s league,” West told reporters on Wednesday after the Pacers’ practice session for the NBA Global Games in Manila. “Miami has won the championship in the last two years, so everybody’s chasing them.”
West and the Pacers pushed the Heat to a do-or-die Game 7 when they met in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, but Miami dominated in the winner-take-all game, 99-76, with LeBron James scoring 32 points.
“They’re the defending champions, and obviously they’re a very, very good basketball team,” West said. “They have the best player in the world on their side.”
Even Pacers' president of basketball operations Larry Bird acknowledged Miami’s dominance of the NBA.
“Right now, the Miami Heat are the best team. They’ve won two championships in a row, been in the Finals three years in a row. Until somebody beats them, they’re still the best team,” Bird said.
The Pacers, one of the top contenders in the NBA this season, will likely have to face off against Miami in the postseason if they want to make the Finals, said West.
“Obviously, you can’t get to the championship without going through the defending champs,” he said. “Obviously, we’ve got a long way ahead of us before we get to that moment, but we’ve got to prepare ourselves the best we can – from the start of the season all the way down to the end of it.”
“We’ve got to try to put together some of the best basketball that we play individually, in order to accomplish something at the end of the year.”
West said the Pacers cannot look too far ahead, considering it’s still the preseason and the team is still in the thick of preparing for the grind of the regular season.
“We’ve got to handle our business in the interim,” said West. “We’ve gotta make sure we remain healthy, we remain vigilant, we remain humble, and continue to work.”
But last season’s experience is something that will motivate the Pacers as they try to dethrone Miami again this season.
“We understand that to get back to where we were last year is a very, very tall task,” says West, “But we understand that as a group, we got better from that.”
“We learned from that – being one of the last four teams playing late in the year. That’s something that we want to feel again. We feel like if we do what we’re supposed to do, handle our business the way we know we’re capable of, we’ll find ourselves in that situation again,” he said.