An MRI exam Friday revealed that New Orleans Hornets forward David West suffered a torn ACL Thursday night when his left knee buckled late in regulation in an eventual 121-117 overtime victory over Utah.
West scored 29 points in the game before being taken off in a wheelchair holding his head and grimacing in pain after going down hard after a dunk that tied the game at 103 with 22.5 seconds left in regulation.
The Hornets immediately feared that West suffered a season-ending injury when it happened, but Friday's MRI confirmed the severity of the injury, which means a months-long absence for West entering what was thought to be a lucrative free-agent summer for him.
"Obviously we are very saddened by this news," Hornets general manager Dell Demps said. "David is the ultimate warrior and competitor, but an even better person and we know that he will bounce back in time."
One source close to West said the Hornets' power forward is hoping to complete his rehab in six months.
Earning a relatively modest $8.3 million this season for a two-time All-Star, West has resisted attempts by the Hornets at various points of the season to sign a contract extension that would keep him off the market. West will now have to decide whether to opt out of the final year of his contract in spite of the injury or, at age 31, play out the final season, which is valued at $7.5 million.
West's agent, Lance Young of Octagon, said it is "too soon" to say whether West will opt out and become a free agent.
"It's a tough situation for him," Hornets coach Monty Williams said before Friday's game at Phoenix. "He's one of my favorites and became more of a favorite since I've been around the team. I just hate to see a guy put all of his energy and passion into the game, and make the right play and come down and hurt himself like that and be done for the year."
But, Williams said, "he's one of the toughest guys I've been around. He and his wife Leslie, they'll get through this and we look forward to the future."
The Hornets are clinging to the seventh playoff spot in the West and face a brutal closing schedule in which all but one of their 10 games is against opposition with a record of .500 or better.
If there's any solace for New Orleans, it's the acquisition of Carl Landry right before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, which was partly motivated by the threat of losing West in free agency. Landry will now see his role increased in as in-season West insurance.
In 13 games since the trade, Landry has averaged 9.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in 21.9 minutes. He has flourished before as a starter, averaging 18 points and 6.5 rebounds in his 28 starts to close out last season in Sacramento, after he was traded from Houston.
To fill the roster spot vacated by West, New Orleans signed Patrick Ewing Jr. from Sioux Falls in the NBA D-League to a 10-day contract.
West appeared in 70 games this season, averaging a team-high 18.9 points and 7.6 rebounds.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.