We're not talking hero ball or "ballhoggery." That's not what is needed. This isn't about one player offensively rising to the occasion, as West did in that Game 6, and as some people feel "lucked" himself into 29 points on 13-26 shooting. This is about a man instilling his character -- who he is -- into a series and having a team -- his team -- rally around him in order to discover who they are while in the midst of serious episodes of self-doubt.
In the postgame, on-court interview after Game 6, West used the word "internal" to describe where parts of the problem with his team existed; to explain what the Pacers had to fight through. What they continue to fight through.
And it's been hard to figure out internally what exactly they're fighting through. Although in a physician-diagnose-yourself moment, Roy Hibbert exposed one problem. On an NBA.com "Inside Stuff" package done on Hibbert, the player at the center of the Pacers' internal issues off and on the court, Hibbert is ironically quoted as saying: "We all have to be on the same page, you know. One person can't be out of sync with the other person. You look for a team's weakness. If [they] have a 6-6 power forward or a 6-9 center or a point guard who doesn't like to guard pick and rolls, you try to exploit that because they are their weakest link."
It really unveils the challenge West faces.
What happens when your weakest link happens to be a 7-foot-2 center who has a penchant of totally disappearing and disengaging himself? When that player's undependability and unpredictable behavior become the weakness that other teams exploit? How does a leader deal with that? How does West get that player to rally to his call? How does he get the rest of the team to not be affected or impacted during the series when they realize that their greatest match-up advantage against the defending champions has departed, leaving the team to fend for themselves once again?
George gave some insight into the team's perspective. In an interview with the media, he said the Pacers can't come out flat in Game 1, "whatever it is" causing a problem, and they must remember their history with the Heat. "We gotta have a little edge coming into this series," he said. "This team took us out twice now. Ended our season early, you know, two times in a row. There's gotta be an edge to come out, you know, and take this team out."
Even the Heat's Chris Bosh said about the Pacers on NBA.com: "If they are trying to get under our skin, they'll get under their own skin before it happens to us."
The Pacers reaching the Eastern Conference finals isn't about the clutchness (for those who, like me, still believe in that sort of thing) inside of the single-mindedness it took for West to use an elimination game to "will" his team to the next round when it seemed legions of so-called Pacers "fans" were happily waiting and rooting for the upset. Indiana's here on the strength of the shoulders of the one man who wanted to carry the entire responsibility of their success or collapse. A man among men.
David West wanted the weight only because, as we've discovered with the Pacers during these playoffs (and over the last three months, really), there seems to be no one else equipped to carry the team's self-imposed burdens. There was a reason Larry Bird, Donnie Walsh & Co. constructed this team around West. This is it. Now is the moment where West will be forced to literally hold up his end of the deal.