West Doesn’t Fear Failure, Therefore Succeeds
David West often ends postgame locker room conversations with reporters with a simple, “Cool, man.”
That seems appropriate for a man who’s cool under pressure.
West reiterated his status as the Pacers’ best clutch performer in Sunday’s win over Chicago at Bankers Life Fieldhouse by scoring 10 of his game-high 31 points in the final 6 minutes, 11 seconds. The Bulls kept threatening in the final moments, getting within one point on two occasions, but West held them off by hitting 3-of-6 shots and all four free throws, not to mention picking off a couple of steals.
It was nothing new nor unexpected from a veteran who has been rising above the pressure of close games throughout the season, beginning with the season-opener in Toronto when he scored 14 of his game-high 26 points in the final period of a two-point win.
So, why does one player succeed under pressure while another succumbs? Confidence, obviously, but where does the confidence come from? For West, it’s not fearing failure.
“Probably the biggest thing is, I can accept not being successful in those moments,” he said. “Being able to deal with the failure … gives you confidence the next time to deal with the adversity, win or lose.”
In other words, you tend to succeed more often when you don’t mind failing.
His answer reminded me of one Reggie Miller once gave when I asked him about his legendary late-game heroics. “It’s the odds,” he said. “I love the odds.” One would think the odds are always against hitting game-winning three-pointers, but from Miller’s viewpoint, they always seemed favorable.
It’s all a matter of mindset. West knows he’ll fail at times, but he sees even those occasions as positive developments.
“You learn from them,” he said. “I think you feel good that the coach or players have confidence in you in those moments. Whether you come out on top or you don’t make the play in that moment, you know the next time you’re in that situation you have the confidence to complete it. Trust in your preparation, that’s what I believe in. Usually it works out.”
West’s first failure under pressure in the NBA came as a rookie with New Orleans in a game against the Pacers, on Nov. 21, 2003. The Pacers had taken a 76-75 lead on two late Reggie Miller free throws, but New Orleans had the ball out of bounds with a chance to win the game with 1.1 seconds left. Hornets coach Tim Floyd inserted West into the game during the timeout, knowing the Pacers wouldn’t be looking for him to take the shot. He lost his defender, Al Harrington, on a screen from Baron Davis. Ron Artest didn’t switch on the play, allowing West to catch the inbound lob pass with an open look, but he missed a five-footer right of the basket.
West hasn’t forgotten the play.
“We had practiced some things with me coming in and making plays, and the coaches had confidence in me,” said West, who had only played a few minutes to that point. “I’ve never been afraid of those moments, and whether I fail or succeed, I’m able to deal with the outcome.”