HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – A day after securing C.J. Watson as their new backup point guard, the Indiana Pacers kept hold of their No. 1 target in free agency: power forward David West.

West and the Pacers are in the process of putting the final touches on a three-year, $36 million deal, as first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, that would keep the team’s emotional and locker room leader in place for the franchise’s continued rise in the Eastern Conference and league standings.

This is the first big move of Larry Bird‘s current tenure as the Pacers’ president of basketball operations, a move he said was at the top of his to-do list when he rejoined the franchise last week after a year away from the team. The third year of the deal is reportedly a player option.

In two years as the Pacers’ backbone, West has helped lead the franchise back to prominence. They finished each of these last two seasons on the wrong end of playoff series loss to the Miami Heat, this season it was a seven-game series in the Eastern Conference finals.

West can’t sign his new deal with the Pacers until July 10, when the league’s moratorium on free agent transactions and other business is lifted.