Why the time is now (and right) for Delonte West
|09.28.10 at 6:26 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Delonte West stepped on a foot stool he didn’t need with a broad, beaming smile and began to talk in a most relaxed fashion about how glad and grateful he is to be back in Boston with a chance to win his first NBA title with the team where it all began.
If ever anyone was grateful to be back in Boston with a chance at redemption, it’s the 27-year-old lefty-shooting guard from Washington, signed by the Celtics on Sept. 1 to a non-guaranteed free agent deal. West had been cut by Minnesota, which had acquired him from Cleveland just days after the Cavaliers lost free agent LeBron James to Miami.
“It feels great to be back in green and white, where I started my career,” West said. “That’s a great compliment, being picked up from a team that’s coming off an [NBA finals] Game 7 and got their eyes set on a championship. To be called to render my services to help this team put up another banner, that’s an amazing feeling.”
Before doing so, he must sit out the first 10 games of the season on gun charges after he pleaded guilty for carrying two loaded handguns, a loaded shotgun and two knives when he was pulled over in suburban Washington last September.
He spoke of being familiar with Doc Rivers when he broke into the NBA. He spoke of his experiences in Cleveland, where he was on a team favored to get to the NBA finals — only to be twice denied by the Celtics.
But most of all, West spoke like a man who knows that — assuming he can win a spot on the roster out of camp — he will have his best shot yet to reach the NBA summit.
And it would certainly have been quite the journey.
To recap, West was the first-round pick of the Celtics [24th overall] in the 2004 NBA draft. He played on Celtics teams that made the playoffs and the 2006-07 squad that won 24.
In 2005–06, West averaged 11.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists. In February of that season he was named to represent the Celtics on the sophomore team for the Rookie Challenge at NBA All-Star Weekend.
But it was after the 24-win season that West helped play a key role in hanging banner No. 17 in the rafters.
On June 28, 2007 [during the 2007 NBA draft] the Celtics traded West to the Seattle SuperSonics, along with Jeff Green (the fifth overall pick) and Wally Szczerbiak. Boston received Ray Allen and Seattle’s 35th overall pick — Glen Davis.
And as if the basketball gods wanted to thank him for his patience in being dealt to a bad team that was on its way to Oklahoma City, he was sent to a team that figured to be an Eastern Conference power with the Celtics for years to come.
On Feb. 21, 2008, West was part of a three-team trade that sent him, Ben Wallace, Joe Smith and Szczerbiak to the Cavaliers. They made it to the East semifinals that season, only to be done in by Paul Pierce in Game 7. Most recently, King James was crowned in the spring by the Celtics in six stunningly quick games.
While the basketball world was waiting for “The Decision” from LeBron, the C’s brass knew Delonte was a free agent. They kept in touch with West and his representatives.
“He plays both ends of the court, brings great defense, intensity, shooting, passing. He’s a pretty complete player,” Danny Ainge said. “It’s good to get him back. I think he’s like a perfect fit for what we need.”
His first NBA coach went even further.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a more competitive human being,” Rivers added. “Even with these guys, Delonte is always, he’s competitive. I like that.”
Now there’s no King on the court — just a bunch of very talented jesters in the locker room — starting with “The Big Shamrock,” Shaquille O’Neal, and Kevin Garnett.
“It’s definitely a different vibe in the locker room,” he said. “There’s a lot more maturity going on around here than last time I was here. You can just sense it in the air — guys want to win. I walk through the locker room, everyone here has that gold trophy in their pupils.”
And as if he needed an early test of his fresh, positive attitude, West handled a question about his rumored relationship with LeBron’s mother calmly and smoothly.
“I’m just going to keep everything focused on basketball, but I come from an era where you don’t even say nothing bad about someone’s parent,” said West, who denied any relationship.
To anyone else, that might have been an easy answer. For West, who has overcome a bout of depression and is trying to put gun charges in the past, it showed that he is doing his best to deal with the many detours on a path he hopes finally leads to the mountaintop.
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